Dash Robotics makes small bio-inspired robots that teach kids how to program while they play.
The bots are $50 apiece and come as a sheet of parts that you have to pop out and build yourself, like a model plane. The result is a six-legged plastic and fabric bug that you can program to run towards light sources or go through a maze.
The product has been in beta, but Dash wants to put its robots out to a wider market. To do that, the company has taken $1.4 million in seed funding.
Dash Robots started as a research project at the University of California at Berkeley, funded by the National Science Foundation and the Army Research Laboratory. The research was led by a team of PhD candidates, including Nick Kohut, Paul Birkmeyer, Andrew Gillies, and Kevin Peterson. In its original manifestation, the robots were made entirely out of plastic and programmed with an Arduino board. At first all the robots could do was skitter in a straight line.
After introducing the robot to a few schools and museums, the team realized they had a success on their hands. Kids loved them.
“There’s a lot of things going on with this. It’s programming, building with their hands. They get to create their own character and personality,” says cofounder Nick Kohut. He says the key goal behind Dash Robotics was to make robotics more accessible with an affordable and easy-to-use product.
The team decided to form a company around the project and in 2013 they launched a crowdfunding campaign to get their origami robots off the ground. In two weeks, they were able to sell 1,000 robots.
Since then, the company has turned its attention to refining the product. For instance, Dash created an iOS and Android mobile app to program the robots with, in place of the Arduino board. It’s also working on creating social games for a group of robots in order to give kids the ability to race their robots or have them battle.
With the fresh cash, Dash will be building a marketing campaign for its products as well as preparing for an official launch in September. Expect to find Dash’s origami robots to be sold on Amazon and directly on its site.
Ironfire Capital led this round of funding.