DJI, the company that we’re used to seeing drones from has been branching out recently into other product types: from gimbals to pocket cameras, to GoPro equivalents, etc.
Now, they seem to adding another product category to their portfolio: a battle bot?
This is the DJI Robotmaster S1 and it’s technically an educational robot aimed at the “youths”.
The idea is that the robot comes as a series of parts that you follow instructions to build from those (helping to give kids a better idea of how a robot functions, which I appreciate).
I won’t go through all of the parts (as there are a total of 46), but there are a few interesting ones.
- Camera: The one thing that I’ve decided all of DJI’s products have in common now at least is the fact they all have cameras. In this case, we have a 2-axis gimbal holding a 1080p video camera that can also take 2560×1440 stills with a 120-degree FOV. You can record all of this to a microSD card or stream a 720P live view to your phone. It is also capable of some computer vision features including line following, recognizing 44 vision markers (numbers, letters, special characters, etc.), and the ability to track people (similar to the DJI drones). All of these abilities play a roll in programming the robot which we’ll talk about in a sec.
- Speaker & Microphone: There are a speaker and microphone that is used to play sound effects and recognize 1, 2, or 3 claps to trigger commands, as well (again, we’ll get to why later).
- Infrared Sensors: The robot has infrared sensors which are used to determine if another Robomaster S1 has shot it with its infrared cannon.
- Pressure Plate: There are 6 pressure sensitive plates located around the robot that can be used to tell if it’s bumped into something or if it gets hit by a gel bead from another S1’s cannon (yes, the cannon can shoot more than laser beams).
- Mecanum Wheels: Lastly, it’s worth noting one of my favorite things about the S1–its omnidirectional mecanum wheels. Essentially, each of the wheels have 12 rollers on them that allow the robot to not just go forward, backward, and turn, but also strafe. I have to admit it makes for a much more interesting dynamic than a normal RC car of some sort.
Now, after it’s built, you can then use the device in a few different ways from within its own Robotmaster app.
Firstly, you can use it via Wifi Direct connection and either use it solo (as a remote-controlled tiny tank for lack of a better term) or you can choose Battle from the main screen to then connect it to a router to allow others to join a hosted game.
There are two games to choose from by default. The first is Race in which you use the included number vision markers to create a course that each S1 must recognize each marker in numerical order and the first one to get all 5 wins.
Or you can choose Free-For-All which gives you options of choosing the match length, how much HP each robot gets (100 points per hit), the speed limit of each robot, and whether you want to allow Mystery Bonus’ (another vision marker that comes with the robot).
The Mystery Box clearly resembles a question mark box from Mario Kart and is the same concept. Pointing your robot at it will give you a power-up of some sort you can then use against opponents.
There is one last option in here and that’s the ability to choose between the infrared laser for the blaster or gel beads.
The beads are super tiny when you get them and you then sit them in water for about 3-4 hours and they absorb it bringing them to the usable size. You then load them into a magazine that slides into the back of the robot and let a rip.
Now, before any parents watching start to freak out, DJI seems to have been pretty wary about the beads. Firstly, they are non-toxic and when left to their own device on the ground they will simply dissolve into a, also, non-toxic powder.
The blaster also can be limited in the settings to not be able to fire when it is aimed higher than a certain angle to at least limit people shooting each other’s faces.
And, finally, they don’t hurt. At all. I’ve been hit by a lot of them while myself and others were testing our review units, it’s surprising, but not painful at all.
Lastly, in the app, there is a section called Labs. This is where the learning part of all this really comes in.
The Robomaster S1 is capable of using/teaching Scratch 3.0, a popular block programming language that companies like Microsoft with Minecraft use to teach younger kids how to code, and Python, which is an uber-popular, professional-level programming language used in the machine learning/AI fields.
Inside the Labs section, kids can use both languages (and even start with Scratch and see the Python equivalent side by side) within three different courses.
- Road to Mastery: This is essentially a set of project-based courses that help users’ understanding of programming languages.
- DIY Programming: This section lets you create (or download) skills or programs the S1 can then run with a tap either in Solo or even Battle modes (think creating a dodge program that when activated causes the robot to strafe in a circle-8 formation to help you not get hit by opponents, etc.).
- RoboAcademy: This is the full-on, video courses and in-depth programming guide for the more serious in learning to code.
There are some optional accessories in a “Play More Kit” like a controller for your phone, an extra gel bead magazine and extra gel beads, and an extra battery. But, we weren’t given a price on that just yet, only a release date of July.
It’s a fun toy for sure. And while it does seem a little odd for DJI to release a “land drone” and I am always a fan of anything that could help get kids interested in programming: what might be one of the most valuable skillsets of our time.
Let me know what you guys think? Let me know in the comments below and if you want more tech videos/articles, sign up for my weekly email newsletter! Thanks for reading!