Geek Gifts 2010: WowWee RS Tri-bot talking robot

The RS Tri-bot from WowWee Robotics may appeal more to the younger geeks on your gift shopping list than the adults. Find out why in this Geekend review.

Robotics is a great geeky hobby, but if you don't have the time or the interest to build a robot, there are a number of cool robots on the market that are relatively affordable. The three-wheeled RS Tri-bot by WowWee Robotics is one that you might want to check out, especially if the toy is a gift for a youngster. The RS Tri-bot is controlled with a tilt-sensitive remote control, and it can be programmed using the remote. It also comes with three preloaded games, which makes interacting with the toy more fun.

Product specifications and features

  • Rated for ages 8+
    Photo credit: Nicole Bremer Nash
  • Omni-directional motion on three wheels
  • Tilt-sensitive remote controller
  • Light up eyes and moving eyebrows
  • Pattern, Maze, and Minefield preloaded games
  • Posable arms and waist
  • Alarm mode
  • Demo function
  • Homing function
  • Standby and sleep functions
  • Autonomous setting
  • Program mode
  • Guard mode (enjoyed by kids who used the RS Tri-bot to guard their room)
  • Tri-bot alerts you when he falls over (he cannot get up on his own)
  • 3 x motors
  • 3 x IR sensors
  • Built-in speaker
  • LED indicator
  • Height: 10"
  • Weight: 2 lbs.
  • Available in these languages: English, French, German, Dutch
  • Cost: Around $70 (list price is $99.95)

What I like

  • The RS Tri-bot is fun. It's perhaps most fun in autonomous mode.
  • It has an entertaining "personality."
  • It moves well on various surfaces (tile, low pile carpet, shaggy pile carpet, and wood).
  • It's a good for getting children interested in robotics.

What I don't like

  • The RS Tri-bot is limited in what it can do -- it pretty much just moves around on its three wheels. He can bend at the waist, and his arms are posable, but none of his programming moves those body parts -- it has to be done manually. Adding autonomous movement to the waist and arms would really improve the RS Tri-bot.
  • The alarm mode is very limited in programmability. For instance, once you set the alarm mode, you have to catch the RS Tri-bot to manually turn off the alarm.
  • The RS Tri-bot uses a lot of batteries -- specifically, it requires eight AA and three AAA batteries.

Geek bottom line

All in all, the RS Tri-bot was very popular in our test household. The adults were vying with the children for the controller, but in the end, the kids got the most enjoyment out of it. The adults lost interest about the 10th time they heard the same dialogue sequence; it would be great if WowWee developed a way that you could write your own computer programs for the robot.

The RS Tri-bot is a great gift for geeky kids, but for the adult geek who likes robots, you're probably better off going with something more advanced, such as the WowWee Rovio.

Geek gift score (out of 5)

  • Fun factor: ****
  • Geek factor: ***
  • Value: ***
  • Overall: ***

Want more reviews of tech gadgets and gizmos? Download the PDF of TechRepublic's Geek Gift Guide 2010.