Drone maker DJI released a toy robot tank that shoots splattering pellets, skitters on omnidirectional wheels, and learns to navigate the playroom battlefield.
What’s new: Robomaster S1 is a self-driving, bullet-firing toy capable of streaming its turret’s-eye view to your smartphone. And it's programmable. You can see it in action here.
How it works: You can control the unit using a smartphone app, or let it find its own way around using its onboard navigation.
- Tactile sensors keep the bot from getting stuck in corners, like an early-model Roomba.
- The wayfinding algorithms take cues from a front-mounted camera.
- The camera also enables the bot to track targets autonomously.
- It uses a laser beam to hunt other tanks, or it can fire soft gel balls.
More than a toy: If you have the programming chops (or the desire to learn), you can use Python or Scratch 3.0 to teach the tank new maneuvers or subroutines for outsmarting opponents.
Behind the news: Shenzhen-based DJI sponsors an annual tournament where teams of university students battle one another using projectile-shooting tanks, quadcopters, and rail-riding guard drones. The new toy is a consumer version of the tank bots featured in this popular competition.
Our take: At $499, Robomaster S1 makes a pricey educational tool. You can buy an Arduino robot tank kit for a fraction of the cost. On the other hand, few Arduino kits come with a projectile-firing turret, and this thing looks like a lot more fun.