Dobot is crowdfunding a robot that laser-engraves, 3D prints and much more

Robotic arms seem like they belong in Sci-Fi movies, car factories and the dreams of DIY nerds. Dobot wants to change that, with a shiny new Kickstarter campaign bringing entry-level robotics to the desktop. The robot is extendable and can be equipped to deal with any number of tasks, including cutting, moving, printing, picking-upping, soldering and a ton of other -ings.

Dobot M1 started at $999, but by the time you’re reading this, the five lucky super-early-bird backers have already snapped up the bargain-basement editions. The current cheapest version costs $1,399, but the price will raise again in another 40 units or so.

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The robot comes with two toolheads included with the base package, with a choice from a 3D printer head, a 4th axis attachment, a laser engraver, suction cup or gripper hand. Additional toolheads can be added for $80 a pop. There’s also a series of advanced tools available, including a $200 3D mouse. And $600 buys you a visual kit (which adds computer vision to the robot), a soldering kit (enabling the robot to do soldering for you!) or a rail attachment that increases the range of the robot.

For a cool $6,099, you can buy a full mobility platform that turns this cute little robot into the ultimate cat-terrorizing device. Or, y’know, I suppose you could use the mobility platform for good rather than for evil.

Programmable & extendable

The robot can be programmed in a number of ways. You can put it into learning mode and you can grab its head and move it around — the robot records the movements and repeats them until it gets bored. Which, given that it’s a robot, might take a while. It also comes with a number of programming tools, APIs and SDKs, meaning that if you know how to code, you can probably figure out how to program the robot to do your bidding.

Nobody’s going to argue that robots aren’t awesome, but as this is a Kickstarter campaign, the company is still facing quite a few hurdles before it is ready to ship.

Dobot M1 isn’t the first robotic arm to find its way onto Kickstarter. FLX.ARM raised $83,000 and was scheduled to ship in  January 2015, but wasn’t able to get its robots to backers until July/August this year. Makerarm raised $440,000 earlier this year and was scheduled to ship in October, but has also run into a series of delays.

The Dobot company has shipped several robots in the past, mostly aimed at educational use, including the $1,200 Dobot Magician and the $900 Dobot Arm v1.0. Dobot’s M1 is the company’s first robot aimed at light manufacturing.