WowWee Rovio Mobile Webcam  

Posted by Mohammad Talha in , , , ,

The WowWee Rovio robot is a first: It's a $299 intelligent consumer device that aspires to be personal telepresence robot—enabling you to be in two places at once. Essentially a Wi-Fi–enabled mobile webcam on wheels, the Rovio can be controlled from anywhere in the world through its Web-based interface. You can control the VGA color camera, speaker, microphone, antenna, and "head," which can be raised and lowered. The robot sits on three omnidirectional wheels, similar to those found on the somewhat-annoying Tribot, which help it navigate easily around tricky furniture and sleeping pets. If only the user didn't need such healthy doses of patience to help Rovio reach its full potential.

Setup is pretty straightforward. Install the software, connect the Rovio to your PC via an included USB cable, and follow directions to connect the robot to your wireless 802.11g network. Rovio works only with networks that offer WEP encryption, which makes sense because you don't want a neighbor exploring your home via robot. Within minutes you should be able to view and control Rovio through your PC, as long as you're on the same network. This part worked pretty flawlessly for me. However, when I tried to raise Rovio's "head," which also houses its camera, the robot made a sharp, mechanical clicking sound. I had to send that unit back and eventually got another one that raised and lowered its head without a sound.
Rovio's Web interface includes a large window that shows you what Rovio's camera sees. There's also a control panel that displays a virtual joystick to direct the robot's movements; battery, wireless connectivity, and navigation status indicators; and a host of settings for audio, video, and networking. You can also set it up to mail photos it captures to a specific e-mail address.

Video quality ranges from 176-by-144 to 640-by-480; the higher the resolution, however, the lower the frame rate. You can up the frame rate, but your network throughput will ultimately determine your video quality. I tried the Rovio at all resolutions and found that even though the frame rate dropped below 20 frames per second, 640-by-480 gave me the clearest view of Rovio's surroundings. Luckily, a slider on the interface makes it easy for you to choose just the right combination of speed and overall quality for your network, and it also acts as a brightness control. (Full Story)

This entry was posted on Dec 19, 2008 at 9:16 AM and is filed under , , , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .

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