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Alive 5

                                 by Marss

Forewords : some days ago, I stripped the latest issue of French mag "SVM" and
among articles dedicated to  digital news, my  attention was  attracted by one
dealing with  electronic  beasts. So I decided  to know  more and  browsed the
Hasbro url.

BIOBugs are a series of battery-powered autonomous/remote-controlled robot bugs
based heavily  on  the  designs  of Mark  Tilden. They are  substantial beasts,
measuring 25cm x 29cm and weighing 0.492kg.

The basic  capabilities of  motor walkers is  considerable : they  can traverse
surfaces as  deep  as shag  carpeting (on full  batteries) with little problem.
They can perform a fairly sharp turn, within 1.5x their body length, which is a
fairly impressive feat using only 2 motors ! They broadcast and receive IR data
via the forehead/butt  ports, and can  recognize friend, foe, and IR controller
input. An additional transmitter is located on the rear of the robot, leaving a
blind spot only when the remote is aimed at the mid-riff from an angle of about
110 degrees from the angle of travel.

Let's take a lool to one of them (as there are 4 types of bugs)

This is our patient, a B.I.O.-Bug 1 - Predator (hereafter referred to as the
"Biobug"). Friendly-looking sort but it'll even attack it's own species.

This is the underside of the Biobug. Straightforward layout : Horizontally
moving rear legs, with front  legs angled  upwards at a 45 degree angle of
attack. Battery compartment located mid-rift, almost exactly at the center
of gravity of the device. Access to the  batteries is only by unscrewing a
single phillips-head  screw, revealing a  removable quad-AA  carrier where
the batteries reside.

Also on the bottom are the "power/sleep" switch, and the "reset" switch
(very necessary for bringing a Biobug out of "Biobug failure").

The head of the beasty contains a pair of eye-socket sensors, a forehead
module and the forward tactile  sensor pair. The  sensors are particular
Tildenesque, using a very flexible spring surrounded by metal sleeve.

This is the eye  module, containing a  tri-colour LED indicator, mounted
behind a forward/outward aimed  IR receiver, which seems to smack of the
Sharp OPIC series, containing the sensor and demodulation circuitry. The
LED colour & number of blinks indicates the learned "skill level".

Not shown is the forehead module, containing a  single red LED and an IR
LED transmitter. The red LED seems only to indicate battery state, as it
seems only come on near the end of the battery's life.

Here's the posterior of  the Biobug, where the  single rear tactile sensor
and IR receiver is mounted. Don't be  fooled by the LED-shape - upon close
examination, it is apparent that an IR transistor is mounted here, and the
wiring leads up to the head-IR modules.

Flicking this single posterior sensor  prompts the Biobug to go directly
forward, in "double-time" mode. This is interesting, as it suggests that
the default walking behaviour is throttled back to about 60%. This makes
some sense, as it would extend battery life considerably.

The Predator Biobug is one of two Biobugs with a 45 degree angle-of-attack
on the front legs. ALL the Biobugs have their rear legs swinging in an arc
parallel with walking surface, but the Destroyer Biobug has the front legs
90 degrees  up (perpendicular to  the  surface). The Stomper  matches  the
Predator's  45  degrees, and  the Acceleraider  has a 60  degree  angle of
In general, the steeper the angle of attack (AOA), the slower the robot
is, but the better climbing ability it possesses.

Seeing as the Predator shares  similar geometry  with the Stomper, the
advertised "aggressive" behaviour is what separates these two Biobugs.

You want to know more about these creatures so browse the website.

Alive 5