This review was provide by iguana, from the Unofficial Robosapien Hacks and Mods Forum.


Preliminary Review of the Roboreptile

The Roboreptile is not so much of a revolutionary step from the Roboraptor as it is an evolutionary step. Although the Roboreptile is a different animal, it shares much of its technology with the Roboraptor. This is in no way a fault, as WowWee seems to have followed the age old saying of “don’t fix it if it isn’t broke.” Nevertheless, the Roboreptile represents an exciting new blend of technology, features, and autonomy that makes for an interesting herpetological species.

The Sensors

The Roboreptile features a variety of sensors that allow it to interact with you and the environment. It features two IR sensors mounted in the tip of the nose, two sound sensors located in the rear of its head, and one touch sensor located on the top of its back. As robot veterans will immediately notice, the Roboreptile features fewer sensors than its predecessor. While this does reduce its capabilities in interacting with humans, it simply represents the new direction Roboreptile is taking (more on this later).

The two nose mounted IR sensors allow for the Roboreptile to detect objects in its path and movement. With two sensors, it can discern the differences between movement on its left and right. These sensors have limited range when it comes to typical surfaces, thus the robot will not be able to detect you across the room. They do have sufficient range to detect walls and obstacles in its path as well as your hand should you be foolish enough to put it in front of its head when it’s hungry.

The two auditory sensors work well to endow the Roboreptile with stereo hearing. While not particularly effective at hearing things behind it, it is quite capable of detecting sounds coming from its left and right or in front and pursuing the source of disturbance.

The single touch sensor located on its back is a small round “button” that is very easily depressed and triggered unlike the previous touch sensors on the Roboraptor that had to be pressed harder. By default, the touch sensor will put the Roboreptile in Free Roam mode if triggered. Only when the Roboreptile is hooded will the touch sensor trigger any sort of positive reaction. One touch elicits a happy yelping sound followed by a few swishes of its tail. Two touches cause the Roboreptile to emit a contented gurgling sound reinforced with a few head movements. This is quite possibly the only remnant of “playful mood” left in the Roboreptile as it spends the rest of its time aggressive, hungry, and quite angry at you and the world.

Modes

The Roboreptile is capable of several modes that include Free Roam, Programmable, Guard, and Direct Control. In Free Roam mode, the Roboreptile explores its environment. It moves about very quickly if hungry (default) and navigates very well, especially compared to the Roboraptor. This is due to the fact that the Roboreptile is now able to turn in place and do so very quickly. He is also able to back up almost as fast as he can run forward. This means the Roboreptile will able to get around the desk or table that much faster and continue in its explorations. While moving, every object it detects will count as an obstacle so it isn’t really capable of interacting with you when moving (except to dodge you). Periodically, the Roboreptile stops moving and pauses to listen and activate its vision and touch sensors. At this point in time, if you or an object is detected in front, the Roboreptile will rear up on its hind legs and let out a roar. If it continues to detect you in its path, it will get down on all fours and perform an attacking animation. What is particularly interesting is that you can move your hand from left to right and the Roboreptile will track your hand. If your hand (or object) is detected to its side, the Roboreptile will shimmy on its rear legs to face the object. Should the object be stationary for a few seconds, the attacking animation will follow. If the object is removed, he eventually gets down and continues walking around. Any sounds heard during that period will cause the Roboreptile to move its head in the direction of sound and then pursue it. During free roam mode, the Roboreptile will also continually switch between its quadruped and bi-pedal modes and even bite at the air occasionally (a testament to its constant aggressiveness). There seems to be more animations and reactions the Roboreptile is capable of during Free Roam, but that will have to wait until later when I discover more.

Programmable Mode is new to the Roboreptile and allows you to enter in a sequence of actions and then play them back. When you press “PROG,” the robot rears on its hind legs and awaits your commands. It emits a sound after each action until it can accept no more. At that point you may execute the program and watch it perform the sequence of actions you just gave it. A few of the functions are not able to be programmed into the sequence; the most notable one includes “Feed.” This is a really cool feature that gives you flexibility to do anything from making your own “Demo” to exhibit the features of the Roboreptile to creating a sequence to terrify the household pet. Unfortunately, the program is lost every time you power down the Roboreptile.

Guard mode has remained unchanged since the Roboraptor except that the Roboreptile does not make any sounds while it’s guarding. This is definitely a smarter idea since it allows for you to hide the Roboreptile behind a door and truly surprise someone. Previously, the Roboraptor used to make periodic “sniff sniff” sounds that immediately gave it away. Furthermore, the Roboreptile performs different responses based on which sensor system is triggered (vision or sound).

Direct Control mode is performed through the IR remote controller. First off, I’d like to point out that the remote is a lot bigger than it looks in pictures. It feels huge in my hands and seems unnecessarily thick. This is in part due to the fact it uses AA batteries which I feel is a smart choice since the Roboreptile itself uses AA batteries. No more need to keep separate stocks of AA and AAA as before, but the inevitable trade off is a larger, albeit still ergonomic, remote controller. The remote controller contains three layers, and the instruction manual provides a good overview of all its functions. During CES2006, there were pictures taken of the Roboreptile with a food “toy.” It was rumored that the Roboreptile would be shipping with this toy to chase around and feed on. However, something must have changed since now the food toy has been integrated into the remote controller. Overall, the remote controller looks good, matches with the robot itself, and sends commands to the Roboreptile very quickly.

Moods

The Roboreptile is capable of several moods. By default, the Roboreptile is hungry and aggressive. It wakes up hungry at power-on and will probably stay that way until you do something about it. While hungry, the Roboreptile will behave aggressively towards objects. It will act as described above in Free Roam mode. This means that it will move about at its highest speeds and treat everything like its enemy; no piece of furniture or owner is safe during this time period. Don’t worry though, it will not be able to sneak up on you without your notice only because it is quite loud vocally, and its motors make a noticeable amount of noise when running. The worst, or perhaps most entertaining, thing you can do at this point in time is to [i]attempt [/i] to hood it. I stress the word “attempt” since efforts to hood the creature are more or less guaranteed to result in failure. The cowl is cleverly designed to provide a false sense of security. There is actually no real connection between the hood and the robot as it just simply slides on very very loosely. As soon as the hood slips on, the Roboreptile lunges forward to shake it off. If this hasn’t dislodged the hood, the robot will shake its head left and right vigorously all the while screeching and getting very upset. Finally, if all efforts have failed, the Roboreptile will submit to hooding and will calm down. As of this moment writing this review, I have never successfully hooded the Roboreptile while in Aggressive mood without resorting to “cheating.” By cheating, I mean keeping your hand on the cowl and around the head… you could also achieve the same effect by taping the cowl to its head, but not only is that lame, it would probably also result in some unforeseen consequences. You don’t want the Roboreptile harboring a grudge against you.

The only way to get Roboreptile to enter “Satisfied” mood is to feed him. The IR remote controller has the “Feed” function which initiates the feed sequence. The Roboreptile will open its mouth and vocalize, more or less telling you that it wants to eat. Then it will get up on its hind legs and make that very notable screeching noise that we all heard during the CES short clip. It sounds like a loud bird screech, very high, very loud, and probably capable of shattering glass if it were a little louder. The robot will begin to scan for food by moving its head left and right. You can move the remote controller (acting as the food source) from left to right and the Roboreptile will follow your movements. If the food moves out of its front vision, it will actually turn to accommodate. Doing this too much will cause the Roboreptile to get “Dizzy” although in my experience, I have not been able to achieve this effect. Once the food has been locked on, the robot will get down on all fours and run towards the food. At this point in time, you can choose to walk around with the remote controller food and make the Roboreptile follow you or you can release the button and the Roboreptile will perform a chewing animation and make chomping sounds. Once the Roboreptile has feed, it will resume Free Roam mode shortly, but its movements will be significantly slower. Unfortunately, Satisfied mood never lasts long enough. You only have a small window of time while the Roboreptile isn’t attacking everything around it. This is also your prime opportunity to hood the creature. If you slip on the cowl now, the Roboreptile will not attempt to shake it off. There is simple shortcut to getting the Roboreptile into Satisfied mood: just press and immediately release the Feed button. However, I find this to be rather uninteresting and I’d much rather make the Roboreptile work for his food.

Once the Roboreptile is hooded, regardless if he was hooded while Hungry or Satisfied, he will be calm and stop moving around. He will make periodic breathing sounds and be very accepting of input through his touch sensor. Other than that, his IR sensor sound sensors are disabled so you’re more or less left with a lethargic lizard than anything else. As noted before, touching the receptor now will initiate a positive response. After about a minute, the Roboreptile makes a pseudo-snoring sound and falls asleep. At this point in time, the Roboreptile looks like if it passed out. Hmm, you might begin to wonder if you should take the cowl off now. If you do, like I did, the Roboreptile is supposed to wake up slowly. I have never been able to get this sort of reaction from my robot. Each and every time, this creature has woken up very readily, angrily, and began moving about very quickly usually ending up running into me and rearing up ready to attack as usual. Perhaps if the Roboreptile sleeps a little longer, it might not be so inclined to be aggressive.

While the above three moods are the most well known, the fourth mood isn’t exactly an official mood since the Roboreptile never stays in it for long (thankfully). I’m referring to the “Berserk” mood that only happens after an unsuccessful hooding. Should the cowl fall off, the Roboreptile enters into a frenzied stomping followed by a frontal charge. This will surprise and startle first timers, especially younger children who will probably grow afraid of hooding.

Conclusion

The Roboreptile is the successor to the Roboraptor. While comparisons are inevitable, it is best to think of them as each occupying a different niche market. While the Roboraptor can be a friendly and aggressive pet, the Roboreptile is the true predator between the two. It is fast, agile, and belligerent. It rarely enjoys being petted and greatly resists hooding unless it is too full to care. Because it is very mobile and always hunting and exploring, I believe the Roboreptile is best left in Free Roam Mode. It is much less of a pet, much more of an untamable adversary.

Known Issues

One of my biggest initial concerns was whether or not it can walk on carpet. I have found that the Roboreptile is quite capable of walking on short to medium length carpet without any trouble as this is the only carpet I have lying around (pun intended) to test with. If I had to guess, I would say that it would walk significantly better on thick carpet than its predecessor. Once on its hind legs, I think the Roboreptile would have even less trouble walking on thick carpet. But this remains a point to be seen in the future.

In very dark rooms, the Roboreptile will react as if it has just been hooded. I believe this is due to the absence of any input through its IR receiver in its head. This can be interesting since it allows for the Roboreptile to go to “sleep” when it gets dark. I imagine this is what Amazon meant when it listed the Roboreptile as having “color recognition.”

Battery consumption appears to be higher than before. Bear in mind that I've hadn't too much interaction time with the Roboreptile thus far. I’ve tested both Energizer e2 and their standard Max batteries. The e2 do not seem to last any longer than the Max ones, and the Max ones do not seem to last long at all. I’ve also tested Duracell Coppertops which seem to holding out well so far. I have not had anytime to run down any full set of batteries yet or try out my Energizer 2500 mAh rechargeables. I have not been able to run down a full set since performance degrades rapidly as the batteries loose power. The first thing to go is movement. Most notably, the Roboreptile isn’t able to turn in place as well. Then its rearward movement becomes slower and finally its fast walking becomes reduced to regular walking speed. The first set of Energizer e2 bats were down to that stage in less than one hour. The robot was still fully functional at that point, but just slowed down which made its Free Roam behaviors less agile and certainly less entertaining. For this reason, I would imagine rechargeables to be the best bet since you can let them run down half way, and then recharge them to full capacity. I’ve had to remove the half spent Energizers and save them for other devices since they no longer provide peak or sufficient performance for the Roboreptile. I think it is a waste of batteries to throw them out while at half charge, but I also think it would be a waste of time interacting with a Roboreptile that ran at half speed, moved with lethargy, and roared half as loud. I suppose you could almost think of this as a permanent form of “Satisfied” mood…

Stay tuned for a more detailed review once I’ve had more time to test and experiment.

Cheers,
Lucas