|Image via Link|
While the MiP is at the forefront of toy tech, winning the prestigious 2015 most advance toy award, its not what I was hoping for. Hopefully we will see radical improvements to this type of thing in the future as humanoid robot helpers eventually migrate into the consumer market!
You need AAA batteries!
Powered by 4 AAA batteries, it needs a smartphone connection to actually show its true potential, over a bluetooth connection. Download the free App from the Google Play or Apple App store. I had it up and running in about 5 min, using super cheap alkaline batteries I was gifted a while back. I used an old Galaxy Note 3 to download the MiP app, and connected the phone to the robot, it became a remote control robot!
Grab a + Screw Driver
To start with you need a philips screw driver to open the battery compartment cartridge assembly. Once you loosen the three + screws, you can pull the batt cartridge out and load it with 4 AAA batteries of the same chemistry, it will accept normal AAA batteries or NiMH versions. Do not mix battery types. I used alkaline batteries. Put the cartridge back and tighten the screws. It has a hard on off switch to activate it.
I downloaded the user manual and read it, leaving the packaging as intact as possible, with all the OEM materials inside except the robot. After installing the batteries, I turned the robot on while downloading the APP from the google play store onto my old cell phone.
Childish App (ok, makes sense)
The App was obviously designed for children, and the robot becomes a remote control toy with the app! I wish it was more like R2D2, with more AI logic, I wish that it spoke english (as in two way communication), and I wish the IR tracking was more elegant. For a $60 toy, they did an awesome job, but it leaves much to be desired if you were hoping for something more autonomous.
~Ok as a robot toy!
Overall I was hoping for an A- grade toy, and instead its very much a C+, which is not bad given the price. This was an extremely complicated toy to develop, and is demonstrative of where the 2014 technology is heading today with self driving cars at the forefront of the public discourse on applied artificial intelligence technology, well aside from Alexa, Cortana, and Siri, our smartphones have network access to the most sophisticated artificial intelligence engines with natural language processing or NLP.
AAA batteries ^^
I am glad they did not put a sealed lithium ion battery, which would have ruined this robot in a few years when the battery would have become weaker. Yes, having to deal with the AAA batteries might get tiresome for parents, its not all bad. If you take the batteries out, the shelf life of the MiP is indefinite, if kept dry.
As many others noted, battery life is not that good, the wheel balancing method involves forward pitching then back tilting the robot, over and over, using a PWM pattern that is power intensive, which contributes to the rapid depletion of the cells. The LED eyes are not as polished as they look in the press photos, and the IR system is clunky.
It warns in the user manual never to drop, hit or mechanically damage the robot, also warning to keep it away from water, as water will destroy the internal electronics. Use common sense, its hard plastic full of motors, LED lights, and a small computer to control everything, i.e. Not Rugged : its also not made of glass, so it can tolerate being handled by a child. The build quality is good, the toy overall execution ok.
It will sit on my desk idle for most of its life, reminding me of the emerging AI revolution and expanding robotic market that is going to end up with home assistance robots, like the one depicted in the film Robot & Frank. I had no confusion that this was a toy, for entertainment, and that it would not be helping me to do anything other than smile :)
For $60 not bad!
The software downloads for a humanoid helper robot in the future will cost more than the MiP unit in its entirety! You essentially get a lot of toy tech for your money with the MiP, but if you are a hard core tech fan like me, do not expect to be overwhelmed. I am sure young children will find these far more interesting than I do! Children after all were the target market for the MiP, so as a 33 year old scientist interested in advanced technologies, I am not surprised that I am lightly underwhelmed by the MiP robot toy.
Check Youtube or the User Manual
There is a learning curve, it has many modes, and you should probably watch a how to video or two to get a good grasp about what it is able to do if the owners manual does not spike your interests! You can use its wheel to select different modes, and double clap your hands to active it. You have to place it upright on a flat surface to get it started, and then it will self balance and respond to clapping, mode toggling, and IR control IO that could use an update.
Demo 1 for Meg
I used the App and my wheel mode select learnings to do a demo that made Meg smile. It was worth it! The robot may be early, flawed, limited or incomplete, but it is awesome for a children's toy under $100. I would raise the score after my demo run with Meg. It deserves something like a B now, not as critical as I originally thought. The fact that you need a smartphone to make it work sadly means its not for everyone! For the first product like this, its a good start!
Powered by an ARM Cortex M0 by Nuvoton as the CPU along with a CC2450 bluetooth LE wireless chip handling data IO to your paired phone of choice! An H bridge PWM motor controller driver with discrete components handles the IO power control of the brushed hobby motor pair that drives the wheels, through a bearing enhanced axel mount that is of good quality!
The eyes are actually two IR LED's, the forehead contains a single IR receiver chip, and this gives the robot very weak "vision". A MEMS accelerometer is used to accomplish the balancing IO feedback loop that enable the MiP to self balance on its two wheels.
The design of the MiP and its electronics was accomplished as a partnership between WowWee toys and the US San Diego Coordinated Robotics Lab from base tech work that started in 2010. The Mip launched 4 years later in 2014.
I believe that this Robot would improve from animated arms and a neck that can turn to pivot the head, a beefier CPU with more ram, a larger more complex AI system that can accomplish basic NLP with a few key words so that you can ask it to "come here" "back up" "turn right" "turn left" "slower" "faster" "play music" "dance" "demo". In the powertrain brushless motors with a more precise power controller would making the movement more fluid, give longer battery life, and more power! A size scaling to 4 AA batteries would make good sense! I hope they build a better version in the future! Perhaps a bigger more expensive $99 model with some of the above items added to its design!