Winter holidays are approaching quickly so we need to start planning our shopping budget for the period to come. Of course, some of you might have jumped the gun already, myself included, and started placing orders to avoid inherent delays in deliveries that will usually occur from late November until the end of December. It’s better to be on the safe side, you don’t want to miss shooting that aerial footage of your friends on the ski slope, or maybe program the robot you just built in front of the fireplace, do you?
Anyway, we have prepared a fresh selection of robotic Christmas gift ideas including kits, toys and gadgets that we found interesting and well suited for your loved ones, friends or colleagues at work. This is by no means ans exhaustive list, if you know about something that would make a good robotic present please feel free to share.
Little Robot Friends
Little Robot Friends are perfect exponents of the newborn maker culture, where everyone can build and customize stuff to their liking. These little guys allow you to give out very customized gifts, potentially making the whole experience more personal.
Created by Canadian based Aesthetec Studio and successfully funded last year, these tiny DIY robots are based on Arduino, which makes them open source and hacker friendly.
Built around the ATMega328p MCU the robots have 2 RGB LED eyes, a speaker for their mouth, their hair is touch sensitive and they also have a microphone to listen. They can sense ambient light and can also communicate with each other via their IR receiver and emitter. Two AAA batteries provide power and everything is placed on a stylish wooden base.
You can buy a DIY kit for US $49.95 and start assembling your robot using a soldering iron. If you want a fully assembled robot to start playing right away it will cost an additional US $25.
Customization is accomplished by touching the robot’s hair leads, and further personality shaping can be accomplished by swapping out different value resistors. A hacker dock can be bought for US $39.95, so you can connect and program your robot via the Arduino IDE.
From the same company that created the Sphero robotic ball back in 2010, this year we have Ollie, a connected toy that can perform all kinds of tricks at speeds over 22 km/h (or 14 mph), much faster than the Sphero 2.0 introduced last year. Just like Sphero 2.0, you can control and program Ollie via Bluetooth LE from any iOS or Android smart device.
Shaped like a cylinder with dome bases and profiled tracks on either side, Ollie is geared towards high speed action on most types of terrain, and has a drive time of up to 1 hour on a single charge.
Ollie comes in two themes, the original white and blue which can be bought for US $100, and the all black Darkside edition, which also comes with an additional set of smooth tires and hubcaps for drifting, and can be preordered now for US $150. Accessories for customizing your Ollie are also available.
Parrot Jumping Sumo
Well-known company Parrot introduced this year two very reasonably priced connected toys. The Jumping Sumo mini drone is actually better at jumping and performing tricks on flat surfaces, such as quick turns achieved via differential drive wheels, rather than actually flying.
Jumps can be initiated and optimized for distance or height via the Free Flight 3 app, available for iOS, Android and Windows Phone devices. The robot balances itself thanks to inertial sensors. It can reach ground speeds up to 7 km/h (4.5 mph) and can jump as high as 80 cm (31 inch). The robot is equipped with a 480p video camera for live streaming video at 15 fps over WiFi to your device screen. Drive time is up to 20 minutes and the battery is interchangeable with Rolling spider.
Jumping Sumo is available in 3 color schemes and priced at about US $159.99, and is available at major stores such as Amazon or Apple.
Parrot Rolling Spider
Rolling Spider is a tiny quadcopter drone geared towards all kinds of aerial tricks and stunts. Thanks to the large removable wheels attached on either side of the drone body, there is no damage when smashing into walls or objects, or hitting the ground.
Just like its sibling above, the drone can be controlled and programmed via the Free Flight 3 app, and connects to your smart device via Bluetooth LE, offering a range up to 20 meters (66 feet). The drone has a flight time of up to 8 minutes without wheels, and can reach speeds up to 18 km/h (11 mph).
Rolling Spider is equipped with an array of sensors, including 3-axis gyroscope and accelerometer and even a pressure sensor. It is also equipped with a camera that can take 0.3 megapixel stills (approximately 640×480 resolution).
The drone is available in three color schemes at prices about US $100-130 at major stores.
WheeMe Massage Robot
Here is a robotic gift particularly appealing to the ladies, just lie down on your belly and let the WheeMe massage robot do its job. The robot is able to perform four gentle relaxation massage routines for as long as you like.
It is equipped with a tilt sensor to prevent falling off your back and can also sense when you want to finish the massage. An additional set of moving whiskers can be added for tingly sensations. The WheeMe is available in four colors and can be bought for US $55-70, depending on retailer.
NeuroSky Necomimi Brainwave Cat Ears
The Necomimi brainwave cat ears have been created by NeuroSky, a Japanese company specialized in brain-computer interface (BCI) devices. Introduced in 2012, these wearable cat ears can provide lots of fun to anyone using them, although they would look better if worn by the ladies.
These robotic cat ears sense and distinguish between three emotional states of the person wearing them, through an EEG (electroencephalograph) sensor placed on the person’s forehead which reads electrical brain impulses. The motorized ears move upwards if you become attentive to something, they move down if you’re relaxed, and start wiggling if you’re engaged in an activity you like.
The Necomimi can be bought for about US $70 from major retailers. Additional textures and colors are also available for the fluffy ears.
Edison Robotics Platform
Crowdfunded this year, Edison is a very low cost open source robotics platform that is pretty versatile and fun to work with. Aimed primarily at beginners, it can prove itself useful to some extent for more advanced users, therefore this could be a very well suited gift for teenagers passionate about robotics. The platform is compatible with LEGO parts and bits, allowing any degree of expansion.
The Edison robot is packed with sensors, including a piezo sound sensor, an IR transceiver, light detecting and line tracking sensors. It is built around a Freescale 8 bit MC9S08PA8VLC MCU clocked at 20 MHz, and featuring common interfaces such as I2C or SPI. Its two differential drive wheels set it in motion and 4 AAA batteries are required to power it up.
The EdWare visual IDE is very intuitive and is available for Windows, Mac and Linux. Edison can be programmed to detect obstacles or follow a line, it can be controlled with standard TV remotes, or communicate with other Edisons via IR, and more.
An Edison kit can be preordered for as low as US $33.80 with shipping expected to start in December this year.
Aisoy1 Emotional Robot
Aisoy1, now at its 4th revision, is an emotional social robot kit which is aimed primarily at educators and makers who are taking their first steps towards social robotics. It is able to learn based on interactions, it can talk, and recognize faces on its own. Powered by Raspberry Pi running Airos1 v4, the robot is fully open source and represents affordable platform for future development.
Online resources are readily available for you to start playing or programming this robot, which doubles as a pet. The kit comes in two flavors, unassembled or ready to run, starting with 249 Euro, or about US $310.
LEGO Mindstorms EV3
The Mindstorms EV3 robotic kit from LEGO introduced last year is among our favorites when it comes to development platforms, allowing for virtually endless creativity and fun. This could be an excellent robotic gift for children and adults alike, and can prove itself to be a very versatile building foundation for educators and hobbyists.
Huge well-established LEGO communities exist online, offering countless amounts of resources for all areas, including building, programming, hacking, you name it, not to mention festivals and gatherings of LEGO fans in real life.
The Mindstorms EV3 #31313 kit includes over 600 building parts, including an Intelligent Brick main control unit, 3 interactive servo motors — 2 large, 1 medium sized, 4 sensors — color, touch, IR sensor and beacon. The unit is backward compatible with most Mindstorms NXT sensors and motors and communication is also possible.
The Intelligent Brick is powered by an ARM9 MCU clocked at 300 MHz, SD card slot and USB 2.0 communication. Up to 4 EV3 bricks can be interconnected via USB and optional WiFi dongles are available. The unit is equipped with 4 A/D input ports and 4 output ports and an illuminated monochrome 179×128 display.
The EV3 Brick can communicate with any iOS, Android or Windows Phone device, a wide selection of apps being available. The visual IDE, available for Windows and Mac, has been developed in partnership with LabView and is very intuitive and powerful.
The Mindstorms EV3 kit is available at any major retailer at prices around US $350 or about 270 Euro.
Rover 2.0 Wireless Spy Tank
The Rover 2.0 wireless spy tank from Brookstone is another very appealing connected toy for the children, and can be remote controlled from any device running iOS or Android. The robot tank is equipped with a tilting 0.3 megapixel camera which can capture 320×240 footage at 25 fps, a microphone and a 850nm laser light for night vision. Captured videos or photos can be immediately uploaded to Facebook, YouTube or e-mail.
The robot features WiFi connectivity, tracks with good grip and is powered by 6 AA batteries included in the package. It can be bought for prices around US $100.
WowWee RoboMe for iPhone
RoboMe is a very likable robotic companion for children that harvests the power of your iPhone or iPod touch to perform various tasks. The 40cm tall robot is equipped with a range of sensors to navigate freely in the environment, and can also be operated without an iPhone, although with limited functionality.
The robot is capable of voice recognition, speech synthesis, face tracking and detection and can also act as a telepresence robot via the Robo Eye Merge app. RoboMe is a very affordable robotic toy that can be bought for around US $85.
WowWee Robosapien X
Robosapien X was introduced last year and is an upgraded version of the original highly awarded Robosapien robot toy. The robot can be remote controlled with the included IR remote or via the RoboRemote app from any mobile device running iOS and Android with the included IR dongle attached.
The robot can run, walk, turn and perform several moves. Its hands are equipped with 2 types of grippers, it has over 60 pre-programmed functions and it can also be programmed with additional routines by remote control. It also has touch and sound sensors.
Robosapien X can be bought for prices around US $80.
Genibo SD Robot Dog
The Genibo robot dog is a highly advanced autonomous robot created by the well known company Dongbu Robot, the same company that created the HOVIS Eco humanoid robot. Genibo-SD is an extensive upgrade of the original Genibo QD, which first surfaced back in 2008.
Genibo is a robotic bull terrier that does everything a family pet should do, and more. It has personality thus it acts on its own, and craves for affection of anyone around it. It is packed with touch sensors all over its body, it features vision and voice recognition, and it can also determine and follow sound sources. Its legs have 6 DOF and are motorized by the advanced HerkuleX servos. The robot also has WiFi connectivity, a SD card slot and a 2600 mAh battery.
Genibo is not cheap, it can be bought for approximately US $1,700, depending on the retailer.
Voice Activated R2-D2
The voice activated R2-D2 is a toy robot aimed at children aged 8 and up or die-hard Star Wars fans, since it is also a pretty high quality replica of the famous robot. The 38 cm tall robot (15 inch) recognizes and responds to over 40 voice commands. It is equipped with IR sensors and a sonar so it can also drive around the house autonomously or follow you like a faithful sidekick, and it can even play games.
As we said all functions, including light, games, follow and so on are accessible via voice commands. The R2-D2 knows to play tag or spin the droid, guard your room and sense presence via a motion detector and its microphones, and it can dance accompanied by the famous cantina music. All routines have several variations depending on R2-D2’s mood. The robot is also equipped with an utility arm, making it useful for delivering beverages for instance.
The voice activated R2-D2 can be bought at prices around US $200-230, depending on retailer.
Grillbot Grill Cleaning Robot
The Grillbot grill cleaning robot introduced this year is designed to spare you from the burden of cleaning the grill after that awesome barbecue party you just had. The robot is equipped with an internal rechargeable battery and 3 brass brushes. It can be easily programmed for any amount of cleaning time, in 10 minute increments.
This household robot is available at prices of US $100-130, depending on retailer, and accessories, such as optional stainless steel brushes and a carrying case are also available.
We hope that this lineup will help you a bit in choosing what presents you will buy this year, if you stumble upon any robot or gadget you find interesting please feel free to share!