DJI Surprises with Ground-Based RoboMaster S1 Educational Robot

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DJI has mastered the skies, now the company wants to take its first step into educational technology with the ground-based RoboMaster S1. Loaded with sensors and other technology, this robot is meant to appeal to everyone interested in tech, with its ability to offer fun while still providing a perfect platform for learning about AI, engineering, and robotics. As “Step 1” in DJI’s educational journey, the S1 is an impressive creation, with 31 sensors, a 5MP first-person view camera, an infrared and gel bead Blaster (non-toxic, by the way), and six Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) control ports for adding on your own hardware later on.

RoboMaster S1
RoboMaster S1

Fortunate enough to have a hands-on preview of the unit, I can say that the RoboMaster S1 is an incredible device. Its core set of features and performance are top notch and it is a lot of fun. Of course, it is also highly technical. Among the highlights are machine vision technology, a powerful central processing unit, and industrial-grade CAN-bus cable for handling all the necessary data. It is immediately apparent that this isn’t your standard RC toy when you see it perfectly tracking and following a line on the floor while simultaneously reading signs in front of it to determine which direction to head next—and that was simply the first demo.

This intial demo showed two of the six built-in intelligent recognition functions, the other four being a Follow Mode, which can track a specific person using the built-in camera; a Clap Recognition, which can be programmed to recognize distinct clap patterns; Gesture Recognition, similar to many of the options built into DJI drones though the RoboMaster S1 can be programmed; and S1 Recognition, which allows it to identify other S1 units and perform programmed movements. All of this relies on the 120º FPV camera which transmits video in real-time to your connected devices.

The programmability is emphasized with the S1, since users can write Scratch 3.0 or Python code to control many functions of the robot. You can simple write code to control movement or you can delve into the more advanced options and increase efficiency or optimize the torque of the wheels. Each of the wheels is quite unique, as well. The Mecanum wheels each have 12 rollers on them for completely omnidirectional movement—this means forward, backward, and side-to-side movements are possible. A custom brushless motor ensures clean movement, too.

If you are interested more in the coding aspect of the RoboMaster S1, you can use your custom programs to add skills to use during the gaming modes. One such game, Free-for-All, is effectively a game of laser tag played with multiple S1 Robots, so if you program “Hit and Turn Back,” you can have your S1 automatically turn and counter an assault from behind. Don’t worry, you won’t need to be a coding master to get started, DJI is offering a “Road to Mastery” program in the RoboMaster app, providing an educational series for learning the essentials of programming. Along with this, “RoboAcademy” is a way to check out video tutorials and video guides above robotics and coding. DJI is making sure that the educational aspect of the RoboMaster S1 is addressed and plans to provide updates in the future.

We had a lot of fun with the gaming modes, having an opportunity to test the battle modes and race mode. Both are wonderful. Battle was exceptionally fun and made me immediately want to go play laser tag myself. It was also impressive because the S1 handles extremely well using the remote and a connected tablet. It also showed off how quickly the machine vision system works because during both you have to scan various Vision Markers to claim victory. In Free-for-All, this meant scanning a heart to revive to a question mark to pick up a Mystery Bonus. It worked flawlessly and made sure that the device is super fun. It even makes me want to learn some basic coding to get an advantage over my friends.

All of the tech and design of the RoboMaster S1 is, unsurprisingly, inspired by the RoboMaster Robotics Competition. The RoboMaster S1 is merely the first step into the educational field for DJI, and they hope to inspire up-and-coming innovators to get started with coding and robotics themselves in an easy-to-digest format. There will even be a specific RoboMaster S1 Challenge during the 2019 RoboMaster competition. And, one more thing, the S1 comes unassembled. Right away you’ll start learning about robotics by putting together all the main components for yourself.

There is so much more to the RoboMaster S1, so be sure to stay tuned for more information. Please make sure to leave your thoughts and questions in the Comments section, below!

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