DJI just announced the company’s first ground-based robot, called the RoboMaster S1, and it’s basically the remote-control car of your childhood dreams. It has a turret gun sitting on top, making it look sort of like a Star Wars AT-ST Walker, that can shoot gel beads or lasers, and you control it around using a smartphone app.
In “battle mode,” you can have your S1 shoot other S1s with lasers (“infrared beams”) or actual gel beads. In “race mode,” you can set a course and race other S1s; the first one to scan numbered vision markers in the right sequence wins. And there are a number of solo modes where you can have the S1 shoot various targets or program it to go around a select course.
I got the chance to play around with an S1 for roughly an hour last week and it was a surprising amount of fun; it had elements of playing Mario Kart, Halo, laser tag and even Legos, all rolled into one. The RoboMaster S1 costs $499 and will be available for purchase in July.
The S1 is really designed to help introduce new users to robotic technology, so it’s more than just your average remote-control car. For starters, you have to build it, similar to a set of Legos. DJI will send you a box of all the pieces and you’ll have to assemble it (a roughly two-to-three hour project). When that’s all set and done, users will have access to a series of immersive courses and tutorials that educate S1 owners on programming languages, including using Python or Scratch, so they can use code and program their S1s to learn new functions and maneuvers.
DJI has transferred a lot of its machine learning technology from its much-beloved drones to the S1. It’s cable of identifying different objects automatically, recognizing and responding to sounds, and receive signals from other S1s, which is necessary when in competitive battle or racing modes. Additionally, the S1 can be programmed to perform a number of intelligent recognition functions. It can follow a line or course created in the RoboMaster app; recognize up to 44 vision markers, including numbers, letters, and special characters; it can identify and follow a select person; it can recognize sounds and an array of physical hand gestures;
According to DJI, the “S1 is equipped with 31 sensors to help map the world around it, including six on its intelligent body armor, which are used in competition mode to detect hits. Atop the durable S1 frame is a first-person view (FPV) camera that sends a stabilized live feed from the S1 to the RoboMaster app. It also features a specialized mechanical gimbal with an infrared and nontoxic gel bead Blaster, which automatically limits launching rate and angle to help ensure safety.”
In addition to the RoboMaster S1, you can expect DJI to release various accessories, like a dedicated controller, an additional battery pack, additional gel beads and a container for them; these will be available sometime in the near future.