LAS VEGAS -- Robot enthusiasts of all ages will soon have a new best friend. A product of Spin Master, the company that makes the Erector line of toys, the $399 Meccanoid G15 KS robot kit promises to help both children and adults learn more about robotics and programming, while having a whole lot of fun. I had the chance to go hands-on with an early build of the Meccanoid here at CES 2015 and found myself amused with its current capabilities and intrigued by its potential.
The nearly 4-foot tall robot looks a lot like an Erector set version of Johnny Number Five from the movie Short Circuit in its default configuration. However, users can use its parts to construct other types of robot. At Spin Master's booth, the company displayed a couple of alternate designs made with the same kit, including a robotic dinosaur and a recycling robot that picks up empty water bottles.
Meccanoid has 12 servos to control its limbs and two wheels in its feet for moving around. He has a speaker and microphone, along with a set of four buttons on its chest plate. Its eyes are two LED lights, but unfortunately they don't contain cameras. Meccanoid also has a Bluetooth radio for communicating with your mobile device.
When it launches later this year, the Meccanoid will come with a mobile app that will allow you to program it or move it around via remote control. It will also accept input via voice command or through pressing its buttons.
The voice commands and the overall app weren't available for us to test, but we saw a demo of the Meccanoid's motion capture functionality on a tablet. As we watched, a Spin Master engineer did jumping jacks in front of a tablet and a digital avatar of the robot on-screen mimicked his movements. Thought it wasn't working during our demo, the Meccanoid will be able to perform the actions from this motion capture.
I was able to program the Meccanoid to perform a sequence of motions by pressing the record button on its chest, manually moving its arms in a pattern and then pressing the button again to stop recording. When I hit the button next to it for "play," the robot repeated all the movements and even outputted a sound clip of the words I spoke while recording.
The Meccanoid G15 KS will go on sale sometime later this year. We look forward to seeing all of its capabilities, but I already feel confident that robot hobbyists are in for treat.