Thursday, July 07, 2011

The littlest 'bot

I stumbled across Robo-Q at a local discount store - they had a pile of them selling at 8 GBP so just had to pick one up, er, for research purposes of course.

Tomy's Robo-Q claims to be the smallest autonomous robot. There's no denying he's small - measuring just 3.4 cm tall - but a robot? Let's see...

Like these indoor 'copters, Robo-Q charges his tiny battery from the handset. Like Apple's magsafe connector, the little contacts on his belly attach magnetically to the corresponding nodes on the controller. He takes quite a long time to charge - up to 20 minutes - which is disappointing, since his run time is short at only a few minutes per charge.

The [noisy] controller has a few simple controls; a sliding speed control, a left/right control and a button marked 'Auto'. Robo-Q lives in a bubble within the controller itself when not in use, ready to be deployed when needed. Well, not really - see 20 minute charge, above.

Robo-Q himself is kitted out with two IR transceivers, two little arms that can be 'posed', and two little legs that do the walking.

His motive force is provided by two tiny actuators, aka coils, in his legs, and the design of the foot allows him to shuffle forward as the feet flick back and forth. Steering is done by flicking one foot more frequently than the other.

But Robo-Q rarely walks straight - often employing a graceful curve before heading over the edge of the table.

This is where the handy controller comes in - you can manually steer Robo - and one can only imagine the unbridled fun it must be to have two different Robos in the same room independently controllable. Remember the discount store I mentioned earlier? That's right - they only had the one model all operating at the same frequency... so no Robo-Q footy world cup for me.

That 'Auto' button on the controller does just that - it sends Robo-Q into a wall-seeking frenzy. Or rather, it's an aversion to walls - he steers clear of such obstacles, the idea being that, like some lab animal, he can negotiate his way out of a maze.

Of course that's bollocks - unless your maze is uniform and white (but not too reflective) the little bugger will ignore most things you put in his path and instead pounds his little head into that box of tissues you thought would work.

Similarly, he can be ordered to 'follow' an object - well mostly his oversized, multi-faceted 'ball'. This he has some fun with this before kicking it too far and losing interest.

Uh oh. Your five minutes are up. Batteries flat. Time to charge up again.

So enjoy my short vid of Robo-Q in some maze action. Soundtrack by me courtesy of Garageband on iPad. Sorry.

You can find a much better video here.

And if you want more, you can watch the crazy Japanese promo here.

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