We had a lot of questions and comments roll in about the new ROVIO mobile webcam robot from WowWee and rather than depending solely on our own experience with this ground breaking robot, we asked Robert Oschler, the publisher of RobotsRule.com, a guru on all things WowWee, and another early ROVIO user, to provide responses to our readers ROVIO questions below.
Q: What about the open architecture - how open is it?
A: WowWee has released the browser interface specifications. No word on the openness of the robot's hardware and firmware itself.
Q: (Ollie) Has anyone heard the status of iRobot's Connect-R?
A: ConnectR is still undergoing iRobot's Pilot Program which was closed off to new applicants some time ago (I'm not in it myself). I spoke to iRobot and they said that ConnectR won't be coming out in 2008 and that everyone should look towards 2009.
Q: (Robert Betz) Hope someone can respond on what kind of problem sloping ceilings might cause?
A: I have slanted ceilings in my upstairs rooms. Problems could occur if Rovio can't see the infrared beams projected onto the ceiling from all parts of the room; especially if something like a ceiling fan or other protrusion is in the way. However, I've been experimenting with the use of a second TrueTrack beacon in the same room , to see if that improves coverage. So far, it does. Rovio still has a little trouble finding the charging dock from certain spots of the room, but it does dock successfully when before it would fail at times. I want to do more testing before I recommend it as a workable solution, but it's working for me so far. Seeing as the extra beacons are rumored (don't quote me) to be about $20 a piece, getting an extra beacon isn't a major expense to fix a "problem" room.
Q: (CB) Just wondering how loud this thing is - enough to wake up a sleeping baby?
A: I don't find it to be very loud at all, but that's not a very scientific judgement.
Q: (Larfus) Just curious how long it runs on a charge?
A: WowWee states 2 hours usage on a 4 hour charge. Some of that is dependent on how hard you use it during that period of course.
Q: (nxp3) What about how the tracking works. Can it patrol where there isn't a beacon?
A: Lights won't interfere with the Northstar system since it uses infrared beams, not light in the visible light. A note about the beacons. You only need them in every room if you want Rovio to be able to *self-navigate* through every room. If you are driving Rovio yourself, you can go anywhere you like as long as you are able to get a good WiFi signal from your Wireless Access Point. Just make sure you bring Rovio back to a room with a beacon before you try to make it self-dock.
Q: (RCH) Can ROVIO climb stairs?
A: No, ROVIO can not do stairs.
Q: (Ollie) Can the omni-wheels be replaced easily?
A: Hard to tell. We only have one unit at this point, and hesitate to hack it apart until we can get our hands on a second robot.
Q: (Ollie) How soft is the rubber on the wheels?
A: About the same as the soles on regular shoes. It's not hard enough to slip easily, but not so soft that it will wear quickly. We've kept ours in the house, but others have ventured outside on sidewalks and stone walkways.
Q: (Michael) It would be nice if it had either an additional camera or a way to position the camera are so that you could see the front of the robot so you can see what it is hanging up on when you try to move forward.
A: To see what's blocking Rovio all you need to do is back up a little bit and whatever was blocking its wheels that was previously outside the camera's view will be plainly visible since Rovio is so low to the ground, since the camera is only about 4 inches off the ground when it is in the down position . Also, Rovio's movement and turn speeds are fully adjustable.
Q: (Foobalicious) This would be great for our office especially if there's a loudspeaker inside so the operator can talk to whomever is at the other end.
A: Rovio does have a loudspeaker for 2-way communication. Currently you need Internet Explorer 6 or better to use it, otherwise there is no audio in either direction, only video.
Q: (Larry) For some For some applications I would like a more elevated view, like looking out the window to check the yard. Although it can't climb stairs I wonder if it could find and go up a low slope ramp and turn around and descend safely.
A: It would have to be a ramp with a very small angle of inclination in my opinion.