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TankBot: The iPhone-controlled tank robot

DeskPets introduces a new iDevice-controlled toy to chase around pets, and it's cute--kinda.

Wall-E has nothing on this guy, because he's for real. DeskPets

This is TankBot from DeskPets, a fairly inexpensive (sub-$20, they say), treaded, remote-controlled toy robot that you can control with an iPhone or an iPod Touch, or even an iPad.

While using iDevices as a remote is nothing new--indeed, Apple has an app simply called "Remote" for controlling the Apple TV--the TankBot is unique in that it doesn't use Bluetooth or Wi-Fi as an interface but rather a dongle that plugs into the headphone port of the iWhatever.

Once attached, an app is downloaded. The device then uses its built-in accelerometer as a steering mechanism, allowing one to drive the TankBot around, chasing pets and scaring old people.

It charges via standard USB, giving a 15-minute run with a 30-minute charge, which we like. Buying batteries is so 2005. And it's not just a remote-controlled bot. It has infrared sensors as well, allowing it to navigate freely while avoiding obstacles or even navigating mazes. Or so the press release says; until I get to try one myself I'm not yet sold.

That said, I'd like to try one out after they make their first public appearance at New York's Toy Fair in February. Not just to see if the claims of "turning with military precision" is true, but because I have a chihuahua that's almost small enough to ride one of these as some sort of pet scooter. He'd be somewhere between entertained and terrified, but either way it'd be a fun way to test one out.