WowWee RS Media

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WowWee RS Media
  • WowWee RS Media
  • WowWee RS Media
  • WowWee RS Media

Pros

  • Extensive programming options, Funny dialogue

Cons

  • Movement horrible, Very complicated, Price

Bottom Line

While this is a reasonably funky device that offers a variety of witty robot one-liners, media playback and some extensive functionality, some of its features could be better implemented, and it commands a price tag that will scare off many potential buyers.

Would you buy this?

With its endearing catch phrases and multiple features, we became quite enamoured with WowWee's flagship product, the Robosapien V2. It could walk, talk, dance and even pick things up and throw them. Thus, we were quite excited to check out their latest addition to the robot family, the RS Media. An upgrade to the Robosapien V2, the RS media is a humanoid robot with most of the same functionality. What sets it apart is its built-in media support, which allows playback of video, audio and still images. While it succeeds to some degree as a media player, the functionality could use a lot of improvement, and the high price tag makes it a funky but largely unaffordable gadget for the robot obsessed.

The RS Media is similar in many ways to the previous Robosapien, but there are some noticeable improvements. The motions are now divided into three modes, Control Mode for walking, Arm Mode for...arming, and Media Mode for media playback. In some ways this is a good thing, as you are always aware exactly what functions you're controlling at any one time; but on the other hand it doesn't make for the same seamless combinations of walking and picking things up we could create on the previous model.

The RS Media has a huge number of arm functions available to him, including karate chop, pick up, push, throw, drop and roll. In addition, all of these can be performed with either the left or right hand. Like the rest of the unit's performance, we found them a little sluggish to be truly useful, and the pickup function can be quite fussy with regards to what it can and can't pick up (the item has to be rather perfectly positioned), but the motions are entertaining nonetheless.

This is enhanced by the extremely amusing sound effects that accompany the RS Media. These are probably the big selling point of the unit, and it is clear a lot of effort has been put in to making them both witty and relevant. This time around there are four built in personalities; a cowboy, a British gentleman, a space captain and the regular robot voice. Each one of these has unique sounds to accompany each motion, as well as a unique dance, and they really extend the fun you can have with the device. We found the cowboy quickly became irritating, but the British gentleman and the space captain were both entertaining and quite funny. Some of our favourite sound bites included the shrill "Hyyyyyah!" that accompanies the karate chop, and the rather spooky "I watch you when you sleep", which came out of nowhere, and to be honest, creeped us out a little.

That said, there are some very notable problems with this unit. The actual movement itself seems to have taken a turn for the worse compared to the previous Robosapien. WowWee's products are notorious for suffering when it comes to the basic act of taking steps, and the RS Media is no exception. While there are two separate walking speeds, we'd classify them as slow and slower; it took a good ten minutes to walk him from one side of the office to the other. This sluggish pace really takes any fun out of marching your robot around; it's hard for something to be menacing when it can never catch anyone. Furthermore, it still suffers the extremely irritating turning mechanism of the previous model, where it must stop and turn in a circle, rather than being able to move diagonally. If it's possible, the turning speed is even slower than the walking speed and often it felt like the unit wasn't making any headway at all. Overall, we really felt such an integral element should have been done better, and the movement issues significantly detract from the appeal of the device.

Our other big issue with the RS Media is its price tag. At $800, this device is well out of reach of the average family. The previous models have all been affordable packages to stash under the Christmas tree, but this time round it is a little too pricey for that. What you are paying for is the media functionality, which, while an amusing novelty, definitely doesn't justify the extra cash.

The RS Media can play back video, audio and picture files. It has a small screen on its chest for video, and two speakers in its hands for sound, although the quality of their audio is extremely poor. We struggled to make ourselves listen to a whole song on the unit, and would definitely not recommend using it for music listening. Likewise, the screen is far too small to make video playback enjoyable. The unit also only comes with a paltry 40MB of memory, most of which is taken up by the included personalities, which means you have to make use of the SD card slot just to have a decent amount of media at your disposal. Photography is handled by the small VGA camera built into the RS Media's head, but at such a low resolution we found it impractical for most things.

While the various media functions leave a lot to be desired, WowWee has really gone all out with the other robot features. The RS Media has both optical and sonic sensors, which enable it to dynamically react to things going on around it. Move your hand suddenly in front of its face for example, and it will rear back and yell "Whoa!" It can also track a specific colour that is held in front of its face, and react to loud audio cues like a clap. In addition to these, it has feet sensors, which detect collision with other objects and adjust the robot's walking path accordingly. They tended to work quite well, although they were not able to detect sharp drops in altitude, like say, the edge of our desk.

The functionality doesn't end there however; the RS Media isn't just limited to pre-programmed movements and actions. It comes complete with a software package that allows you to customise both motion and audio, giving the robot a personality that you want. You can record your own voice, saying whatever you like, or do things like take sound bites from your favourite TV shows, and copy them across to the device. Using the software, you can then attach these files to different actions. Furthermore, you have the ability to create macros that are complex combinations of movement and audio. Using a three dimensional model of the RS Media, you can drag its various limbs and body parts in different directions, and the software records the order of movement. So essentially you can program your robot to do and say anything you'd like.

However even this awesome idea is not without its flaws. Most notably, the system is extremely complicated. As a toy whose primary appeal will be to children under the age of 12, this particular element may be a little too difficult for most. It took us a good four or five hours to adequately master the software, and work out how to import all of our data. The average child is going to have a lot of difficulty with this, so parents beware; there will probably be more effort involved in this purchase than you think. In addition to this, despite being able to program the robot to do whatever you want, it is still limited by the basic speed and accuracy problems mentioned before. With a lot of work, you may be able to get it to do some pretty cool stuff, but don't expect miracles. Now if you'll excuse us, we're going back to work on our latest macro, 'Beer Fetch'.

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