Wowwee, the consumer robotics company that gave us the Robosapien and Roboquad, unveiled some cool new products at the most recent CES. A lot of these debuts were spinoffs of last year’s offerings (especially the super cool FlyTech Dragonfly spawned numerous different-looking but basically identical ornithophers) but four new robots stand out.
In a crowd of FlyTech Dragonfly rehashes, the BladeStar is easily the most unique. It looks like a helicopter without a body, or maybe a futuristic ceiling fan that has sprung free from its moorings. More than just a RC chopper, it comes with an autopilot mode with sensor-based navigation that allows the Bladestar to avoid obstacles — including your hands, allowing for gestural navigation. There’s even a dogfight accessory that puts a IR emitter on your remote so you can shoot down enemy BladeStars.
Wowwee mad scientist Mark Tilden is considered by many the father of BEAM robotics — autonomous constructs lacking microcontrollers and remotes, and which activate upon some preset stimulus. You can see that lineage in Wowwee’s Bug Bots. Each has two touch sensors, so casual contact will get them skittering. There are seven different models, each with either treads or wheels. Take it to the next level by getting more than one; as they’re touch-activated, they can set each other off.
WREX THE DAWG
Proof that DIY is huge, now we’ve come full circle with a brand new product designed to seem like it was built out of repurposed junk! Like Wowwee’s previous offerings, it utilizes IR sensors to avoid obstacles, and comes with programmable personalities and behaviors. But then it gets all crazy. Taking the DIY junkbot angle to the extreme, Wrex is programmed to periodically malfunction and break down! The robot itself, and its controller, appear to fit the role with an unfinished, hacked-together look.
Wowwee has finally introduced a bot that has a practical use. A mobile, WiFi enabled robot equipped with a webcam and audio pickup and NorthStar vision-based navigation system. Operate Rovio from anywhere in the world via the internet and keep an eye on your home from afar! At the touch of a button the Rovio returns to and self-docks at its charging station. Windows XP & Vista compatible only, unfortunately.
Note: You won’t find these products at stores for awhile; look for them this summer and fall.