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Alive 11
Cult or Crap?
        "Having your own personal Robot is not science fiction. The 
        technology experts agree: 'Robosapien is here now.' Robosapien 
        is the 1st humanoid robot with 67 functions and 4 programming 
        modes, ready to carry out your every command. Program a 
        combination of moves and Robosapiens interactive reflex system 
        makes him spring to life with plenty of attitude, responsive, 
        intelligent, dynamic robotics. Robosapien is the future and the 
        future is now. Robosapien is here. Batteries not included. From 
        Woo Wee." 

        So much for the promises made in the advertisement that can be
        viewed on the Wow Wee website ( ). Perhaps
        it's about time to review the seemingly most important toy in
        the universe. It was developed by Dr. Mark W. Tilden a former
        NASA employee. Dr. Tilden invented BEAM robotics, which is an
        acronym for Biology, Electronics, Aesthetics and Mechanics. The
        general idea behind BEAM is, to use simple analogue circuits
        which are directly linked to sensor systems. Microcontrollers
        and programming are usually not part of those robots, but you
        can gain flexibility if you add a microprocessor and programming
        on top of a BEAM robot.

        Like many other projects the development of Robosapien was
        plastered with all kinds of obstacles like the bankruptcy of
        financiers, prototypes catching fire during presentations and
        much more. Also the usual 36 hour coding marathon before
        finishing a product was exceeded. Rumours say Mark Tilden needed
        an 11 day, non-stop coding marathon to program the personality
        of the Robosapien. Perhaps wearing tights and using a wormbag to
        get some sleep in between would have helped a bit. I wonder what
        his co-workers said to wearing the same clothes for 11 days. I
        guess legends are made of this kind of stuff :) Apart from that
        it might be a good idea to have a close look onto the result.
        Wow Wee promises a fusion of technology and personality. If
        personality is defined through burping and farting and some
        grunting noises, well perhaps then Robosapien fulfils this
        criterion, but honestly my picture of personality is not that
        simple ;). On the other hand it seems we can find lots of
        personality in the sleeping area of every coding party :).

        In fact it's a major annoyance that you can't shut up the
        Robosapien it always produces some "funny" caveman noises while
        executing your commands. Operating the Robosapien makes you cry
        for a volume controller. Well it seems there has been lots of
        complaints about that and the Wow Wee Website offers an awkward
        solution to turn down the volume. Woo Wee honestly suggests to
        put some sticky tape over the speaker grill. Now that's hi-tech,
        I wonder if the NASA fixes their space shuttles with sticky tape
        too :)

Got Power?
        I have tried the Robosapien with different types of batteries.
        First I used rechargeable batteries because they usually work in
        all my devices. However I cannot recommend these for use with
        the Robosapien, even when I tried Panasonic Rechargeable Pro+
        mono cells (NiMH, 1,2 V, 3000 mAh) there were some major
        problems. Not only do these batteries fail to supply enough
        power to let Robosapien lift his arms fully, besides they are so
        lightweight, that it has some serious impact on his walking
        skills. I decided to buy some normal mono cells from the next
        supermarket and what can I say, it solves most of the annoyances
        with Robosapien, especially since they add more weight to the
        feet (the batteries are placed inside the feet) and make the
        Robosapien much more stable that way. Perhaps it's possible to
        use rechargeable batteries if you add a big capacitor to the
        Robosapien and some weight to the feet.

67 Functions and still
counting, erm searching
        So what about the rest? Let's take a close look at the 67
        functions. Robosapien is controlled by a IR remote which offers
        21 keys, however one key is used like a multiple shift key and 4
        of the others are only used for programming. However 15 keys are
        used to operate the Robosapien directly 16 if you count the
        functions "Wake Up" and "Power Off" in. At the top of the Remote
        10 keys control the arms and hands of the Robosapien. Each key
        has 3 functions which can be accessed via the "Select" key.
        Another set of 5 keys is used to control the legs; they somehow
        remind me of cursor keys with an additional stop key in the
        middle and can also be used in with 3 different functions. Let's
        do the math 15*3 =45 if you add the Wake Up and Power Off
        function we reach 47, so there seem to be 20 functions missing.
        Of course there are some demos on the 4 remaining keys, so let's
        be generous and count up to 51. From there on it seems to be a
        real problems to find more functions, but Robosapien contains
        some combo moves. Four of them can be accessed via the
        directional pad, like toggle walking slowly forwards (forward
        forward combo) or backwards (backward backward combo). This adds
        another 4 functions to the existing 51 leaving us with 55, still
        12 to go. Since these functions are not that easy to spot we
        will have a look at the Robosapien FAQ at and find the

        (P) Master Command Program
        (R>) Right Sensor Program
        (L>) Left Sensor Program
        (S>) Sonic Program

        Master Command Program Execute
        Right Sensor Program Execute
        Left Sensor Program Execute
        Sonic Sensor Program Execute

        (SELECT) Advance to GREEN Keys
        (SELECT) Advance to ORANGE Keys
        (SELECT) Return to RED Command Functions

        Looks a bit cheated on the counting doesn't it? It wouldn't be a
        bad idea to use the real specifications for the advertisements,
        but they won't sound such cool I guess. While the voice from the
        advertisement still echoes in my ear I begin to feel cheated

        Let's check the quality and accuracy of the Robosapien. Like
        already mentioned above, Robosapien uses moving mechanics based
        on Mark W. Tildens BEAM technology, which not only means that
        simple analogue circuits and sensors are combined; it also uses
        lots of simple mechanical parts. For example you find a lot of
        springs inside the case which accelerate or decelerate the
        motors depending on the current movement. The spring suspension
        system also allows generating energy and storing it as a surface
        charge in the batteries, which makes them last longer and also
        results in variable power sent and consumed by the motors. Last
        not least the whole Robosapien is based on theories of dynamic
        resonance. So walking straight for example is something the
        Robosapien is most likely not capable of, because there is too
        much going on within the walking mechanics, there is simply too
        much to adjust to make it exactly go straight. This more or less
        is also valid for other actions, they work somehow but they are
        not very accurate. Depending on the remaining power of the
        batteries you might find your Robosapien unable to fully raise
        his arms, or having problems to turn. Like stated above some
        battery types doesn't work well even if they are fully charged.

A walk in the Park?
        Most of the time, walking works very well, at least if the
        surface is clean and even. However if the little rubber pads
        under Robosapiens feet have collected dust and dirt they tend to
        slip and walking becomes a pain, resulting in waking in big
        circles or not getting forward at all. In addition to that you
        might experience walking issues if you use lightweight NiMH
        rechargeable batteries. Robosapien will most likely get stuck
        even on small cables on the floor. If you use the much heavier
        alkaline batteries he will walk just over them, slowing down a
        bit but making good progress. But keep in mind that the
        Robosapien is surely not designed for outdoor usage. It likes
        plain surfaces or short carpets; anything else will slow him
        down or keep him from moving. Switching back to slow walking
        sometimes helps to overcome the problem but it is going at a
        snail pace then.

Programming the Beast
        There are 4 different programming modes whose major differences
        are the amount of possible program commands and of course the
        way to trigger them. Woo Wee speaks of up to 84 steps, well
        let's see: I guess since we already know about the "67
        functions" of the Robosapien we are a bit careful believing this
        advertisement feature.

        Fact is the Robosapiens programs can be triggered by its sensors
        or by manually calling them on the IR remote controller.

        The main program can only be started via the remote; it may
        consist of 14 steps or less.

        The left and right sensors program can be triggered by the
        remote or by touching the sensors on the corresponding side of
        the robot. The left and right sensors program may contain 6
        commands or less.

        Last not least there is the sonic sensor program which can also
        be started via remote or by making noises while Robosapien is in
        listening mode. Like above the sonic sensor program may consist
        of 6 commands or less.

        Have you done the math? 14+6+6+6=84? Surely not :) However it is
        possible to call the sensor programs as subroutines from the
        main program, this also works very reliable if you use the right
        button to execute the main program. The only button capable of
        executing the main program this way is the P button which is
        located all the way down the remote. If you try the "green"
        execute function you will notice that Robosapien is gust making
        some grunting noises each time he should call the sensor

        So let's do the math again. Let's say we call the sensor
        programs 14 times from the main program, this would give us
        14*6=84 program steps in a row, but they are not freely
        programmable. I found this fact really disappointing especially
        since a sensor program can't call the main program. So you are
        trapped with 18 instructions which can be repeated several
        times. Another idea is to write a sonic sensor routine and then
        just add 14 "listen" commands to the main program. This way you
        can also achieve 14*6=84 repeated steps of code every time the
        main program is started. Anyway real 84 steps would have been
        ok, but 32 steps and not even in one program? No loops or calls
        except from the mentioned ones, well this really disqualifies
        Robosapien from any serious attempts to do something useful with

        Another major downside of the Robosapien is the fact that it
        loses all programming if it is powered down. However you can
        send him to sleep mode to preserve your coding for around two
        hours, that's the time when Robosapien will deactivate itself.

Fashion Dolls
        Since the day I ordered mine Wow Wee brought out differently
        painted models, beside the black and white model you can buy it
        with chrome or metallic blue paint, also it seems the normally
        red LEDs have been replaced by blue ones in some of these
        models. On the NBC computer channel GIGA ( )
        I have spotted a transparent one and of course there is a
        downscaled little brother called Mini Robosapien (17,5 cm
        height) available too.

        The fact is, the Robosapien is a toy, nothing more, nothing
        less. Perhaps it's a cool toy, but even if the Wow Wee website
        is stating something else, it can't do housework, even simple
        pickup and carry jobs are difficult because most objects simply
        slide through the hands while closing them or they are just to
        low for the Robosapien to reach them. Besides Robosapien is no
        iron pusher, its arms are really weak. Robosapien is barely
        capable to lift the weight of his own arms, not to mention a
        possible cargo. So if you need a nicely designed doorstopper go
        out and buy one, otherwise wait until a real Robot will be
        released to the market. In fact these self operated vacuum
        cleaners a la Trilobite ( ) seem to make more
        sense to me.

The Future is here
        But wait, what's that? The Robosapien V2 has been announced. It
        currently costs at least twice the price of the "classic"
        Robosapien but seems to offers a lot more:

        - 60 cm of height and ugliness while the original Robosapien was
          only 35 cm but cute :)

        - Different Personalities can be downloaded from a PC, I guess
          you can customize the farting noises with a WAV editor :)

        - Improved movement, including the ability to sit down, lie down
          and of course stand up again

        - Redesigned hands with improved strength, so he will hopefully
          be able to pick up heavier objects than the original.

        - Infra Red Vision, capable to detect obstacles, track movements
          and prevents it from walking off table edges

        - Colour Vision enabling it to detect skin tones and to
          recognize its owner, we will see how accurate these
          descriptions are. Personally I have strong doubts about that.

        - Laser Tracking allows it to follow a laser path traced on the
          ground, now this could be nice making the robot patrol around
          the house :)

        - Interacts with other Robonetic products like Roboraptor and
          perhaps even Robosapien V1

        - Ability to speak, and detect sound. We will see if there will
          be more than simple grunting noises or predefined "funny"

        Well all these advantages won't come for free, we already
        mentioned the price and there is something else, the Robosapien
        V2 seems to be quite hungry, there are reports on the web that
        it runs only 6 hours on a set of batteries.

Cyclone / X-Troll for Alive, 2005-09-03

Appendix A
Built-in Functions
        Tilt Body Right
        Tilt Body Left
        Lean Backward
        Lean Forward

        STOP Button
        Walk Forward
        Walk Backward
        Forward Step
        Backward Step
        Forward, Forward Combination "Slow Walk Forward"
        Backward, Backward Combination "Slow Walk Backward"
        Bulldozer Walk Forward
        Turn Right
        Turn Left
        <, < Combination "Right Walk Turn"
        >, > Combination "Left Walk Turn"
        Right Turn Step
        Left Turn Step

        Right Arm Up
        Right Arm Down
        Right Arm In
        Right Arm Out
        Left Arm Up
        Left Arm Down
        Left Arm In
        Left Arm Out

        Right Hand Thump
        Right Hand Pickup
        Right Hand Throw
        Right Hand Sweep
        Right Hand Strike 1
        Right Hand Strike 2
        Right Hand Strike 3

        Left Hand Thump
        Left Hand Pickup
        Left Hand Throw
        Left Hand Sweep
        Left Hand Strike 1
        Left Hand Strike 2
        Left Hand Strike 3

        Wake Up
        Power Off

        High 5
        Talk Back
        Oops! (Fart)

        All Demo
        Dance Demo

        (P) Master Command Program
        (R>) Right Sensor Program
        (L>) Left Sensor Program
        (S>) Sonic Program

        Master Command Program Execute
        Right Sensor Program Execute
        Left Sensor Program Execute
        Sonic Sensor Program Execute

        (SELECT) Advance to GREEN Keys
        (SELECT) Advance to ORANGE Keys
        (SELECT) Return to RED Command Functions

Appendix B - Sources
Alive 11