As much as we’re devoted to the larger humanoid robots, we have to admit that they’re a bit expensive. At the same time, we love the lower cost robots like the TOMY i-SOBOT and the WowWee Robosapien types. But their remote controls are frequently complex and difficult to use, and editing a robot program usually turns out to be an exercise in frustration.
The best way to get around the remote control/programability challenge has been the free RoboDance software application. It’s loaded with great functionality and is extremely easy to use, even for a pure novice. It’s only drawback has been that you have to purchase a special IR transmitter to send the software commands to your robot. Thankfully a new, low cost transmitter, appropriately named “Robo-IRT” has hit the market.
Robo-IRT, developed and manufactured in the UK, was specifically designed for use with RoboDance. It plugs into any available USB port on your PC and can be easily configured to work with Windows
Currently, the same Robo-IRT module works with all the supported robots, so even if you purchase the i-SOBOT model it will also work with the WowWee robot line. Robo-IRT ships with a copy of the RoboDance software included on CD.
The real power is the combination of Robo-IRT with RoboDance, so let’s spend a few minutes exploring what you can do with them:
The current RoboDance version supports both the A and B i-SOBOT channels for all shipping versions of the robot (English and Japanese), as well as a wide selection of the popular WowWee robot line including Robosapien (V1 and V2), Robopet, RoboReptile, TRex, and others. Selecting your robot is as easy as picking it from the configuration list.
RoboDance, coupled with the Robo-IRT, supports a number of system modules including the ability to create, save, edit, and execute scripts that put the robot through its paces; voice control that allows you to direct the robot using vocal commands; a WiiMote interface so that you can wave your WiiMote in the air and have the robot follow; and a Skype Link that supports remote control of your robot from any place on the globe that you happen to have Skype access.
Robot sequences are scripted by linking together a series of actions. In the example above we had our i-SOBOT walk forward, make a couple clockwise rotations, walk forward some more, then perform the Hilarious, Party, and Tipsy routines.
The RoboDance team painstakingly mapped all of the robots (in this case the i-SOBOT) commands into logical groups. The group shown above includes all the Punch, Kick, and Guard routines.
This particular group includes more complex routines like playing the Air Drum, Western Movie Scene, etc. One real advantage to this approach is that routines that are normally executed randomly, like the Animal routines, can be individually selected and run.
While the routine parameters, like Wait Time, are preset by the developers, RoboDance allows you to customize them to suit your particular needs.
All that software power and functionality is great, fantastic actually. Still, its the Robo-IRT module that’s the critical key to unlocking it all for your enjoyment and exploration.
To make things even sweeter, since it acts as a virtual port Robo-IRT can be directly accessed by programs you develop in Visual Basic, C++, or any other language with I/O support. It’s even possible, though we haven’t tried it yet, to loop back the robot commands, capture them, and incorporate them into your own custom robot control application.
Robo-IRT doesn’t have a dedicated website yet, that’s still in the works, but this exciting product can be purchased via eBay. And, yes they do ship internationally.