Current consumer robots can be subdivided into two groups: Service and Edutainment (Educational / Entertainment) robots. Falling under the service robots category, you will find iRobot's Roomba & Scooba, Cleanmate's QQ-1, Karcher's Robocleaner and Friendly Robotics Robomower. In the Edutainment robots segment, you have LEGO Mindstorms, Whitebox's 914 PC-BOT, Vex Robotics, Hitech Robonova-1, Sony's Aibo, Ugobe's Pleo, and WowWee's Robosapien V2 and Robopet. Service robots provide a service (cleaning, security, etc.) to the consumer and Edutainment robots can both educate and entertain the consumer; sometimes it's more educational than entertainment and vice versa. Wow Wee's Robosapien V2 and Robopet incline more towards the entertainment side though some enthusiasts may say differently. WowWee first introduced successful edutainment robots in 2004 with their very first Robosapien, the dream child of Mark W. Tilden. The first Robosapien was such a success that a year later they introduced Robosapien V2, Robopet and Roboraptor. WowWee Ltd. Is privately owned, Honk Kong based company, with offices in North America. The company pushes technology and focuses on creating breakthrough consumer electronics. The Robosapien V2 along with the Robopet have great potential to entertain and educate us with robotic technologies, so let us see how WowWee was able to make that happen.
The box that the Robosapien V2 came in was HUGE. The Robopet, however, was much smaller and lighter. Let me give you all a friendly word of warning: It seems that WowWee took shipping of their products very, very seriously. I do not think that even astronauts are so well tied down! It took me approximately 25 minutes to untie Robopet from it's box and almost an hour to release the Robosapien V2 from it's constraints. Some people may unpackage them faster, but I feel that in doing so you would risk damaging the robots. Make sure that you are relaxed and no one else is waiting for you before undertaking this monumental unpacking job. Another thing to consider is that you should purchase the batteries in advance, in order to avoid being frustrated and running around like a madman to your local store to purchase them (later I will let you know the brand, type and quantity of the batteries needed). Inside the Robosapien box you will find the Robosapien V2 robot, 1 infrared dual joystick remote control, 3 red bowling pins, 1 green bowling ball, warranty card and user manual. Within the Robopet box you will find Robopet robot, 1 infrared remote control, warranty card and user manual.
This robot is huge, and heavy! At almost 2 feet tall, he can scare the daylights out of my 2-year-old niece. He feels as sturdy as a tank though he is all plastic and his Silver, black and white color scheme reminds me of something reminiscent of the 1960s American space program. The Robosapien V2 robot has a humanoid form, two working arms and legs, articulated waist, head and hands. The hands are almost life size and its feet are wide (giving it a sturdy upright stature). A gauntlet covers the top of each hand and attached to it is a black tube that connects to the torso's side. Two outward pointing mounts from Robosapien back protect its head from a unique movement that I will explain later in the review. All of the robot's sensors are well hidden or camouflaged inside the robot, they include a color camera, infrared receiver, pressure and stereo sonic sensors. The Robopet is much smaller and lighter. This robotic Chihuahua measures about 9 inches in length and 6 inches tall, small enough to live at your office desk. Robopet has a paint scheme similar to the Robosapien, its 1960's retro futuristic silver, black and white colors make it a perfect match for it's robo buddy. One thing that struck me as odd was that Robopet has a very featureless face for something that is considered a pet! At least the Robosapien has eyes that turn on and off to relay some sort of expression. Robopet has that alien look to it, you know that it should be a dog but it is so odd looking it's hard to relate to. Robopet looks somewhat cheap and fragile compared to its more expensive brethren (I-Cybie and Aibo), but don't let that stop you from considering it since it has much more fun factor packed into it. Infrared and sonic sensors are hidden and/or camouflaged on the robot and its four legs give the Robopet very fluid movements.
The Robosapien V2 has several improvements and new features compared to its predecessor. To start, Robosapien carries 14 individual motors that let it perform fluid movements such as bending, lying down, sitting, standing, walking and even dancing. He carries an array of sensors as previously mentioned. A speaker is embedded in his body just behind his head; it provides a clear synthetic speech response that seems to come out from his ‘fake' mouth when he reacts to stimuli. A very small orifice can be found at the each side of the head, these are Robosapien's stereo sonic ears, with them he can track loud, sharp sounds and move towards its source. This robot could also be voice controlled by using special software called ‘Robosapien Dance Machine', just imagine the possibilities. On the face you can clearly see the color vision camera, the three infrared sensors/emitters, more infrared sensors on its ‘ear lobes' and it's simulated glowing ‘eyes'. The color camera is a very cool feature that works well, as long as the room is well lit. This color camera can ‘recognize' colors (red, green and blue) and skin tones to recognize humans within a 1-inch distance. The infrared sensors/emitters act as his other set of eyes and by using both detect proximity/distance to objects and track movement from a close range (max 8 inches) to a long range (max 30 inches). This dual ‘vision' system helps Robosapien track movements, differentiate certain colors and avoid/detect obstacles. On the back of the robot's head is a dark blue plastic piece that covers more infrared sensors that can receive signals from the IR remote control just like the front positioned ‘ear lobe' IR sensors. These will ensure that the emitted IR signals from the remote control are not missed if the robot is facing you or not. The sensory fun does not stop there! Robosapien carries pressure sensors on the front and back of each foot. These sensors help the robot avoid obstacles while he roams and explores his environment. There are gauntlet pressure sensors on both of his arms, right above each hand. These sensors also help Robosapin avoid obstacles while he explores around your home. Both pairs of sensors from the hands and feet can also be used to trigger ‘positional programs' as well. Robosapien has two life sized, articulated hands. These hands have grip sensors that are able to check if the robot was successful in grabbing an object. The hands can sense a grab of an object no smaller than it's green bowling ball. His grip is strong enough to pickup and lift a full can of soda. Robosapien also has internal tilt sensors that can stop most functions when he is found in odd positions, such as lying on its back. The nice thing about this robot is the ability for him to get up from the floor in case he falls over. The power switch is located on the robot's back, just below its right shoulder. Pressing the button will turn the robot ON and pressing it again will turn it OFF. A multi button, dual joystick, infrared remote control is included in order to manipulate, program or play with him. The controller has a tri-color LED that confirms which shift keys are used. It also has functions buttons that look similar to Sony's playstation joystick configuration, these can be combined with the shift keys to create unique movements on the robot. The left stick has 8 positions that control the robot's forward, backwards, turn left and turn right bipedal walking. The right stick has also 8 positions that control the hands, arms, waist, torso and head movements when combined with the shift keys. This provides the user with a wide scope of combined movements. The three shift keys found on the front face of the controller provide optional functions and movements. There is also a ‘laser' targeting button that can be used to play ‘follow the target' with Robosapien. Robopet has relatively simple robotics compared to the Robosapien V2, one of the reasons for it's great price and size difference. This little fellow carries various infrared sensors, four are found in front of his face (left, right object detectors with IR receiver and one edge detector), these give him ‘vision' to detect and avoid obstacles as well keep off table edges. His infrared ‘vision' can also be used to play ‘follow the target' just like Robosapien V2. Robopet has only a single “ear”/sonic sensor that is located near the front of his chest. During guard mode he can use it to detect loud, sharp sounds. His ‘voice' comes from a speaker that is found between his rear legs. Robopet provides digitalized barks, growls and other very funny sounds that reflect his mood (friendly, playful, sad, curious and upset to name a few). There are a total of 4 motors (1 Front Leg, 1 Left Leg, 1 Waist and 1 Right Rear Leg). These tiny motors along with internal tilt and position sensors give Robopet some unique movements as running, walking, sitting, rolling over, crawling or a combination of them. This little robotic dog has personality and attitude! He is funny and very much autonomous from the get go, definitely a trademark of Mark Tilden's robotic technologies. Robopet plays, explores, barks and even jokes around; he will make any kid (young or old) fall in love with him almost immediately! My 2 year old Niece fell in love with Robopet and even named it ‘Wow wow robo', he definitely exudes cuteness and charm, although his cold alien like look is odd and strange (as the saying goes: “Don't judge a robot by it's outer shell”). Just as with the Robosapien V2, Robopet comes with an Infrared remote control. The remote control allows full control over Robopet as well as programming capabilities. Unlike Robosapien V2's controller, it has no dual joysticks and shift keys. Robopet's remote is very similar to a television remote control. The remote has buttons that move Robopet forward, backwards, left, right and make it stop. It also has buttons to set it on guard mode, demo mode and program mode. This controller can also provide Robopet with good and bad feedback so he can learn certain behaviors and tricks. There is also the ‘laser' targeting button that can be used to play ‘follow the target' with Robopet.
We eat to live and Robosapien V2 needs batteries to provide it life. Many batteries are required to move this big fellow, we are talking 6 “D” and 7 “AAA” batteries! Shown here are Energizer MAX Alkaline batteries but Duracell Alkaline are recommended as well. I do not recommend anything else because this guy likes to drink the good stuff. I used the robot sparingly (15 minutes, 2 times a week) for the past two months on the same batteries! You may be thinking, why not rechargeable batteries? Not a bad idea since you will be saving much money and helping the environment as well. You will need to modify Robosapien V2 since rechargeable batteries weigh less than Alkaline batteries; it does make a difference on how Robosapien moves around without falling due to bi-pedal walking vs. the robot's center of gravity. The modification involves adding some extra weight on its feet to compensate for the difference in weight. The 6 “D” batteries are distributed on the bottom of each foot to help power it's motors, sensors and speech. Four of the “AAA” type batteries also are distributed on the bottom of each foot to give juice to Robosapien V2's brain. The remaining 3 “AAA” type batteries are reserved for the IR Remote Control. Make sure you purchase your batteries beforehand so you won't be caught without them if you decide to get a Robosapien V2. Robopet is obviously less demanding and only requires 7 “AAA” type batteries to make it have fun. You can get away with using rechargeable instead of Alkaline batteries without any modifications. Four “AAA” batteries are used to wake up Robopet and the remaining 3 “AAA” batteries are to power the IR remote control. Somehow Robopet seems to consume Alkaline batteries a bit quicker than Robosapien V2, the difference is not a night and day difference, could be because my Niece played with him much more than Robosapien V2? Umm….. I also recommend for you to purchase the batteries beforehand if you decide to get a Robopet.
This is the fun part of reviewing the Robosapien V2 and Robopet. As I stated before, these robots lean towards entertainment more than education but many enthusiasts out there may think otherwise. Mark Tilden designed the robots with fun in mind, and they do it very well. The young at heart will enjoy both robots as they never ceased to find ways to make me laugh. Initially, the Robopet won me over by being very entertaining from the start. It took Robosapien V2 some time, but ultimately he took the entertainment crown from Robopet. When you turn on Robosapien V2 for the first time, it will greet you with his name and version! But soon after he will just stay quiet unless stimulated (get close to his face, touch his feet or hands, etc.). The robot will start random animation subroutines after 2.5 minutes of being alone with nothing in his infrared vision range. It will provide a different animation, with funny remarks, every 45 seconds. This subroutine can be interrupted prematurely if you provide it with stimuli. Robosapien V2 will go into a sleep mode if left undisturbed for about 10 minutes; this is a great feature since it saves his battery life. The thing that initially frustrated me about Robosapien V2 was that by just turning him on he does not do much besides greeting you when he wakes up and staring out to ‘la-la land'. If you stimulate his feet or feet sensors he will repeatedly say “Oops! What was that?” and do nothing else. Same goes if you stimulate his vision, he will flinch and say “Ahhhh!!!” and then look at the object that is shown to him and say “Interesting!!”, “tracking, tracking”, “signal lost!” but not much else happens though he has a couple more quick responses that are funny like the one when you lay him on his back he will say “I think I have a bad motivator!!!” or “User Error!”. This may sound great but after a while it grows old/boring and will make you want a refund. But not until you start programming him (this is the education part) and / or let him run on ‘Free Roam' is that you get to experience the WOW factor, the fun, the educational part, the power and potential that this robot carries! It will take time to understand it's inner workings of how to program it well to your liking. It is a wonder of modern times that such a complex robot can be provided to the consumer AND is affordable. One thing that is great to see is Robosapien V2's way of getting up from his back. You can lay him on the ground on his back and command him, via the remote, to walk or set him on Free Roam in order to provoke this sequence. Before he starts he will say “I need to be upright for this”, I am telling you this guy has personality! He gets up and even makes some grunts to simulate the effort it takes to bring his heavy body upright. It's quite entertaining to watch.. Robosapien V2 can also bowl, or at least his version of bowling; he still needs some advice from Fred Flintstone. There are so many other tricks and things it can do that it will take pages upon pages to write about them. All I can tell you is that it will entertain you and your family with his smart remarks alone, he will be the house clown, just look at his smirking, it is as if he knows it! Learning to program this robot will open up many great possibilities in order to continue educating and entertaining your friends and family. Programming is split into two categories: controller and positional, each then has three programming modes. By controller programming, it means you program the robot by using the controller commands and by positional programming you program the robot by manually moving the robot's body into different positions (positions are recorded to memory). Sonic and vision program modes can assign the robot a sequence of moves that are triggered by sharp sounds or close infrared movements. There are also subroutines programs that can join the main program mode to increase the length of the stored program you created! Can you see now how powerful this robot can be? It just takes some patience and time! I could see two downsides to programming Robosapien V2, one is the limited memory to store long complex routines and the second is that your programming is lost when the batteries are removed or depleted. Wait! This robot still has three more tricks under his battery! Robosapien V2 has a Guard Mode. On this mode, the robot will use his IR vision and stereo sonic sensors, for a maximum of 30 minutes (ideally 8 or more hours would be great), to sound an onboard ‘alarm' or perform an assigned program by you when triggered by sound or vision. The other is his demo mode in which will show off his John Travolta wannabe disco dance moves! His last and funniest trick is that Robosapien V2 has a Robot Interactive mode. On this mode, Robosapien V2 interacts with another Robosapien V2, Roboraptor or Robopet within a certain distance. He has many creative conversations with his fellow robot brothers and some very interesting replies that will make you laugh. Initially Robopet has been a fun robot since the very first time I turned it on. For whatever reason, WowWee and/or Mark Tilden decided it, to have Robopet start on “Free Roam” mode unlike his big brother Robosapien V2. The ‘Free Roam' works perfect for new owners since the robot starts to play and show it's tricks. Robopet has also has a very unique personality, similar to a Chihuahua. When turned on, he greets you with an “Oh…Oh!”, just with that you get a feeling that he will be trouble! He starts to roam around your home, being adventurous and checking his environment. He avoids obstacles with his Infrared sensors and can navigate a room without any problems. Robopet loves to play, be happy, show you his tricks (9 of them) like rolling over, howling, relieving himself, breaking wind, scratching, playing dead, give you his paw, jumping and rocking. You are able to provide him with training in order to perform tricks while moving around autonomously. He will perform tricks more often if he gets positive reinforcement (via the remote command) or not if he gets negative reinforcement (if only all dogs were like Robopet!). There are some hidden tricks that Robopet may display when roaming around, if you wish to seem them more often, just give him some positive re-enforcement. Robopet can be programmed as well. He can take a maximum sequence of 20 moves and tricks via the controller proving to be much more limited compared to Robosapien V2. Robopet will not store the program after you turn him off (unlike the more advanced Robosapien V2, which retains his programming) or change the batteries. Robopet has a Guard Mode similar to Robosapien V2 and a Sleep mode. During Guard Mode he turns on his IR and Sonic sensors to check for disturbances within his range for approximately 30 minutes before going to Sleep Mode (would be ideal if it were for 8 hours). Sleep Mode will allow Robopet to save batteries and still keep his programming and training in memory. Sleep Mode is also activated when Robopet does not receive commands for 10 minutes. Robopet is able to receive commands from Robosapien V2 and interact with him by being a good or bad dog.
Robosapien V2 has many sensors and onboard subroutines that can sometimes mimic an intelligent robot. He can track objects and tell you their color (he can only see Red, Green, Blue and human skin tones), detect his bowling pins and bowling ball. He can interact with Robopet and Roboraptor by providing commands and responses that are many times not the same. During ‘Free Roam' mode is when some of his A.I. can be checked out, he can start checking out his environment and sometimes just look around as if he were really doing so, although it is just reactive feedback that is how Mr. Tilden designed it to be. These robots are behavior-based or reactive robotics that is sometimes considered weak artificial intelligence though some may claim otherwise. What makes these robots interesting devices, and much more than mere toys, is that they can create a belief in their intelligence while they entertains and educate us in simple robotics. With these robots the possibilities are wide open, there are already enthusiasts of these robots that have expanded their capabilities. Some can take voice commands, others have upgraded onboard computers systems and maybe we can have one that commands a fleet of Roombas and makes sure that they don't miss a spot! Some can be made to intercommunicate and report disturbances or emergencies in your home. The future is bright, we are witnessing the start of a new era, in which robotic devices will become mainstream. They maybe considered toys or unreliable devices now, with no real use but the same was said about the Personal Computer back in the 1970s.
Robosapien V2 and Robopet are both edutainment robots, they both entertain and educate. Both provide great entertainment but having an inclination towards entertainment. Robosapien V2 is a tall bi-pedal robot that can be programmed while packing some nice personality traits and interesting sensory reactions. Robopet is a small, cute and funny robot that can also be programmed, while holding fewer sensors, still can deliver a very creative pet personality. Both of these robots are the brainchild of Mark Tilden and Wow Wee; Mark likes to create behavior-based robots that are fun with a personality (Roomba needs to work on his). In the end, these are good edutainment robots for your home. If you have the money, get the Robosapien V2, he can entertain you and provide you with hours of robotic fun and robotic programming education. It has limitations as the amount of programming you can store and length of time it can stay before your work is erased. Don't expect it to be C3PO though, because it is not - but he could be a distant ancestor of R2D2 (he has his colors!). Robopet is less expensive but packs in almost as much fun. As Jules (Samuel L. Jackson) from the movie “Pulp Fiction” said: “But, dogs got personality, and personality goes a long way”, Robopet definitely has personality in spades. He will deliver smiles and laughs to kids (young or old), though limited in the programming area, he still can give you the basics. He is no Sony Aibo or I-Cybie so don't expect too much from him but at his price he gives you what you pay for and that is entertainment. Both robots are unique and I recommend them if you want to be entertained or bring fun and laughter within your home. You still can find them at your traditional store or online retailer but be aware that prices may be dropping since the next version of Robosapien (called RSV2 Media) will be coming out soon and most likely the same thing will happen to Robopet.