MiP is a relatively small robot, certainly much smaller than WowWee’s first big hit, the 1.5 ft. simian-esque RoboSapien, which was released in 2004. What the remote control robot toy lacked in smarts, it made up for in personality. The company sold millions of units. WowWee has been trying to recreate that success ever since.
The black and white body, round head and emoticon eyes might remind some of that once-popular robot (others say MiP looks like EVE from Disney’s Wall-E), but MiP is quite different. It stands roughly 7-inches tall and has no feet. The base instead features two large wheels. The torso includes a mode light and two poseable arms. I hate robots with useless appendages. I understand the anthropomorphic intention, but MiP’s arms simply serve no purpose. You can’t even pose them to hold MiPs tray — MiP has a slot on its chest for that.
Like I said, I wasn’t loving MiP. Still it does include some intriguing technology.
MiP, which stands for Mobile Inverted Pendulum (glad they didn’t put that on the box) is actually the product of a collaboration between WowWee and the Coordinated Robotics Lab at the University of California, San Diego. The result of that partnership is a few nifty innovations that, technology-wise, lift the little robot above other recent robot entries like RoboMe (also from WowWee) and Zoomer the robotic dog.
First of all MiP can, without human intervention, balance and move quite effectively on those two wheels. The technology is quite similar to what you’d find in a Segway. Give MiP a push and it will right itself. The two-wheel locomotion makes MiP highly maneuverable. It’s also incredibly easy to connect MiP to your mobile phone via the free app. I simply opened the app, MiP’s ID appeared on screen, I selected it and was soon controlling the robot. Typically, you have to pair via your phone’s Bluetooth menu before you can connect to an external device like MiP.
I spent a while playing with MiP without using the App and, for me, this was the least satisfying part of the experience.
As I noted, MiP will balance on its own, but first you have to help it stand up. To do so, you lie the robot face down on the ground, turn it on, wait for a response from MiP and then lift it up by its head until the wheel’s motors and MiP’s gyroscope take over. When I let go of its head, MiP was standing on its own. That was cool. I also noticed that MiP is almost never completely still. Like a person, it must continually shift to maintain balance. So even at rest, MiP is never really resting.
MiP also includes sound, motion and obstacle sensors. It responds to claps, a series of waves and gestures. I simply held my hand a few inches in front of its face and then waved left or right to get MiP to turn left or right. Moving my hand toward the robot made it roll back and pulling my hand quickly away made it roll forward. Every time MiP did a move, it made a sound that was a cross between human speech and the sounds the digital controls on your home appliances make.
I did this for a while and then, quite honestly, got bored. There had to be more to this robot.
I decided to try MiPs modes. It has seven of them, activated by spinning one of MiP’s wheels until its chest light changes color. The modes are: Stack, which should allow you to place objects on MiP’s attachable tray, which it can then balance and carry without falling over. There’s also Track, for following you around, Dance, Roam, Cage (block MiP’s path with your hand or objects) and Tricks, which is essentially a gesture-driven programming mode.
I have a couple of problems with these modes. As you spin the wheel, the chest changes color to tell you which mode you’re in. The problem is that, of the seven options, three sets are so similar in color I can’t tell the difference between them. You have blue and deeper blue, pink and pinkish red and yellow and orange-ish yellow. The only way to really know your mode is to see how MiP reacts.
As for the quality of the modes, Stack never worked properly. I’d put MiP in this mode and attached the tray (with some difficulty). Whenever I tried to place an object on the tray MiP would scoot away or fall over — the robot fell over a lot, which was always followed by a “sad” sound. Dance was cute, but got dull after a few minutes. Roam was fun to watch. MiP could navigate my living room fairly well, even rolling from hardwood to carpets without falling over, but its object sensors are pretty limited and MiP would often roll halfway under my entertainment center and get stuck.
Overall, I was not particularly impressed. Then I downloaded the app.
The Best Part
As noted above. WowWee has a free iOS and Google Play app which connects easily to MiP. When connected to your smartphone, MiP’s chest glows green.
The app doesn’t look like much, but once connected to MiP, it gives you impressive control over the robot. Using two thumb-driven virtual joysticks, one to control direction and the other speed (as well as whether it’s traveling forward or backward), I was soon able to maneuver MiP around obstacles with ease — it responded smoothly to the slightest thumb movement.
Along with the basic Drive move, the app includes Boxing, which lets you “box” against another MiP (a silly idea since the robots can’t move their arms and who is going to have two MiPs?) and Cans a not-too- entertaining game that lets you change MiP’s mood by dropping virtual cans into its on-screen head. Each time you do so, it makes an eating sound, states its new mood and then does something to illustrate it. Happy, for instance, gets a joyful spin.
The last option is pretty nifty. It lets you draw a path on screen that MiP will then follow exactly in real life. As it moves along, a virtual MiP shows its progress on screen. My only issue with this mode is one of scale. You have no idea how far MiP will have to go to complete the path or square you just drew. If you drew along the perimeter of your whole screen, MiP may not have enough room to complete its journey.
The biggest benefit of the app, though is that I was finally able to complete MiP’s stacking routine. With MiP under app control, I attached the tray and then placed a full, albeit covered, cup of water on top of it. Next, I tried an apple. Soon I was driving MiP around while it figured out how to balance its load without tipping over.
MiP cut a pretty impressive, though diminutive, figure as it zipped around the office, bearing apples for my coworkers.
MiP is not the best toy robot I have ever seen, but it may have the most potential. If WowWee continues working with the researchers and adding features to this app, we may soon discover that MiP has a whole new set of capabilities. Is the battery-powered robot worth $99.99? It’s a bit more expensive that Zoomer, but the technology inside may be more sophisticated. Plus, you get that app. On the other hand, MiP does need work. Its autonomous modes are confusing and somewhat disappointing. It can only stack if you drive and those arms are an embarrassment.
To sum it up, I like MiP, but until WowWee makes some adjustments to its modes and finds some use for those arms, I’m not ready to recommend it.
WowWee will start selling MiP at BestBuy in May of this year.
- The self-balancing technology is impressive.
- The remote-control app is spare, yet easy to use and makes driving MiP a breeze.
- It really can balance and carry a load.
- Modes are not engaging.
- Color indicators are incredibly confusing.
- Arms are useless and often got caught on things.
- Balancing tray could be easier to attach.
Bottom Line: WowWee’s MiP offers impressive consumer-level robot technology at a not-too-bad price, but the product still needs some polish.
read more: http://mashable.com/2014/01/27/wowwee-mip-review/?utm_cid=mash-com-fb-tech-photo