Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Hello Robosapien

Wu Zheying u0303820 Robosapien is a toy robot that can be programmed to move, speak, lift objects and function in unique ways with certain modifications. Introduced to the world in year 2005 by Mark W Tilden, a robotic scientist who has worked with NASA before, it has since spawned several different versions – versions 1, 2, 3 of which version 1 has garnered the U.S toy industry’s TOTY (Toy Of The Year) Award. Versions 2 and 3 are not due for release, yet there are already several websites dedicated to the modification and hacking of the robot for different purposes. I will be talking about Robosapien version 1 from here on, as versions 2 and 3 are not out on the market yet.


Robosapien can be classified as belonging to a product of the area of biomorphics, an area that is a sub-field of robotics. Biomorphics is a robotic technology that centers around building robots around the theory of emulating the bio-mechanisms, sensors, structures of animals. In short, it is building robots inspired by the principles of biological systems. Though seemingly easy to achieve by animals and humans, movement and sensing is considered a considerable challenge in robotics and remains a field that is still at its infancy in research.


Robosapien stands at 14 inches tall, and weighs 4.5 pounds with batteries. It uses 4 D size batteries for the main robot and 3 AAA size batteries for the remote control. The remote control uses infra-red technology to communicate and program the robot. Using infra-red technology means that the robot can be controlled not just by the manufacturer’s remote control, but by any device that has infra-red connectivity and a suitable software system. Most PCs and palm tops would be able to achieve that.

Robosapien is capable of walking unaided without the wheels on his feet. He can grasp and throw objects, speak with pre-recorded ‘caveman’ like voices and other sound effects.

It is able to be programmed with the remote control and can execute a total of 67 different commands.

Technical Specifications

The ingenuity of the Robosapien is that it does not even have an in-built microcontroller. Instead, it uses a combination of simple controllers to control the different parts of the robot function. A PCB is inbuilt into the center of the robot’s torso. The PCB houses 2 controllers, one for main functions like LED, shoulder, finger movement, the other for motor functions like upper torso, shoulder, hand, leg movements. It also has additional sonic and infra-red sensors together with accompanying clock generators and sound amplifiers. The simplicity of the PCB board with solder points allow hackers and hobbyist to modify the PCB board by changing resistor, capacitor values and attaching additional microcontrollers, DSPs, speech generators and other more novel devices to the robot. In addition, the entire robot casing can be detached and users can modify parts to their delight. This ups the value of the robot tremendously as users wont be bored with it after a few plays, there seems to be more things the robot can do!

The different functions of the are combined and programmed by using the remote control or with a downloadable software from the manufacturer, WowWee. For this purpose, the remote control is complicated with 27 different buttons.

The Robosapien is equipped with a basic level of programmability. You can string together commands to form your own macros or mini-programs. These programs can be played back as the result of pressing the "execute" button, as the result of touching one of the sensors on his hands or feet, or by putting him in "listen" mode and making a sharp noise. For example, you could program him to Burp, Fart, and then give someone the High Five any time someone touched his left hand.


The robot’s design is based on sleek and smooth lines with contrasting colours of black and white, neutral colours that never die out with passing fads. The robot look feels like its being inspired by robot structures drawn by Japanese Manga (comic) artists. All in all, the robot looks really cool and stylish. Not forgetting the remote control, both complement each other in the looks department and definitely wets people’s appetite for a buying frenzy!

Uses/ Modifications

Since its introduction to the market, Robosapien has spun off many different hobbyist versions like ‘balancing Robosapien’, ‘dancing Robosapien’ and some serious dudes at the University of Freiburg have even modified their own robots to be able to play in the RoboCup, a prestigious Humaniod League of soccer style game. For this though, the robot was heavily modified, with its 'head' removed and refitted with image sensors, its torso dissected and rewired with a more powerful microcontroller. In this sense, the Robosapien has evolved to be a autonomous one as compared to its previously semi-autonomous status.

Future The future of Robosapien looks good certainly. With version 2 already hitting the shelves as we speak and version 3 in the pipelines. Version 2 promises to be a robot with more 'soul', with upgraded behaviours and autonomous status. It also promises to be more bulky and expensive due to the added microcontroller circuit board and additional motors. With its infra-red communications mode hacked to that of a Radio Frequency one, the uses of this biomorphic metallic dude can be applied to the areas of military defence, survelliance, disaster-rescue situations, and as rehabilitative devices for disabled children and pets. Say hello to the world, say hello to Robosapien.

Robot Soccer Game: http://www.nimbro.net/rs/

References: Review of the Robosapien by Gadget News: http://www.the-gadgeteer.com/review/robosapien_robot_review Hacking a Robosapien: http://personal.strath.ac.uk/mark.craig/robot/hackrobos.shtml


Assistive said...

U0308345 Ng Sing Joo

Actually the one thing that interests me about this Robosapien is that it is considerably cheap for a robot such as this, a hundred plus (correct me if I'm wrong). Just imagine that if we would try to build one similar to Robosapien a few years back, how much would it cost? Probably a few thousands if anyone could remember the Sony Aibo (dog) which costs around 2 thousand plus then. This is actually good news because the cost of producing robots is going downwards, just like harddisks nowadays. This mean that we are probably closer to the "age of robots" as we are now in the "age of computers" after the prices of computers fell drastically. Robots will be the next "in" thing in the near future!

Lin Zhiqiang said...

U0204912 Lin Zhiqiang

The Sony Aibo was very much touted when it was first launched and many speculated that it might end up replacing real pets but now production of Aibo dogs have stopped due to lack of popularity. Robosapien could become a fad just like many other high tech toys. However, Robosapien could stand a chance to win the hearts of the youth if their price is cheaper and functionality improved. We can pretty much gauge his popularity by observing the uprising trend of mods and hacks created to customize Robosapiens to individual's need such this community here: http://www.robosapien.tk/

Industry said...

U0300637 Choo Peng Yeow

I was quite interested in the Robosapien even before reading this blog. One thing to add, whihc is also the feature which have attracted my attention. The Robosapien could actually communicate with another Robosapien and his "far far relative" Roboraptor, and order them around like his "small brother". Of course, I read this in a magazine, so I am not so sure if its true.

U0307717 Chew Jian Qiang said...

One thing similar about this robot and Aibo is that they are both made as toys. And the same type of toys do not normally last long in the market (Aibo is a good example, Barbie is a bad one.)

Why? Because children get tired of their news toys easily. And these toys mostly do not serve other purposes. Maybe you could program robosapien to bring you a cup of water everytime you click a button. But Aibo? Mount a tray for it to carry water or fetch the paper?

And as for robots communicating with each other, what do they talk about? Liverpool winning 7-0? Whether FYP is completed? I'd like to know (XD) If they can communicate with each others, they could be use for other useful purposes then. Imagine a Robosapien being tasked to bring a cup of water. Then this Robosapien tasks another one to bring the cup of water. Added intelligence have to be added to ensure that the "elder brother" robot which is nearer to the water will not order its "little brother" robot, who is far away in the toilet (washing the toilet?) to bring the cup of water.

Well, one robot toy is quite boring to play with... Other than throwing objects, walking slowly, farting when you touch it, there's really nothing much it can do on its own.
However, if your friends all have a Robosapien, then it'd be fun to watch them play soccer. Take care not to get a sore thumb (from overuse of the remote control)!

If they upgrade the Robosapien to have more features, more expensive, then it'll probably another "Rich Man's Toy".

Home said...


For the guys who modified the Robosapien to take part in Robocup. I think they only utilized the robot casing and few sensors. They had to add the microcontroller, so the circuit would be vastly different from the original prototype. Anyone who wishes to use this robot for upgrading + researching purposes will have to consider thoroughly.

The most amazing thing about this kind of robot is that it's so cheap.

Industry said...

u0300654 Li Junbin

I am amazed and looking forward for new versions of Robosapien. It is such a interesting robot as it can modified by users according to his/her perference.

I was hoping that new generation robots are able to "fly" or "float" in the air. As the robotic industry advances, probably humanoid can be fitted with thrusters to hover over a certain region; That will be fascinating!!

u0205268 chenhuaxing said...

u0205268 chenhuaxing

If all those Robosapien could be re-programmed by the owner, haha, then it is really fun to have one to play soccer with ur neigbour's or pal's.
as Junbin said, in the future all those Robots could float or fly, that will be a star war game.
in recent years, i guess robots powered by batteries are unable to fly mainly due to the energy density. after 20 or 30 years, who knows, maybe all robot can use nuclear power or high field generated power.
let's wait.....