WowWee Rovio, Joebot, Cinemin and RoboRover: Red-hot robot action

WowWee wows us with a selection of their latest robots: Rovio, Joebot and RoboRover. And the Cinemin projector, which sadly isn't a robot, not even in disguise

Richard Trenholm
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When the folks from WowWee visited CNET Towers this morning, we were amused to hear them refer to their robotic wares Rovio, Joebot and RoboRover as 'he' and 'him'. But dang it if we weren't doing the same within five minutes of seeing the little fellas trundling about, flashing their lights and generally charming their servos off.

Rovio is like a three-wheeled stealth turtle, and he's very cool. We first met Rovio at CES two years ago, but this is an upgraded version new to the UK market. The interface has been improved and firmware updated.

We also tried the production version of the WowWee Cinemin pico projector we saw at CES. Finally, we were introduced to Joebot and RoboRover -- y'know, for kids.

If you like robots -- and let's face it, who doesn't? -- click through our photos for more mechanoid messing about.

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This is Joebot. Joebot is voice-activated, with a list of 40 commands that move him around or put him into different modes. Beatbox mode sees him make a loop of any rhythm you clap out, guard mode protects your room and dance demonstration busts some moves. Our favourite is battle mode, which starts Joebot shooting. You shoot back with any remote control, and Joe registers your 'hits'. Joebot costs £80 and is aimed at kids aged 8+.
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RoboRover is an explorer in nifty industrial yellow and black livery. He reacts to movement and obstacles as he explores, chatting away the whole time about his adventures in Egypt and South America. Indiana Johnny 5, if you will. He also includes two games for kids aged 5+, guard mode, and the ability to recognise where he's been before. All handy after a big night out. RoboRover costs £55.
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WowWee is branching out from robots with the Cinemin pico projector. It's Apple-licensed, so it can plug into your iPod and iPhone as well as a range of other devices, projecting video up to 60 inches wide. It comes with a cable that allows you to sync your iPod with a computer and charge it while simultaneously projecting video.
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There's a 90-degree swivel head, allowing you to put the Cinemin on any surface and focus the image. It also has a reverse mode for rear projection. Cool as it is, £350 is pretty steep.
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To get roving with Rovio, connect him to your laptop and connect with your Wi-Fi. Rovio tells you his IP address, and you connect to his control interface in your browser. This means he can be controlled by any phone with Web connectivity, and there's even a fan-made iPhone app. When he's ready to go, Rovio spots his charging dock, which he can find via two infrared lights shining on the ceiling. When he runs out of battery, he returns automatically to the dock.
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Rovio is controlled in the Web interface, moving forwards, backwards, sideways and rotating on the spot. You can save pre-recorded paths for him to follow when you're not around. He'll even avoid obstacles before returning to a set path.
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Rovio has three camera positions: directly ahead, raised up and facing forward, or looking upwards. A live video feed shows you where he's looking. You can capture stills, which can be set to email automatically to you, or post to any Web site that accepts email uploads. WowWee says it's working on video capture sometime in the future.
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Rovio includes a microphone and speakers, so with the Wi-Fi interface he becomes 'Skype on wheels'. Now that is cool.
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Rovio costs £300. Optional extras include powerful headlights and multi-room beacons, to give Rovio the run of the house.

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