September 10, 2013
Get The Robot Bug
Dash, the insect-like robot that may soon infect the robotics market, is a cross between advanced robotics technology and model airplane glue and cardboard — Sunday afternoon type stuff.
He only costs $65, and is designed by Dash Robotics, whose aim is to bring affordable robots into everyone’s home. They believe that everybody should have access to robots, not only because they are fun, but also because they are educational.
Dash robots weigh around 16 grams, are 10cm long and look like an angular cockroach, with three little legs sticking out from each side. They fit perfectly into the palm of a hand and are admired for their cute, pet like qualities as well as their design appeal. They arrive in their package as flat cardboard, and it takes an hour or so to pop and fold the parts and attach them with glue.
But the fun doesn’t end there. Dash has a gyroscope, infrared sensors, and can be controlled via an iOS app and Bluetooth 4. Furthermore, they have additional ports and can be adapted to their owner’s whims; their behavior can be programmed so that they can perform specific tasks or operate as part of a swarm. Alternatively, they can be adapted to engage in combat with each other. Or in combat with anything, really; if you can find a way to engage the cat, then Dash can probably hold its own.
The programmability is of educational benefit to kids, their manufacturers believe, because they can learn about engineering and programming while slowly falling in love with the new addition to the family.
However, although the Dash is currently being marketed primarily as a toy, there is more potential for the robot bugs than just fun and education in the home. They have sensory capabilities and so could assess conditions in different environments. This could be useful for farming, for example, or being used in emergency situations to assess conditions on the ground. After an earthquake or industrial disaster, they could test for the presence of dangerous substances, as well as being used to search for survivors. Their size would be a major advantage, along with the fact that they can be used as part of a swarm. This is a current source of interest in robotics because many cheap and easily replaceable robots can perform the tasks of one really expensive robot, perhaps even better than the solitary robot could, no matter how special.
Dashes are extremely durable, too. This would help in hazardous situations, but also means that they are great fun to throw off of buildings, just for the hell of it. They can withstand falls of 28 meters without sustaining damage. This, combined with the fact that they can run 1.5 m/s (the equivalent of a human able to run at 65 mph), means that they are great toys for boys (meaning grown men) that will wow at parties. As if educating our kids and saving the world wasn’t enough.
Image Credit: Dash Robotics