dash

I work in a robotics lab. Dash was purchased so that we could have a durable, friendly robot to introduce to children, and let them “take the wheel” with controlling.

Boy, does he have a fun personality! From the moment you turn him on, Dash greets you with a friendly, “Howdy-do!”
Dash is meant to get young children excited about robots and coding. He comes with multiple game modes, which you download onto a smart device in app-form. Currently, my lab has the games “Go”, “Path”, “Blocklify”, and “Xylo” installed on an Android tablet.
Separate attachments can be purchased additionally to add to Dash. These include the xylophone and ball launcher – there may be others, as well. The “Xylo” game mentioned earlier goes with the Xylophone attachment.

“Go” game:

This is meant to introduce you to the full range of control you have over Dash. With the Go game, you can:
-drive Dash around like an RC car
-turn and tilt his head
-change the color and on/off pattern of his LED lights (ears, tail light, and chest)
-change which LEDs in his eye are on
-have Dash make animal sounds and various car noises
-have Dash perform preset emotion “performances” – combo of movement and vocalizations
Once you have played the “Go” game enough, you understand the full breadth of what Dash can do, and you are ready to program him using the “Blocklify” game.

“Blocklify” game:

This game is an introduction to coding. Seeing as I program for a living, this was not my favorite game – I’d rather just play! However, for those new to coding, Dash’s Blocklify is a good starting point for teaching you to think in a “programming format” mindset.
As the name suggests, Blocklify separates coding commands into individual blocks, which you drag and drop into their desired sequence. Users can customize everything that was covered in the Go game, with even more available here. All of the different command categories are found in a column on the left. These include commands to customize the way Dash:
-drives
-looks around
-which LEDs light up/what color(s)
-sounds made

Using just these commands, one could stay busy for awhile. However, those interested in adding an additional layer of complexity can utilize the “Control” and “Variables” tabs, to add commands telling Dash to wait, repeat sequences, do multiple items simultaneously, etc. For a final level of complexity, tapping the Toolbox button appears to offer additional commands related to logic, math, and lists. Admittedly, I have not tried these more complex options out!

“Path” game:

Oh my goodness. This is easily my favorite of Dash’s games. For the Path game, you trace a path on your smart device, and Dash follows it in real life. To complete each level, you must incorporate an increasing number of commands and turns. Full of funny noises, changing lights, and funky music, this will have you cheering Dash on. I might recommend playing this one on the floor, though – once or twice I misjudged how far out I had drawn his path, and had to stop him from zooming off the table!

“Xylo”, Xylophone attachment game:

Dash’s xylophone attachment allows your robot to simultaneously make music and move about. You download the “Xylo” Dash app to play with this attachment.
The song you make is divided into separate blocks. Everything is edited using an easy drag-and-drop format. This includes changing the pitch and order of the notes and rearranging the sequence of note blocks. One can add more note blocks by selecting the “+” button, and delete note blocks by dragging them to the trash can icon. You can modify Dash’s movement commands for each note block by tapping on the motion text at the bottom left of each note block. All of your songs and their corresponding movements can be saved in the song library on the bottom left portion of the app’s screen.
This attachment is fun and easy to use. It is a good way to entertain both children and adults for long periods of time!

Final thoughts:

At around $150, Dash isn’t a cheap toy. His xylophone attachment is another $40.
However, if you don’t mind the price, he’s an excellent toy and companion. Since he reacts to sound, light, and motion, it really feels like he is alive and playing with you! He has a sweet robot personality, and the games can provide hours of entertainment for children of all ages – including grownups.

PS. You can also see a few clips and pictures of Dash, as well as our lab’s other robots, on my Instagram account.
https://www.instagram.com/engineerbev/

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