Your own personal robot minion is pretty close to going into production. Dash Robotics has just launched a crowdfunding campaign to put insect-inspired robot kits into the hands of the masses. The Dash bots are cute and affordable.
Dash comes as a flat sheet. You fold and assemble it, like a robotic version of origami. It includes the necessary motor and electronics to make the little beastie run. It takes about an hour to do the assembly, no soldering required.
There are quite a few features packed into the robot, including a gyroscope, light sensor, LEDS, and a micro-USB connector. Controlling Dash requires an iOS device that supports Bluetooth 4.0. The team is planning to offer an Android app, but there are no guarantees at this point.
Much like the insects that inspired the design, the Dash is one tough little robot. It can run over gravel, jump off tables, navigate challenging terrain, and scurry like a robot possessed.
You have a few options for getting your own Dash. A $40 pledge gets you an Alpha Dash, the first scheduled to go into production. The Alphas can move, but they don't have steering. A $65 pledge gets you the Beta Dash, which has steering capabilities. If you're not into DIY, then $100 includes assembly of the Beta.
If Dash sounds familiar, it's probably because the robot has been under development at the University of California at Berkeley for years. It's now reaching the public, though the initial production run will be limited to 1,000 robots.
For kids interested in robotics, or adults who like to tinker, the Dash could be the most exciting kit to come along in some time. Plus, it's sure to entertain your cats to no end.