Finally, finally, Dash Robotics has decided to take our money in exchange for one of their incredible bio-inspired robot toys.
If you're not familiar with Dash, you should probably go read this article. Or this article. Or this article. Yeah, we've been unapologetic fans of Dash for years, but it's always been one of those research robots that lives in a laboratory and rarely gets to come out and play. Until now, that is.
Somewhat remarkably, Dash has been turned from a research platform into a robot that you can buy, and even more remarkably, it's actually affordable. A beta version that includes a steerable robot (that you assemble yourself in an hour with a little bit of glue) along with a full electronics package is a mere $65. You can get it in absolutely any color you want, as long as it's either blue, orange, yellow, or black. The robot is controlled with Bluetooth via your mobile device, and a variety of on-board sensors will enable a range of apps, from obstacle avoidance to "photovore" behaviors.
One of the things that we like most about Dash (besides all of those other things) is how open its creators are to enabling you to make clever things with it:
We are developing a custom electronics package that is Arduino-compatible, uses Bluetooth 4 communication, has a dual motor driver, several LEDs and connects with Micro-USB. The battery can be charged through the Micro-USB connector and lasts about 40 minutes. The electronics are plug-and-play, so you can run Dash without any programming knowledge. But we’ve also made him hackable so you can take advantage of the sensors we’ve included, or even add your own. Out of the box, you will have access to:
- Visible light sensor
- LEDs (red, green, yellow)
- IR emitters and sensors
- I/O pins for expandability
- Bluetooth Low Energy communications
- Micro USB connector
The Beta Dash (which is probably the one you want) isn't called Beta just for fun. By participating in this crowdfunding campaign, you'll be helping figure out what the next generation of Dash will be like. It's probably safe to say that the next generation will also be a lot bigger than this first one, which is limited to just a thousand robots.
Expect the Beta Dash kits to ship in early 2014, and expect them to sell out way, way before that.
[ Dash Robotics ]
Evan Ackerman is a senior editor at IEEE Spectrum. Since 2007, he has written over 6,000 articles on robotics and technology. He has a degree in Martian geology and is excellent at playing bagpipes.