First off, let’s just say that robots are awesome and get that out of the way. I am sure that just about anyone would agree with that. Robots are becoming more and more a part of our everyday lives, from taking care of our homes to giving our children something fun to play with. Everywhere you look, there is a robot solution replacing something we once had to do ourselves or pay someone else for. Let it be securing our homes or vacuuming our floors.
The vacuum cleaners are a great example, as they feel like something out of a science fiction movie. Like the little robots running around the various Star Wars films, or the little helpers in the movie Passengers. You can set them up to do their own thing and control all of your settings from an app on your mobile device typically. However, what if you could remote control it from your home with a first person view (FPV)?
This is where things become even more fun when it comes to products like RoboBuddy. Now it won’t clean your floor, but you can remotely log into it and drive around all you want with it, using nothing but your smartphone or tablet. This takes RC cars to a whole new level, and it’s pretty cool.
When we first began tinkering with it, we didn’t even get around to reading the instructions or the side of the box fully just yet. We thought ok, it’s an app controlled RC vehicle using your phone or tablet that can be driven around your house. This has been done many times before with products like Sphero, some with FPV (via camera) and some that require line of sight–all of which are controlled via a phone (or tablet). So what makes this so special? Then we turned the page on our trials to read further into the text and find out it does more than just spit out a wireless connection around the house. It can actually ride on your WiFi network so that it can be controlled remotely from anywhere in the world with an internet signal. Now we’re talking.
It features a camera built into an arm-like head section of the body that can raise and lower to control the angle in which you are viewing. This allows you to get a FPV of what the small little robot is looking at, so that you can freely drive it around without having to be standing within line of sight. It records and streams (and takes images) at 720p so that you can get a clear idea of what you are seeing on screen and features infrared in case you are trying to drive around in the dark. Camera quality isn’t 100% as it is 720p with compression, but it is more than enough to enjoy it with (a lot like a 720p Foscam wireless IP cam or similar, if you’ve ever used one). When you compare it to price and what you get for that price, it’s a solid deal.
Your kids can actually go on a mars rover mission in your own living room from clear across the world while on vacation, making some pretty awesome play time. Maybe pretend it’s an undersea adventure due to the angle of view and everything else looking so big around it. “Watch out, here comes a giant alien that looks similar to a small dog, arm the laser canons!”
You can still use it locally and within line of sight through the same means, or you can connect directly to it via its own broadcasted WiFi network (which gives you better results than you would going through the internet). It all begins by charging the vehicle for the first time. It comes with its own dock that lays flat on the ground that it can be placed on or driven onto remotely once you get the hang of controlling it. Once charged, you download the app to your smartphone/tablet, available for both iOS and Android devices. When you first turn the vehicle on, it will start broadcasting its own network. You would connect to this network on your device’s WiFi settings and then open the app to add it. Once connected to the vehicle, you want to setup your WiFi network’s settings so that the vehicle can connect to it. Now, you can hit the “internet icon” to connect to it from anywhere over the internet. It’s as simple as that.
About the latency, there seems to be a 2-3 second delay in video when connected over the internet. There is a drop-down menu to control the data rate with, but you can only go up to 800kbps. Hopefully they will add higher rates to choose from in the future, but as of now that’s what you are limited to. The controls seem to respond instantaneously regardless of which wireless mode you are connected to. So if you have line of sight of the vehicle, it will operate quite smoothly. It is only the video streaming that experiences delay while connected over the internet. More than doable if you are controlling it from around the world (it would just be nice to have a quicker response).
The app features a number of options that can enhance your experience with it, by allowing you to do things like talk both ways through the app and vehicle. You can communicate through the speaker on the belly of the vehicle or listen to what it hears through your phone/tablet. You can also enable motion mode which allows you to use your device gyroscope to control the vehicle with (by tilting your phone around), in case you don’t want to use the on-screen analog sticks. It’s really quite functional.
Due to the design of the belly and the wheels, it can drive over small obstacles allowing you to traverse between different floors (carpet, tile, wood) as well clear things like a book or magazine lying flat on the ground. It doesn’t move too fast, most likely so that you don’t lose control and slam into something due to the 2-3 second delay in video. This is nice, but it would have been nice to have an added option in the app that allows you to “turn off turtle mode” for instance (in case you’d like to have the extra speed).
Since it can drive over small objects, it can be driven right up to and on it’s charging dock easily using the app. So if you are controlling it remotely, you don’t have to worry about it running out of power and sitting around useless until you get back. When the app warns that you are running low (you get up to 50 minutes of driving per charge), simply drive it back to the dock and have a go at it again once it is finished charging. I am sure if it was a little more expensive to cover the R&D, they probably would have added a fail safe feature for it to return home to the dock automatically, but I think we would be getting a little greedy if we expected it.
It would be a lot of fun to play with remotely if you have small pets running around the house (assuming they don’t have what it takes to chew it to pieces of course). It has a hatch on the back portion of the top that reveals a small storage space that can be used to haul items from one person to the next. Great for multiple kids playing with each other. It is obviously a great tool for driving around and simply checking on the house while you are away as well.
The instructions that come with it are quite explanatory and get you going pretty quickly. They have plenty of detail breaking down both the product and the app for you, and the app itself is just as easy to understand. In our experience, they seem to have a strong dedication to their customers that brings them to a new level above and beyond slightly of what their warranty text claims to offer–with a strict focus on taking care of their customers and improving overall quality experience. This is always a plus.
This is one fun little RC vehicle that offers an endless amount of entertainment. It has so many uses for both kids and adults alike, it makes it a great buy for families in general. Price is also awesome compared to other app controlled remote gadgets in its category. Camera compression could be better to offer a bit more clarity, but then again I think higher data rates is more important at this point due to the price of things. The only thing that didn’t impress us 100% was the latency. Beyond that, the RoboBuddy is a must have for many.
|Buy from Amazon|
*Average price is based on the time this article was published
- Supported OS: Android 4.3 or later, IOS v6 or higher
- Built-in adjustable HD 720P Wi-Fi video camera
- Battery: Up to 50 minutes
- Easy to recharge on docking station
- Works on tile, cement, wood and carpeted floors
- Payload capacity: 8 oz (via storage compartment)
- For indoor use only
- Available Colors: White
- Length: 10.5”
- Width: 7.75”
- Height: 8.75”
- Weight: 3.9 lbs.
- Rechargeable 1300 mAh 7.2V Ni-NM battery
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