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The Swarm Unleashed - Part 2 (Dash goes to Vancouver!)

As we mentioned last week, we've been preparing a swarm of robots to unleash on TED, which we did (to much excitement) on Tuesday, March 18th. The last blog post showed how we went from 4 robots to 56, and how we put together an early version of our "robots unveiled" demo, as seen here:

We were pretty happy with this, but we knew it wasn't ready for primetime. Since all the robots started at the same time, they tended to get jumbled up. The solution to this was to stagger their launch.

So now we had a staggered launch, we had a controller that made the robots run fairly straight, and we had our lightbox worked out. Thinking we were pretty much ready to get on the plane for Vancouver, we decided we should just test all 50 robots at once, (as a formality really) and pack it up. Unfortunately, it didn't go so well.

The controller that had worked so well before was now giving us problems, and with so many robots we still had bunching issues. At this point, we were pretty disheartened. We thought we had all our issues worked out, we'd been working long hours, and this thing wasn't nearly ready. We went back to the drawing board, and Paul, our CTO, had the idea that maybe the controller was the problem. The robots simply didn't move very fast, maybe the software was holding them back? We changed some things...and there it was. Now they ran FAST.

All that was left to do was pack up. 

Kevin came up with a great method of using wires as twist ties to secure the robots to cardboard. This plus some Pelican cases was a fantastic way to ship them. 

After packing we took Sunday to rest, and Monday we flew out of SFO, on our way to YVR, seeing an old friend along the way:

Mt. Shasta has been summited 7 times by the 5 members of Dash Robotics. One has to have a hobby while not building robots of course. After flying in, we began to get set up in Vancouver.

That's Andrew and Dwight, robots in tow, just outside the convention center where TED was held. We quickly got inside and got to work setting up. We did a practice run to be sure everything ran smoothly in the new venue. 

Everything was looking good. We don't have the video, but we also did a run of 50 robots and it looked great. As Monday came to a close, we went back to the hotel and did last minute checks on EVERYTHING.

Tuesday was our big day, as we set up the demo of 50 robots for hundreds of TED attendees, including some of the world's most famous scientists, thinkers, and artists. 

And... we nailed it! But... no footage :( TED filmed the whole thing, and will release the footage when they choose. It was the best swarm we've ever pulled off though, and the crowd loved it. Lots of people screamed and laughed at the robots coming at them at full speed. We hope we can show you some of the footage soon, and will post it here when that happens.

Overall it was a great experience. We learned a ton, built dozens of robots, and pulled off a demo that really wowed the crowd. All that work forced us to solve a lot of problems very quickly, and the robots are now in a much closer state to shipping than they were two weeks ago. Thanks for reading! Check back next week when we show off the first videos from our iOS app!

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