Reader questions about the awesome ROVIO mobile webcam robot from WowWee have already started to flow in. We thought it would be better to try and respond to them as they come up rather than let them pile up. Here's the first set of ROVIO inquiries from our curious readers.
Q1: Your review mentioned that the robot can send photos by email. How does that work?
A1: ROVIO accesses your email server via the wireless LAN. Within the ROVIO settings (see photo below) you enable photo emailing, setup the email SMTP parameters including username and password, and define the specific email information like sender, receiver, subject, and text body. Of course you can use your regular email account, but we recommend creating a separate email account just for your ROVIO.
Q2: My house, like many houses built in the last few years, have cathedral ceilings - sounds like a problem. Hope someone can respond on what kind of problem sloping ceilings might cause?
A2: It's hard to tell about a specific room without testing. The docking station beacon can be tilted quite a bit so that it shines the signals on different parts of the ceiling, and of course you can always change the location of the docking station within the room.
The ROVIO application also includes a status bar (above) that shows the signal strength for the navigation and WIFI signals, along with the current battery level. We would suggest experimenting with different docking station placements while moving the robot around the room to get the best overall performance.
Q3: After it remains to be seen how open it is to customization. A shame that once again such a robot doesn't come with a more open architecture.
A3: Although we can't say anything officially, you can expect to see users coming out with some apps soon that access the ROVIO at fairly low levels. We suspect that it won't be long before hackers open the interface with, or without, WowWee support.
Q4: How useful is the joystick control for moving the robot around?
A4: It takes a bit of getting used to. So far, we've found it to be a great way to move the robot laterally - forward, back, and side to side - when traveling long distances in a fairly open space. However, once we need to turn, make fine adjustments to the position, or work in tight spaces, the arrow and button controls are more practical.
One issue is the time delay when accessing ROVIO remotely over the internet. In the same location using WIFI the robot responds in real-time to commands. But, as you might expect, there are noticeable lags when you try to control it remotely - that's just a fact of life. In those situations we find that the joystick isn't as useful.
Q5: How about controlling ROVIO from your cellphone?
A5: The ROVIO user manual lists browser compatibilities in Appendix A on page 48, but doesn't show specific cell phone models other than the iPhone/iPod Touch. We live in Japan, and our current cell phone doesn't support a compatible browser, but we're trying to borrow some from friends to test with the ROVIO.
Q6: Lint and hair on the wheels is another downer.
A6: Not as much as you might guess from our photos. We have a mixed breed with long white hair that sheds like a snow storm this time of year when the weather changes. The Omni-wheel rollers are pretty easy to clean and shouldn't be a problem for most owners.
Q7: I also wonder why Internet Explorer is required for audio, especially given the increasing market share of Mac OS X (plus everyone else on various flavors of linux).
A7: Our guess is that it was totally an issue of available time. They could have waited to include support for more platforms, but then they would have missed the Christmas buying season. With the ROVIO it's easy to update the firmware as they test and release new versions.
Q8: The video in your review looks great. How was it taken?
A8: We used ACA Capture Pro with the video capture frame rate set to 12 fps. The ROVIO video stream supports up to 30 fps, but we wanted to keep the file size relatively small while accurately showing the video quality.
Q9: What about pricing?
A9: The official WowWee target price is USD $299.99, though earlier information had it as high as $350 and some eBay sources are already quoting prices that are considerably higher.