DJI has announced the DJI Robomaster S1 radio controlled robot — and it has killer wheels that could make it an awesome tool for both 360 and traditional cameras.
The DJI Robomaster S1 is a radio controlled robot. Unlike DJI drones, it was designed not for videos but as an educational toy. Nonetheless, its unique wheels could make it very useful for videographers.
The DJI Robomaster S1 is modular and programmable with Scratch 3.0 or Python. It also has features such as following visual markers, or following claps. The turret acts as a stabilized gimbal and has both a 1/4-inch 1080p camera and a cannon that fires soft pellets or infrared light that can be detected by other S1 robots.
The killer feature of the S1 however, is its omnidirectional mecanum wheels. It can move in any direction — forward, backward, sideways, diagonally — at any time, as if it were hovering. Here is a review by Peter Sripol:
How Robomaster S1 could be useful for videographers
The S1’s omnidirectional wheels could make it particularly well suited as a radio controlled dolly. For example, besides a dolly in or dolly out movement, it could be useful for circular parallax shots.
The Robomaster wouldn’t be the first omnidirectional dolly — you may recall the Guru 360 Rover, which uses mecanum wheels to move omnidirectionally. It does work amazingly well as a dolly (I got to try it out myself at VRLA). However, the Guru 360 Rover costs $6,499. The Robomaster S1 on the other hand, is available for $499.
Obviously the S1 wouldn’t be able to carry heavy professional 360 cameras but it could be just right for GoPros or other action cameras or consumer 360 cameras such as the Insta360 One X (reviewed here) or GoPro Fusion (reviewed here).
The turret is also not that wide, so it wouldn’t be too prominent in the nadir of a 360 video. Moreover, the Robomaster S1 is modular, so I’m sure 3rd parties will create 3D printed camera mounts for it eventually.
Besides its size and motor, the S1’s other limitation however, would be that it can only operate indoors, on relatively smooth surfaces. We also don’t know yet how difficult it will be to program it for camera movements, although the website says it can follow blue painters’ tape on the ground.
It is now available for $499 from DJI.com. If you’re intrigued by a dolly with mecanum wheels but don’t want to spend $499, check out this RC car with mecanum wheels or this other one. I did order the Robomaster S1 and will be reviewing its potential as a dolly.