WowWee Rovio Review and UnboxingPosted by Rudolph on Monday, 6 October 2008
Rovio by WowWee
I'm sure you've heard the buzz about WowWee's new robot, the Rovio. Billed as a "mobile webcam," the Rovio connects to your local network via Wi-Fi (802.11b/g) and is controlled via a web-based interface served directly from the robot. Rovio has the TrueTrack Navigation System built in, which allows you to save various locations, allowing your robot to automatically navigate itself to a specified location. Should the battery run low while Rovio is "out and about," this same system allows Rovio to return to it's charging station for a refill.
Like many, I've been wanting to get my hands on one since I can remember first hearing about it, and now I have. Read on for the unboxing photos, action shots, and my experiences using this slick little 'bot.
Arrival and Unboxing
It all started on a quiet, sunny, Southern California morn. There I sat, minding my own business, when suddenly... there came a rapping, rapping, rapping at my chamber door. Unsure as to what may be causing this AM disturbance, I convinced myself 'twas but some early visitor, only this and nothing more. Gathering myself I approached - here I opened wide the door, and quoth the FedEx guy, "Rudolph? Sign here please."
Okay, that was pretty bad. Truly sorry about that. I'll make an effort to be less dramatic for the remainder of the story.
Having signed off for the package, I accepted a rather dull looking cardboard box. Bringing it inside, I realized my other robots were quite keen on discovering what this new treasure could be.
Before I knew what was happening, they had pushed me off to the side and were opening the package!
It was a new Rovio. And there was much rejoicing!
Okay, that was pretty bad. Truly sorry about that. I (and the robots) will make an effort to be less cheesy for the remainder of the article. Those responsible have been sacked.
Inside the Box
Armed with two energy drinks, a pocketknife, a screwdriver, wire cutters, a hammer, and wondering if I'll need a blowtorch, I began to open the box. The first things I found were the manual, CDROM, and a USB cable, sitting on top of a styrofoam clamshell packing block.
"Interesting..." I thought to myself.
Seperating the two halves of the foam I found the Rovio, battery, and two pieces of the charging dock, all in seperate plastic bags, well fit into their respective cavities in the foam.
"But... Where are the wire ties? Or the hot glue?" I wondered.
Nope, not here. I believe that a person could liberate a new Rovio from it's packaging in less than twelve seconds without destroying anything.
The manual makes it fairly clear how to set up the hardware. From my setup, and talking with others, there are a few points to pay attention to:
- Make sure the mast is aimed forward when you install it on the dock, it seems it is possible to install it backwards.
- When you aim the beacon at the ceiling, make sure the two red dots are parallel to the base. If they're perpendicular, Rovio will act fairly confused and have a hard time navigating its return to the charging dock.
- You may want to attach the base to the floor in some way. I've found that it slides around fairly easily on linoleum when Rovio is docking. Even on carpet, some method of attachment is handy, as Rovio will occasionally run over its base while driving about (even with IR Radar turned on) and move the whole thing out of alignment. If you have a permanent location for the dock, you may want to tape the beacon lens in place as well, it seems to jar easily, moving the beacon out of alignment.
- When everything is plugged in and the battery is installed in the robot, make sure the robot is turned on when you place him in the dock. It seems Rovio will not charge unless its switch is in the on position.
Now that everything is plugged in and charging, it's time to take a break. Mostly because Rovio will want about two hours to charge up the battery for the first time. You'll notice the blue lights around the perimeter will turn solid when the charging is completed.
Rovio Software Setup
Again, the manual makes it fairly clear how to configure the Rovio. Insert the CD into your Windows computer (XP or Vista) and follow the prompts.
You may find when plugging the mini USB cable into the robot that it takes a little more force than you're used to putting into a cable. When finished, it takes a similar amount of force to remove it again.
Just for the sake of messing with things I also tried connecting to Rovio with the Windows "Advanced" instructions. Following the steps in the manual resulted in a quick and easy Ad-Hoc connection, allowing me to complete the configuration of my wireless setup via the settings menu.
While I used Windows XP for the setup and initial uses of Rovio, I just couldn't bring myself to keep using Windows. Happily, Rovio seems to function just as well under Linux with Firefox as it did on Windows. The two way audio feature only works with Internet Explorer, so I had to give that up, otherwise things seem about the same.
As mentioned, Rovio navigates via a beacon that is projected onto the ceiling from the charging base. Unfortunately, my house isn't well designed for ceiling based navigation. The living room has vaulted ceilings, and the dining room has a beam running lengthwise through it, which seems to obscure Rovio's line of sight. This has, however, created a great source of entertainment in watching Rovio try to navigate to places near the edge of its view of the beacon. I will definitely be buying additional room beacons in the future so it can more easily visit other parts of the house.
From time to time while auto-navigating to a waypoint Rovio will become hung up on something, like the corner of the throw rug, or the transition from kitchen floor to carpeted dining room. You can click the Stop button and take over driving manually, or wander over and pick it up and re-orient it. Turning off Rovio's IR Radar seems to help with these little obstacles.
The headlight mounted in Rovio's "chest" illuminates a small spot on the floor directly in front of the robot. Some people might like to see more light, so I expect to make an attempt at adding additional lighting for the Rovio... Keep your eyes peeled for more information on RoboCommunity!
The Moving Picture
Here are a couple videos I took of Rovio doing its thing. You may notice some interesting tidbits here.
- When you tell Rovio to go to a specific waypoint it will locate the waypoint stored before that one and navigate from there.
- Large obstacles, especially shiny ones, seem to confuse the Rovio a bit during auto navigation.
- You'll be surprised how amusing Rovio's "Happy Dance" after docking actually is.
All in all, I find myself impressed with the Rovio. The ability to control it from almost anywhere definitely adds a certain groovy-ness factor. It certainly didn't take long for the little robot to endear itself to the family, we are all guilty of talking to it more than we should (eg "Well, go around it!" or "What happened?" or "Ha! You kinda missed a bit, didn't you?")
It certainly is a refreshing change from the walking variety of robot that is so prevalent in my home, and I hope to enjoy it for some time to come.