Cockroach inspired robot/insect robots


As technology has advanced, the ability of an average user to perform at par with professionals in any field has increased many folds. Be it computer and web programming, designing, mobile app development, video editing, mobile app development, video editing, photo editing - a lot can be achieved and learned by anyone who has an interest simply by exploring the internet. All these advancements have traditionally been limited to software - but a couple of recent developments, mostly spearheaded by start-up companies, have now brought robot engineering in the realm of everyday use.

 Traditionally, robotics has been a very specialized field and anyone interested in getting stared with robotics would fine is not so easy to learn electronics, mechanics, soldering, and then programming to control simple movements. Only engineering students were supposed to do or know anything about robotics. That has now changed with projects like The Dash.

The Dash is a cockroach inspired robot made up of advanced electronics and all cardboard material. The beauty of this small, lightweight robot is that the entire kit ships in a package that can be assembled in an hour's time. At a price tag of 65$, it is amazingly low cost as well which means it becomes accessible to all those looking to jump start their engineering projects, enthusiastic hobbyists, students or just about anyone who is interested in experimenting with robots. At present, these Dash kit orders are being taken only for US and Canada but the company is planning international shipments as well. Just like OLPC project aimed at getting a low cost laptop in hands of every children particularly where computers are least affordable, the Dash has aimed to bring robotics kits to anyone worldwide.


Unlike other expensive robot kits available in the market, the Dash doesn't require any soldering at all. Since the body is made up of cardboard (cut precisely using laser), the Dash is often called an origami robot. Users have to just follow the video instructions to assemble the 'cockroach' can be controlled simply by using a smartphone or tablet PC using the company's free app which connects with the Dash through Bluetooth. With the on-board USB cable chargeable battery, the range of this 'cockroach' is more than 1.5 miles with a top speed of 1.5 meters per second - thanks to its design inspired by insects which can run very fast using their legs. The Dash can move very quickly and is pretty much all-terrain which includes rocks and other uneven surfaces as well.

From its current version - called Alpha Dash - the project seem a bit basic, but the underlying technology is quite advanced. It had been under development at UC Berkley's biometric lab in 2009, and after 5 teary, the product has matured enough with a future plan convincing enough to get a listing as crowd source funded project where people from all around the world contribute financially for success of an innovative project, instead of a few venture capitalists investing huge sums in a starup. The future plans of Dash team are interesting and will take the Dash to all new level. The on-board processor is being finalized and is expected to bring more customization for users. Addition of LED lights, sensors to make  the Dash identify obstacles and light will make it behave much more like an insect.


 On board extension ports will mean a number of possibilities   limited only by availability of right sized devices which the small lets can easily carry and move around. The gyroscope which is present even in the Alpha model gives Dash the amazing capability to recover from a 90-feet fall and get up and running again. Another limitation of Alpha which Beta will overcome is capability to steer. Right now, the Alpha Dash can move only in a straight line motion, but the Beta will be able to turn according to user commands given through tirelessly connected smartphone or tablet PC app.

The Dash is no doubt an ambitious project. Years of research which included understanding the biology of real insects has paid off in term of a product actively under development. The engineering behind the Dash project are four PhDs in robotic engineering from UC Barkeley, which has given a lot of credibility to the project listed at Dragon innovation for funding. The project has already crossed its &64,000 target funding, and has been able to raise about $10,000 more. Having this generous funding available, the Dash team is expected to initially ship 1,000 Dash kits to their funding donors, followed by Beta Dash delivery by 2014. Applicability of Dash goes beyond hobbyists only.


 It can be an extremely effective educational tool since it is programmable. The low cost means schools worldwide can order large quantitative when available, and use them to let children hone their computer programming, networking , physics and electronic skills. Right now, science projects or contests would mean students have to start form scratch, as there's no such starup kit present which can be utilized or leveraged to create more complex or problem solving machines.

 With a Dash kit, this changes dramatically as a platform with basic movement mechanics, controlling, sensors, and ability to program the 'insect' functions all out of the box. From here on, developers and students can extend the capabilities  and applications of this tiny super-fast robot. One application cited over Internet is the ability to participate in search and rescue operations where identifying people beneath rubbles after after earthquakes or other disasters can make a difference between life and death. Other applications can be mobile smoke detector, traffic conditions monitoring, weather monitoring , remote surveillance or even collaborative geo-mapping by gathering data from a large number of such Dash machines roaming around in a vicinity. All this can be reality as Dash is termed as one of the world's fastest robots, and that too without wheels.


The founders of the Dash operate where more information about the project can be obtained. There are a lot of expectations from the Dash and 2014 is the year for which we all can keep our fingers crossed to finally get our hands on of these neat 'cockroaches'!


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