The advancements made in toy robots just over the past year have been quite impressive. Take the Erector Spykee The Spy Robot for example:
At first glance it looks sort of like a small version of the robot in the "Lost in Space" movie. Then you have to consider the company that makes it: Meccano S.N. of France, the current manufacturer of what we here in the States term "Erectors."
I had many an Erector set when I was a kid, and have not lost an ounce of love for them. They were truly fun and, though I didn't know it at the time, very educational as well. They consisted of metal plates, wheels, and girders of which the player could attach together via nuts and bolts. I built towers, cars, platforms, tanks, and tons of other stuff with them.
But they didn't look anything like this:
This is an Erector Set? Egad!!!!!
Hell, I'd be lucky if they even looked like what I was trying to build (I wasn't very dexterous in my youth). And they couldn't be controlled via WiFi connection, play music, record video, or be used as a phone. Clearly, Erector sets have come a long way.
As a toy, Spykee would definitely fall into the educational category (at least at first). As with any Erector set, it must be assembled. Software then must be installed into your computer to control the robot.
When these steps are completed, it is easy to see where this little guy can be more than just a toy.
We'll start with the most trivial of fun features: music. Spykee can play digital audio recordings of your favorite songs, making it a self-portable stereo unit.
Spykee can also be used as a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone. This is operated via Spykee 3.0 PC software. It can also record audio.
The ability to take still images and video is also available; these can be stored or sent via the Internet to friends and family. The video comes with an effects package to stylize the control screen (including a "Matrix"-like code screen that looks really cool.
The robot is also decked out with lights and optical fibers and comes with multiple sound effects. Three different versions of Spykee can be made with this one kit and it is compatible with all other Erector sets as well.
The movement of Spykee is quite impressive. It contains an onboard GPS system that allows the user to type in specific coordinates. Or you can just wing it with the computer controller interface. The caterpillar treads and wide base make it quite sturdy and duel speed modes allow for normal or turbo movement.
All of these activities are controlled here:
The Spykee Control Screen
Due to the nature of its control system (a WiFi connection to your computer), the Spykee can be operated via the Internet from practically anywhere in the world. This means that you could taunt your cat (who, until moments before was blissfully asleep on the couch in your house in Annapolis, Maryland) while you sip a Rum Runner in Key West, Florida.
Cat taunting with this thing seems to be a popular idea:
Of course a more practical application of this nature would be to use it as a home detection device while you're away. Tool the little guy around the house, make sure things are secure, then go back to your Rum Runner. Spykee's motion control sensors trigger an alarm and can send you a picture via the Internet if anything unseemly is going on. And if the batteries run low, Spykee guides itself (via infra-red tracking) back into its charging station for refueling.
This guy gives quite a detailed look into the Spykee. Check it out:
*Note that since the making of this video, an Internet control option has been made available.
Spykee's Little Brother, Micro
Spykee also has a little brother, the Spykee Micro. Though nowhere near as decked out as the full-fledged unit, the Micro is fun. It's essentially just your standard cool remote controlled robot. No video, no audio, no online control. But-it's also far less expensive (by around $200 US).
It tools around pretty quickly, using three wheels in the base (the treads are for show) to scoot across flat surfaces, lights up, and makes various sounds.
And notice: it also has cat-taunting capability.
I think I may have a problem when all I can think about is chasing my cat around with a robot. Can anyone recommend a good therapist?
Both of these products can be found on Amazon.com here.