Category Archives: Robotics

DJI Introduces RoboMaster S1 Advanced Educational Robot

DJI, the global leader in civilian drones and aerial imaging technology, takes a step into educational technology by launching the RoboMaster S1, the company’s first ground-based robot. The S1 was built to introduce users to the fun and possibilities of robotic technology, with powerful brushless motors, a chassis that can move in all directions, a high-precision gimbal, and interactive modes for programming, play, and competition.

S1 users can have fun while assembling designated and custom hardware, learning to maneuver the rover, programming with Python or Scratch and competing with friends in multiple modes.

The S1, short for “Step 1”, is a highly advanced rover designed to give new users an easy introduction to AI, engineering, and robotics. With simple controls, a dedicated RoboMaster app, easily navigable menus, and a wealth of tutorials, the S1 is approachable to newcomers while offering advanced features to users already experienced in AI, engineering, and robotics.

The S1 is equipped with 31 sensors to help map the world around it, including six on its intelligent body armor, which are used 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 gimbal with an infrared and nontoxic gel bead Blaster, which automatically limits launching rate and angle to ensure safety. The S1 is modular with DJI parts and also includes six Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) control ports so advanced users can take advantage of third-party hardware.

Using the FPV camera and machine vision technology, the S1 can identify different objects automatically, recognize and respond to sounds, and receive signals from other S1 units. The powerful central processing unit and industrial-grade CAN-bus cable enable it to process large amounts of data, maintaining a stable transmission signal even while performing multiple tasks.

Along with its brushless motor, the S1 has four Mecanum wheels, most commonly found on competitive robots, each with 12 rollers that allow omnidirectional movement and precision control while operating.

Starting June 12, the RoboMaster S1 will be available for purchase for the retail price of $499. A “PlayMore Kit”, which includes the dedicated gamepad, additional gel beads, one battery, and a gel bead container, will be available for purchase at a later date.

The Robots are Coming to Take Your Jobs

Brookings released a report titled: “Automation and Artificial Intelligence: How machines are affecting people and places”. It focuses on areas of potential occupational change that can affect people and communities in the United States.

According to Brookings, “The gravest disruptions from automation in the coming decades will affect men, young workers, and underrepresented groups.” The report states that men, young workers, and underrepresented groups appear likely to face significantly more acute challenges from automation in the next phase than do women, prime-age workers, and whites.

Why is this so? One reason is because male workers make up 70 percent of production occupations, and over 80 percent of transportation occupations, and over 90 percent of construction and installation occupations. All of those occupations have above-average projected automation exposure.

Women, however, make up 70 percent of the labor force in occupations that are relatively safe from automation. These jobs include health care, personal services, and education occupations.

This does not mean women will be unaffected by AI and automation. Brookings says women make up 70 percent of the country’s clerical and administrative workforce. Those workers will face significant change driven by the adoption of more sophisticated software and AI tools.

The report also states that automation exposure varies across age groups. Prime-age workers (people ages 25 to 54) have an average current-task automation potential of 40 percent in the next few decades. For young workers (people ages 16 to 24), that number is 49 percent. Older workers (people age 55 to 64) see potential current-task automation of 41 percent.

Nearly half of young workers (people under the age of 25) are employed in the six occupation groups where average automation potential of current tasks exceeds 50 percent. These jobs include low-wage food prep jobs, which are projected to see as much as 80 percent task change in coming decades.

The report states that Hispanic and black workers face average current-task automation potentials of 47 percent and 44 percent for their jobs, well above those likely for their white counterparts (40 percent) and Asian counterparts (39 percent).

Ideally, companies who hire a lot of workers will take this into consideration and make an effort to find ways to keep people employed. Unfortunately, according to The New York Times, “many of your bosses want machines to replace you as soon as possible”. In my opinion, the United States should seriously consider instituting Universal Basic Income to help people when the robots come to take their jobs.

Walmart’s Alphabot Robots will Collect Groceries

Walmart announced that they are set to launch a new pilot called Alphabot. It uses first-of-its-kind automation to help Walmart associates to fill online grocery orders faster than ever before. In other words, Walmart will use specially made robots to gather up groceries for orders that were placed online.

The Alphabot system was developed by Alert Innovation especially for Walmart. The Alphabot Automated Storage and Retrieval System (ASRS) and Automated Each-Picking System (AEPS), in addition to a highly innovative picking workstation, creates the world’s “goods-to-picker” each-picking technology.

Individual Alphabots move through a specially designed warehouse with a bin. They go around and collect the items that are on a Walmart customer’s online shopping list. The Alphabots are under the control of a single Master Control System (MCS).

Each Alphabot will automatically bring items from storage to Walmart associates who will consolidate the items in the order. Human workers will handpick the fresh produce and meats that are part of an individual grocery order.

The Alphabot system is being installed at the Walmart Supercenter in Salem, New Hampshire, as part of that store’s grand opening. Walmart plans to have Alphabot online and running by the end of the year.

Code Your Crab and Train Your Tortoise with BinaryBots at CES 2018

Self-assembly robots and smart toys are great for introducing and teaching children the basics of coding. It’s a hot area at the moment, especially with Nintendo Labo coming soon, but here we have British outfit BinaryBots and their animal-themed programmable robots. Todd and Chris play with the smart pets.

The team at BinaryBots have a range of robotic toys starting with straightforward cardboard-based models through to more complex creations using the Totem construction kits. There are crabs, spiders and tortoises, each will unique actions. The robots can be connected up to a BBC micro:bit computer for coding and programming. Children can code their robot and to see how it responds to light and other stimuli.

The cardboard-based robots are available now with the new Totem-based ones arriving in April. They’re priced at GB£40 / US$55 for the cardboard models and GB£60 / US$80 for the Totem, though you’ll need to buy your own micro:bit for the latter.

Todd Cochrane is the host of the twice-weekly Geek News Central Podcast at

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All-Girls Robotic Team from Afghanistan Granted Entry to U.S.

FIRST Global organizes a yearly international robotics challenge to ignite a passion for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) among more than two-billion youths across the world. The all-girls team from Afghanistan has now been granted entry to the United States after the team’s initial visa applications were denied.

The FIRST Global Challenge is an annual robotics game that addresses the 14 Grand Challenges identified by the United States of America’s National Academy of Engineering. Each year, a different Grand Challenge will take center stage as the theme of that year’s FIRST Global game, which will be held in a different nation’s capitol each year.

Team Afghanistan is the first robotic team with The Digital Citizen Fund (DCF) based on Herat, Afghanistan. The team members are from Towhid, Malakai Jalalai and Hoze Karbas High Schools. All of the members of Team Afghanistan are girls.

The girls went through the visa process twice, with both attempts resulting in a denial. The Washington Post reported that, after persuading their parents to let them attend the FIRST Global Challenge, the girls made two 500-mile trips from their hometown of Herat in Afghanistan to the U.S. Embassy in Kabul to apply for visas.

Forbes reported on June 29, 2017, that the team’s robot had permission to travel to the United States for the competition, but the girls themselves were not allowed to go. The girls had planned to watch their robot compete via Skype.

The Associated Press reported today “The White House on Wednesday said President Trump intervened to allow the team to come to the U.S. after looking at several options, the National Security Council eventually settled on “paroling” the girls, according to a senior administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.”

The 2017 FIRST Global robotics game will be held at Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. The opening ceremony is in the early evening of July 16, and the two days of FIRST Global gameplay are July 17, and 18. The closing and award ceremony is in the early evening of July 18.

Milo and Lego Education Brings STEM to School

Lego LogoLego have a history stretching back to the 1930s and for the last few decades, Lego has run an education program to bring Lego to the classroom in relevant way for all levels of schooling. Nick learns from Leisha Hoot about Lego Education and how it gets students interested in science.

At CES, Lego announced Lego Education WeDo 2.0, an elementary level STEM program that uses robotics to work with children in science. Through Milo, a small robotic rover, it gives them experience of programming, sensors and motors. It’s all very easy to use partly because children are already familiar with Lego bricks, but Lego has taken great care in designing the software too. In addition, WeDo 2.0 is going to be part of the First Lego League. The WeDo core set starts at around US$160 and is available now.

Nick DiMeo is a video producer at F5 Live: Refreshing Technology.

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Intel Brought a Segway Robot to CES 2016

IntelThose of us who have dreamed about having our very own robot probably didn’t imagine that it would roll along like a Segway. Intel has teamed up with Segway to reimagine the Segway in the robotic world.

Nakia spoke with Platform Architect for Intel, Han Heng Jeun, at the Intel Real Sense Technology Section at CES 2016. They talked about the unique personal robot assistant that was on display.

The robot has two main functions. One is that it can transform into an SPV (Special Purpose Vehicle) that you can ride. The robot has a Segway as its base. People can step onto it and ride around. When a person no longer needs the robot to be an SPV, it can be transformed back into robot mode.

The robot uses the Intel RealSense RGB-D camera to enable depth sensing. This helps it to do real time 3D mapping that it will use to navigate a room. It also has a microphone array that allows you to send voice command to the Segway robot from anywhere in the room. It can be programed to understand a command like “follow me”.

The robot has an open SDK on Android platform that developers can use create cool new things that the personal assistant Segway robot can do. They will launch the platform and SDK to makers and developers in the second quarter of 2016.

Nakia Mann is a video host who specializes in covering live events for Plughitz Live.

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