- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Here’s a look at some of the robotic creatures that recently have been invading homes:

Roboraptor from Wow Wee, requires six AA and three AAA batteries, $119.99. The makers of last year’s robot with an attitude — Robosapien — look to the past to deliver a new creature that will amaze its owners.

Developed by Mark Tilden, a former NASA robotic physicist turned toy maker, and a team of designers in China, the 32-inch-long, striped creature with piercing blue eyes merges the prehistoric with futuristic technologies.

The biped is activated using a wireless controller familiar to video-game players. The dinosaur can be directed to perform 40 preprogrammed functions, including biting, walking, whipping its tail and playing tug of war.

Owners also can turn it on and let the creature guard an area (it releases a reptilian scream when intruders are present) or go into a free-roam mode to explore new surroundings.

The magic of multisensory awareness combined with eerily fluid biomechanical movements bring this hard plastic “Jurassic Park”-like resident to life. It will provide an eye-popping experience for youngsters as they pet the dino under the chin and have it react affectionately or watch it methodically stalk noisy prey.

The Roboraptor hears, sees and feels people and the environment around it because of multiple touch sensors in its head, mouth and tail; stereo sound sensors located on either side of its head; and infrared vision sensors that help it detect and avoid obstacles.

Additionally, the beast’s infrared functionality pays off with another level of interactivity. The controller also acts a laser pointer, which the Roboraptor will track to a desired location.

Owners can enjoy more than six hours of continuous entertainment with fresh batteries, and the Roboraptor automatically shuts down after it has been idle for more than 10 minutes.

This unbelievably cool — though pricey — toy also can act as an introduction to the wonders of robotics, making the Roboraptor the perfect companion for a tech-savvy family.

IDog from Tiger Electronics, requires two AA batteries, $29.99. Man’s best friend is now an accessory to the portable music generation thanks to this clever creature, designed by the makers of Furby.

The palm-sized, slightly robotic pooch will react to music or, when plugged into any hand-held music system via the headphone jack, become an interactive speaker.

The shiny white plastic dog wiggles its ears, shakes its head and flashes lights on its face in appreciation when exposed to music and develops an attitude depending on the level of care its owner provides.

Through the use of touch sensors on the IDog’s tail, head and nose, owners can deliver positive and negative reinforcement to their new friend. For example, repeatedly tugging on its tail — which doubles as a mute switch — will cause the dog to growl.

Personalities are revealed via the colors illuminated in seven LEDs on the dog’s face, while moods are revealed through light patterns accompanied by familiar dog sounds and snippets of music.

For example, introducing the dog to the Sex Pistols will give it a distinct red glow; ignoring it will prompt it to emote a sad tune, cry and display a flowing vertical light pattern.

Overall, IDog will find a home with the music-loving tween who loves gadgets, but it needs a bit more functional power to succeed as an amplification device.

RC Green Mamba from Uncle Milton requires two AA and two AAA batteries, $24.99. Under the category of “underwhelming robotics,” Uncle Milton’s P-Brains have unleashed a radio-controlled serpent that will keep owners amused for no more than five minutes.

The 20-inch-long snake is controlled using an egg-shaped remote. The serpent will slither in four directions along any perfectly smooth, flat surface. Any bumps, dimples, dirt or animal hair in its path will stop the wheels underneath the creature’s segmented body, but its LED eyes will continue to glow.

The multimotor-fueled snake is available in two species, Banana Boa and Green Mamba, and comes with some cardboard cutouts that represent a jungle obstacle course.

Unfortunately, because it is difficult to control and has only limited play patterns, few owners will find it more than temporarily engaging. The reptile probably will spend more time sitting on a bedroom shelf than in the lower-level wilds of a playroom.

Write to Joseph Szadkowski, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002; or send e-mail ([email protected]washingtontimes.com).


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