Robots are always a big crowd-pleaser at CES, and this year’s no exception. WowWee, known for its innovative but affordable ‘bots, just announced four new products that uphold its reputation. And Erector (yup, of Erector sets) brought out three follow-ups to last year’s popular Spykee, a build-it-yourself Wi-Fi robot that acts like a roving webcam. Go with WowWee if you want your artificial friend to run right out of the box, or with the Erector DIY kits if you like to work for your robot love.
Continue reading below to see the best new robotic products to hit CES this week.
WowWee FlyTech Bladestar
I can’t wait to fly this one around my living room—or rather, let it fly itself. The Bladestar is the first robot that flies all on its own, no remote control needed. (At least, it’s the first such robot you can actually buy, without having to design it yourself or steal it from the military.) It uses infrared sensors to detect obstacles, whether walls or people, and then steers away from them. It stays upright with the help of propellers that spin perpendicular to the rotating wings, creating a gyroscope-like effect. And it can even fight with another Bladestar—all for only 50 bucks.
At first glance, Rovio is a webcam on wheels. You control the Wi-Fi-enabled ‘bot from any web browser, and then it rolls around your house capturing audio and video that you view online. But what sets Rovio apart from similar robots is that it can also pilot itself using a navigation method called NorthStar, which WowWee describes as “working like a micro-GPS system.” Not sure yet of the details, but WowWee developed it with a company called Evolution Robotics, whose website describes NorthStar as going something like this: A small infrared projector in your room shines invisible light dots at the ceiling. The robot’s detector can tell the spots apart, so it can use them to triangulate to determine its position, just like a GPS device does with satellites.
WowWee Tribot [above left]
As its name implies, the Tribot has three wheels, which let it move in any direction—sideways, diagonally, wherever. What its name doesn’t make clear: The Tribot has a game mode, a joke-telling mode (!), and more, and it can indicate its joy at its marvelous talents by wiggling its eyebrows.
WowWee Alive Lion Cub [above right]
Take home a cuddly baby lion without worrying that he’ll grow up to destroy your house. This furry fellow has touch and tilt sensors that detect when you pet him, leave him still, or pick him up by the nape of the neck, so he can respond with purrs or other lifelike gestures. WowWee plans to introduce more baby beast ‘bots soon, including a panda, polar bear, and white tiger.
Erector Spykee Cell
You’re probably wondering what this robot is doing to that iPod… Well, Spykee Cell is a multi-tasker. He’s an iPod speaker, webcam, and rolling robot that you control with your cellphone over Bluetooth. He even turns into a Bluetooth speakerphone when you get a call.
Erector Spykee Vox and Spykee Miss
Vox and Miss are basically the same, but one is aimed at boys and the other at girls. (Guess which is which.) Unlike the other Spykees, they’re controlled by voice commands—just tell them which direction to move and they’ll obey your command, stopping when they encounter an obstacle. You can even tell them to turn on your TV or DVD player for you, since a built-in infrared controller can act as a universal remote control. While the ‘bots are busy doing your bidding, you can dream up new movements for them or new faces for their LCD screens, and then plug them into your computer and program them via a simple interface. —Lauren Aaronson
Want more? Check out our entire CES 2008 coverage here.