In a switch from its line up of stabilizers, cameras, and drones, DJI has introduced an impressively specified robot aimed at the growing market for educationally themed tech toys. The RoboMaster S1 will appeal to Battlebot fans who’ve always wanted to try their hand at creating and programming a competition robot. The S1 (short for Step 1) isn’t a pure DIY project like Nvidia’s Jetbot. Instead, it’s a full robot system with plenty of configurable components and room for adding your own AI-infused touches.
RoboMaster S1 Shows How Far We’ve Come Since Lego Robotics
As a family, we had a lot of fun with Lego robots. They were really cool, with a few sensors and if-then-else programming. In contrast, the S1 features 31 sensors, a stabilized camera with live video, and a nerf-style gun. The gun and hit-detecting sensors indicate the primary application for the S1: shooting at other S1 bots.
Thumbs up for the inclusion of four Mecanum wheels; these versatile wheels are favorites among robot builders, but they don’t come cheap. The S1 doesn’t either, at $500. In addition to the included modular components, the S1 comes with six PWM ports to allow for controlling third-party hardware.
A Variety of AI-Enabled Vision Tricks
Out of the box, the S1 comes with a number of impressive skills. It can follow lines, recognize 44 different visual symbols, identify and follow people, and respond to claps and gestures, as well as recognize and react to other S1 bots. Based on my experiences with other DJI products, some of those features will work better than others.
If you want to one-up the built-in features or add your own, you can program the S1 using either Python or Scratch. Don’t worry if you’re not familiar with those languages, or even with programming, as DJI includes a tutorial series called “Road to Mastery” that the company says will lead you through the process of learning to program the S1.
Built on DJI’s RoboMaster Experience
The S1 didn’t appear entirely out of the blue. It builds on DJI’s standard robots used in its RoboMaster robotics competition. Similar to the competition, the S1 comes with several modes including Solo Target Practice and Target Race, along with Multiplayer Battle modes like Race and Free-for-All. When competing, the bots can shoot at each other using either IR beams or gel beads.
All in all, the S1 looks like a lot of fun. Plus, if you’re a teen, you might be able to convince your parents that $500 is a small price to pay to pry you away from your game console and do something educational. If you think you’re the hottest bot-builder on your block, you can look forward to DJI’s first RoboMaster S1 Challenge this August in Shenzhen, China.
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