Our friends at Thinkgeek.com lent us a Rovio made by the fine people of WowWee to play with and here is our review of it. Now the first thing which came to the my mind when I saw this fancy toy car was Wall-E! The Rovio Mobile Webcam is a mechanical toy can which has the functionality to connect to your wifi or network and stream live video through the network to anywhere desired. So if you are away from your family, loved one/s or can’t be at home due to extended trips, this might be your solution. The interactive concept behind this has great potential but it does come with flaws which might burst your bubble. Check out the video demo below then read on. Full video after the break.
The Rovio comes with three basic parts – a dock, TrueTrack Beacon and the Rovio itself. The dock is the parking and charging garage for the robot. It has a nice, clean design and shaped like a ramp. The charging of the Rovio starts as soon as the robot docks itself perfectly on the ramp. The Rovio itself is a handsome looking ‘car-bot’ which which is sturdy in design and has LED lights around its exterior which tell its location in the dark. It has the capability to move on most rough surfaces, including carpets and gravel, and has a good traction on smooth, slippery surfaces. It can move forwards, backwards, left, right and rotate as desired. The third component, TrueTrack Beacon, is a sophisticated device which serves as a way-point for the Rovio. The approximate range is 20-25 feet (6-7.5 meters). Users can buy more of these devices to extend the range across their vicinity. These beacons are easy to set up and use infrared waves to mark their location.
- Internet Explorer 6+,
- Mozilla Firefox 1.5+,
- Safari 3.0+,
- Mobile Safari,
- Internet Explorer Mobile,
- Opera Mobile
Following the instructions in the manual worked just fine except for the fact that the firmware needed an upgrade badly which I did. The original firmware only supported WEP for wireless and the new supported up to WPA2.
How it works:
After setting it all up, the Rovio is ready to move around your house wherever you want. One of the ways to navigate the Rovio is using your internet browser. It works well with Firefox, Chrome, Safari and Internet Explorer but you receive sound input only in the latter. All you have to do is go to your browser and enter the IP address you set up. This starts the interactive software which allows you to move the Rovio wherever you want it to. It’s very easy to use and can help you use all the features of the robot. The Rovio can also be interacted with using a Smartphone, PC, Mac or a video game console.
Rovio features several features which is where we seem some flaws. First of all, it takes a decent amount of time for the Rovio to start up. The webcam itself doesn’t have a great quality but works well in a well lit environment. You can vary the video quality but it is compromised by the framerate accordingly. However, in slightly darkened conditions the visibility drops drastically. In order to help that issue, the robot comes with a small LED headlight which doesn’t help at all. The manufacturers noticed this issue and now sell another headlight which we are not sure improves the vision drastically. Right now, it seems as it is out of stock. There are softwares which claim to enhance the vision without the headlight but that is up to the user to decide. The audio quality isn’t impressive but does the job. However, minor feedback issues exist though.
One of the interesting features is the ability to tell the Rovio to dock itself. This works surprisingly good since it has a nice obstacle detection and avoidance system which allows it to gradually dock itself. The battery life for the product is roughly 1.5 hours which is decent enough though it varies on the amount of movement. The camera can be moved two steps up from its default position. The topmost position looks towards the ceiling which can be a flaw or benefit. However, there is a minor latency between the Rovio and the application.
Overall, Rovio is a great concept. It is worthy of the fast paced, busy and distant life which is slowly becoming a lifestyle for most people. However, it could be said that it will take some time before this concept gets refined enough for most people’s investment. For example, adding a left and right arm to the robot would be another idea which could be implemented in the future? If you would like to purchase the Rovio head over to ThinkGeek.com. I give the Rovio an overall rating of 4/5 Gears.