|Manufacturer: WowWee Electronics|
Price: £30-60 S/H
Robots seem to get more lifelike every year, but when you’re as old as me it’s still sometimes hard to believe you can buy an affordable toy robot that’ll wander around your house and say and do as many different things as this Robosapien V2. Okay, so it won’t make you a cup of tea or do the washing up, but this big guy has a lot of different functions. He’s almost 2ft tall and much bigger than the original Robosapien, and instead of caveman grunts the V2 can speak an impressive list of pre-recorded phrases; he will say "where did it go?" if he loses track of an object, or “maybe I should drive” if you steer him into an obstruction. V2 can do this because he has all kinds of sensors; You will feel that V2’s sometimes actually looking at you with his moving blue LED eyes, because he is with his infrared and basic color recognition sensors. He has grip sensors in his hands, touch or contact-activated hand and foot sensors and sonic sensors too. For movement the V2 has an articulated waist, shoulders, and hands giving him a wide variety of body movements.
Robosapien V2 comes with a large white infrared remote control pad, and anyone who’s played a video game in the last 10 years or so will be right at home with its design, which is very similar to a PlayStation or Xbox joypad. I’m sure WowWee would say there’s a logical reason for this, but as with all their robots the direction of the joysticks on the remote is reversed, meaning if you want Robosapien to turn right, you have to push the stick to the left, and so on. These are obviously transposed to being the right way round if the robot is facing you, but it still seems an unnecessarily cack-handed way of doing things, especially for someone who’s used to controlling radio-controlled cars etc.
Robosapien V2 is supplied with a green plastic ball and three orange bowling pins strapped to the back of his box, and you’d think these would be fun to play with. But sadly, and as with the original Robosapien’s cup, this doesn’t work quite as well as I’d hoped, mainly because V2 throws/bowls like a girl. A little girl. A little girl with no coordination whatsoever. Think: Niles (Frasier Crane’s brother) and you won’t be far off. Why they’d make a feature of his inadequate throwing (or bowling) ability by packaging him with the ball and skittles I don’t know, it makes as much sense as bundling a Niles action figure with an AK-47, or a football.
As with the older Robosapien you also can’t simply make V2 bend over and move an arm to pick something up, it’s all done in a pre-programmed sequence. He has two pre-programmed “pick up” motions (high and ground level), but even with his huge oversized hands they both require the object to be in exactly the right spot for him to gather them up, and as the ground level ‘pickup spot’ is right in front of either foot the chances are he’ll kick the thing you want to pick up out of reach every time you walk him up to it! This is kind of daft and at least the old Robosapien picked up objects easily from alongside his legs, admittedly only if they were cup-shaped and not too heavy. So just as with V2’s predecessor nothing is as controllable as you’d like it to be. You can however make him reach out his hand and say “Spare change?” or “let me scan that” in order to take something from someone, but again it’s all done in a pre-programmed sequence and he closes his hand automatically rather than waiting to sense whether something has actually been placed in it. Amusingly if you don’t put something in his hand he’ll say “gimme gimme gimme”, and he has plenty of other Movie and TV robot-related quips that he spouts as well. These can be chained together to form lengthy pre-programmed sequences, and then triggered by one of his sensors. He has a lot of different spoken responses and also farts and burps, and with his loud voice a lack of a volume control of any kind seems like an odd omission.
Robosapien walks with a fluid pendulum motion but doesn’t pick his feet up very far, this means he walks much more smoothly on tiled or laminated floors and struggles on even quite short carpet. V2’s centre of gravity is also quite critical to smooth walking, meaning that rechargeable cells aren’t good idea as being lighter they affect his balance and make one of his moves (lie down & stand back up) impossible for him to do. Although faster than the old Robosapien (who turned around in about the same time as your average oil super tanker) V2 will shuffle around on the spot and turn through full 360° in 20 seconds or so. He also has 4 gaits (ways of walking) so can be manoeuvred around quite effectively. The batteries seem to last quite a long time and this is just as well as he requires 6 ‘D’ cells (3 in each leg) and 7 ‘AAA’s (2 in each leg and 3 in the control pad) to run. Surely a robot of this kind should come with a 7.2 or 9 Volt rechargeable battery pack as found in most R/C cars, boats and tanks these days.
As with the older Robosapien, I can’t help liking the V2 and his big blue LED eyes, and have enjoyed having him around. He’s well put together and unlikely to fall apart in your hands. I’d question whether the V2 has enough going on to keep the average kid of today amused for long, and I imagine him being cast aside for the PlayStation or Xbox long before his first set of batteries have been used up. You have to wonder how many of these things are bought by adults who want a robot rather than the kids they’re actually bought for.
This time last year you couldn’t buy one of these, they were sold out everywhere - even at a whacking R.R.P. of £199. This year, like everything else on the planet the price has dropped and there are quite a few appearing on eBay ‘second hand’. So if you’ve always wanted a battery-powered companion to beat at bowling, and if you can find one that’s been looked after and is going for a reasonable price it might be worth a go.
- Well built and impressive-looking
- Endearingly anthropomorphic
- The amount of pre-programming you can do is impressive
- Limited movement
- Doesn’t like long carpet
- Uses a lot of batteries