Monthly Archives: October 2006

Choosing the perfect Robot Toy

Latest generation of robots are child friendly, but still highly sophisticated.

In the past, robots where very simple toys, that had the ability to spark our imagination. They did not had much intelligence, but we loved them because they where part of the bigger dream of human kind. Most of them where just metal humanoids, that strolled forward while making noises, and sending light beams. Whatever they did, was not important, they where there to take us to the starts.

Old Vintage robotRobot Toy

Today robots are making a come back, and the new generation have taken many forms, from house appliances to dogs, and dinosaurs. They can move, walk, talk, and respond to external inputs, even recognise our voice and understand simple commands.

RoboReptilei-cybie

Choosing a robot toy that goes with the age of the child (and we all have a child inside), is not an easy task. Even if most robots are advertised as suitable for small kids, to exploit all that functionality, will require some time to learn how to program and command the robot. In many cases the task is very similar to training a real dog; it will require repetition, practice, and patience. But the rewards are also there, having your robot dog obeying your command will bring the admirations of anyone..

Choosing the best Robot Toy

While is difficult to know your exact idea of the perfect toy, here you can have some ideas on how to make your selection:

Age of the owner: My son got a Robosapien when he was 8 years old. And even is he was happy with it, most of what he was interested was to play it in demo more. Fortunately this robot is very solid, and has survived almost 2 years, without a mayor scratch. It has also learned to do more tricks during this period. It is important to notice that recent physiological studies shows that smaller kids will take a robot for a living animal, and in some cases they may be scared of that ‘cute’ dinosaur, in the same way a dog may scare them.

Complexity of the controls: Most of them come with a remote control that is the interface to program the robot. As the number of key is limited, sequences of keys are used to access certain functions. This makes the process a little bit more complex, and time consuming. One thing to do is to get a copy of the user manual from the vendor’s site before purchasing your unit. That will give you’re a clear idea on what to except in terms of capabilities and easy of use.
Type of Batteries: Robots in general require a faire amount of energy to operate. Some models come with rechargeable packs, including the recharging unit. Rechargeable batteries are better than normal batteries, but their life is also limited. Make sure that it is possible to get a replacement of the batteries, at a reasonable cost.
Existing Enthusiastic Community: Part of the fun of playing with robots, is finding and joining a user community specific for your chosen robot. A vibrant community is a good sign because it means that the product is good, and that you can learn, and exchange ideas with other fans.

These are just some guidelines for selecting a robot toy that will bring hours of entertainment and fun. Have Fun and enjoy your search.

It is not the destination that count, is the journey.
Juan Pablo.

PS: Looking for the perfect gif to start with?  Check Roboreptile.

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Choosing Your First Robot Kit

Congratulations, you finally decided to take the plunge and build your first robot! Now it is time to search for one that looks challenging enough, but still within your skills.

Deciding for a robot kit, especially if you are a beginner is a difficult task, because there are many options to consider before buying your first kit:

Budget: fix your budget before starting your search. You will be able to find good kits starting at less than 50$, but you can also be tempted to buy one of those highly sophisticated that can cook your dinner for 2 times your monthly pay. The good news is that the entry level kits are good to learn and provide hours of fun.

Experience: do you know the basics of electronics? Can you use a “hot iron”? If you have some experience building or fixing electronics, a soldering robot kit may a good choice. Even if you have never used a “hot iron” before, you can look for the number of parts, and choose one with a low component count; that will reduce the challenges while building the kit. But if soldering is not for you, there are kits that come with the electronic part pre-built, and you just have to do the assembling.

Time available: building your first robot will require some concentration and time. Pick a big project and you may loose interest before finishing, choose something too basic, and you will be bored. The solution to this is to decide in advance how much time you will like to spend to build it. A basic kit can be ready in two to four hours, but a larger kit will take weeks to complete.

Fixing problems will also take considerable time, and that is where your character will be tested. It is very common that after spending hours mounting a robot, it refuses to behave. Troubleshooting is one of the skills that a good robot builder has to master, and is part of the fun if taken as a challenge.

Control logic of the robot: the control logic of a robot is the brain of it. The techniques used to control the robot can be mechanical like the B.E.A.M. robots, using transistors, and for the more complex using their own microcontroller. Transistors kits are still accessible for the beginners, and give the hobbyist a good chance to learn basic electronics principles.

More sophisticated robots use an on board microcontroller, which is programmed to control the functions of the robot. This adds a lot of power, at the expenses of adding software development to the skills that are needed. They are also more expensive to build. (click to know more about robot hardware )

Kits are the best tool for learning by experience. Just get one, take the time, and enjoy!

Juan Pablo
PS: Don’t forget to send me a picture of your own creation.

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