Ultimate Review: Robosapien Programmable Toy Battle Robot from ThinkGeek

Ed Steele August 30, 2004 9

Buy your Robosapien today from ThinkGeek.com!!

ThinkGeek.com sent us a Robosapien to experiment with, and we’ve put together the Ultimate Robosapien Review, loaded with tips, tricks, fembot supermodels, bling bling, smoking, drinking, and tons of rescource links (want to program your Robosapien with a specialized Palm application called SAPBench and make him do the Macarena with supermodels? Easy!) There was just one little problem though: we like our battle mechs at least 50 feet tall, and the Robosapien we were sent is only 13 inches high. So how would we grow our Robosapien to be a giant mechanical instrument of mayhem and destruction and party like a true replicant? Read on!


(All picures in this review can be viewed in MECHAsizeTM – just click on them!)

Robosapien Battle Specs

* Fluid motions and gestures: fast dynamic 2-speed walking and turning; full-function arms with two types of claw grippers.
* 67 pre-programmed functions: pick-up, throw, kick, dance, kung-fu, fart attack, belch attack, rap and more on command or via program; 3 demonstration modes.
* Fully programmable by remote control (or via Palm software): Up to 84 program steps with 4 program modes for advanced operations; programmable “reflexes” to sound and touch stimuli.
* Fluent international “caveman” speech adds personality.
* Excellent battery life – confirmed up to 28 hours in tests on a single set of Energizer Alkalines (Uses four D Cell and three AAA batteries, some have even hacked their Robosapien to use AC power!)

What’s in the Box?

The Robosapien, his remote control, his bucket (for tips, “Will Work for Batteries?”) and the intructions.

Robosapien & The Gang

My first toy robot was a 1970’s “C” battery-powered Japanese import, far left in the picture above. He can walk forward, stop, spew smoke and rattle his front guns, and that’s it. (His guns still spew smoke today, almost 30 years later – crazy!) I’ve been a sucker for every robotic toy that I’ve been able to get my hands on, but they’ve always been disappointing in some way. The Furby was a cute novelty at first, but it isn’t programmable, and it can’t be turned off easily which is very annoying. B.I.O. Bugs were an interesting concept but had no personality whatsoever and screeched so loudly they would quickly give you a headache. The i-Cybie was expensive, had terrible battery design, and moved too slowly. (By the way, you may be interested to know that the Robosapien is the creation of B.I.O. Bugs creator Mark W. Tilden, a scientist at Los Alamos National Labs who has also consulted for NASA.) The Robosapien is the first commercially available biomorphic robot which means “inspired by the principles of biological systems.” Is the Robosapien any different from his no-so-divine predecessors? Oh yes – quite simply, Robosapien is the Cult of Personality of robot toys.

What’s Good About It?

Once you get him out of the box (he’s in there nice and tight) you’ll notice the Robosapien is hefty – with D batteries installed in his feet, he weighs over 5 pounds. His arms and legs are “connected” well if that makes sense, and his movements are fluid and smooth. Gone are the herky-jerky movements of robots past like the i-Cybie: the Robosapien is FAST when he moves his arms or walks across the floor. I mentioned in one of my previous posts that Robosapien runs fast enough to scare cats, and it’s true – he really hauls across a room. (Wowwee refused to respond to my cats’ written requests for psychiatric therapy – be nice to your real pets.)

Robosapien is controlled via infrared remote control to send commands to the IR receiver in the dome on his head. The remote seems confusing at first, but can quickly be figured out: each button has multiple commands assigned to it, and a command is executed based on what color the LED is on the remote. The color of the LED is changed by hitting the Select button. Red commands are the defaults, consisting of basic arm and leg movements. Hitting select one time will turn the LED green, which activates other commands such as additional body movements, picking up objects, and throwing. Hitting select again will turn the LED orange, and these commands are the fun ones: multiple attacks, farting and belching sounds, and special demo modes. The text labels of the commands are clearly marked in the color they are activated in.
Now that you’ve figured out how to use the remote, chuck it aside and load SAPBench by CliePet (download link at the end of the review).

SAPBench allows you to send commands from your Palm, offering a much cleaner interface and a far simpler way to sends commands to or program your Robosapien. Program, you say? Robosapien has touch sensors on his hands, on back and front of both his feet, and a sound sensor. This means you could program your Robosapien to walk forward until it bumps into something, and then go all kung-fu fighting mad and launch attacks on whatever it bumps into. Some other program ideas: make Robosapien a silent robot ninja sentry who charges, attacks, or throws an object if he hears something walk in front of him, turn him into the Ultimate Robot Fighting Champion and put him up against other Robosapiens, or make your own Electric Boogaloo Robosapien who will “do the Hustle!” on command. The sky is really the limit. We’ve included a number of programming links at the end of the review in the Resources section.
Battery life on this little guy is outstanding – just how does the Robosapien manage to squeeze so many hours of life out of just four D cell batteries? We suspect alien technology, although one big factor is that his motors are pulsed. This means when you tell him to move his left arm, the motors in his left arm receive power only when the command is sent.
One of the first things I noticed about Robosapien is that his left and right hands are different. His right hand is for picking up round or bulky objects like balls, cardboard tubes, etc. His left hand is for thin things like pencils, napkins, dollar bills, business cards, and paper. Robosapien can also hold and wield weapons like plastic swords or cardboard tubes! 1/6th scale toy Samurai swords or nunchaku look really cool when wielded. He also has lights in the center of his hands, which allows him to illuminate the area on the floor when he goes to pick something up – a VERY cool effect.

Plasma Sapien!!

What’s Bad About It?

We’d like to see more sensors on the Robosapien, at least a photoelectric sensor to give him “vision” for motion detection or tracking. (Photoelectric sensors in the sides of his legs to allow him to detect when to pick up an object would be cool too – give him an actual CCD camera to recognize colors and objects and we’d probably wet our pants.) We noticed that Robosapien has trouble walking up inclines, so don’t expect him to walk quickly on anything except a flat surface like carpet, hardwood, or concrete. Limb movements are less “precise” than other robotic toys, but conversely this means when he moves it is more realistic looking. Some may think that an infrared remote sucks compared to radio frequency, but we’re glad that Robosapien uses infrared. This opens up the potential for Palm and PocketPC remote control applications as other sites have demonstrated, but more importantly it allows room for developers to create more specialized homegrown Palm apps like SAPBench. If the remote was RF, this would not be possible. (Mr. Tilden, if you are reading this: how about a Game Boy Advanced SP or Nintendo DS cartridge to allow us to use a handheld console as a remote for the Robosapien? The Bandai Wonderborg used the Bandai WonderSwan as a remote quite nicely. I have future visions of using the touchpad on my Nintendo DS to program my Robosapien 2….) Most toys in this genre have bombed for one reason or another, but Robosapien is well designed, highly hackable and extensible, and has TONS of personality. How much personality? Well, we shot our own music video with our Robosapien, have a look…

Click here to view the Robosapien MechaPimp Video! (Right-click on this link, and choose “Save Target As…”)

Robosapien Bling Bling

Robosapien with F.E.M. Bots

Pool Party!


Nasty Habits!

Who’s your Robodaddy?

Say hello to my little friend!

Buy your Robosapien today from ThinkGeek.com!!

Robosapien Resource Links

[ Robosapien Manual (PDF)
[ Robosapien Official FAQ
[ SAPBench – Palm Software for your Robosapien (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!)
[ How to host your own Robosapien Fight Club
[ Automatic Robot Sentry Program from WowWee
[ “Official” Robosapien Forums
[ The Unofficial Robosapien Hacks and Mods Site
[ Control your Robosapien with your PC – Advanced How-to and Guide
[ Program your Robosapien to do The Macarena
[ Robosapien Dissection (and Hacking)
[ Robosapien Robotic Pet Forum
[ Robosapien with Camera Mounting
[ Robosapien Video Collection (with creator Mark Tilden)
[ Robosapien Video Collection (Prototypes)
[ Robosapien Home Movie Videos and Wallpapers (Funny stuff!)
MANY Special thanks to ADD, BC, LC and the F.E.M. Bots, TC & AC, & the letters XY and Z. Gadgets? Madness? Indeed!

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  1. Bryce Yehl August 31, 2004 at 10:34 am -


    Gadget Madness reviews the Robosapien and dresses him up in pimp clothing. I saw a stack of them at Costco…

  2. Anonymous Pervert August 31, 2004 at 2:05 pm -

    The hell with the Robot, show us more pics of the girl! She is smokin!

  3. Kernel32 August 31, 2004 at 2:42 pm -

    Nice job, your Test is awesome, I will buy it πŸ™‚
    for my pleasure and make a French Review πŸ™‚

  4. Dragon/kolibri August 31, 2004 at 4:06 pm -

    Me, myself and I

    My thoughts are all over the place today, difficult to concentrate on anything. It’s like me and my brain are two separate entities (bit like Homer Simpson and his brain) – I’m telling my brain to stop planning because it’s…

  5. Geekbone @ Modern Jackass August 31, 2004 at 10:46 pm -

    Pimpbot Robosapien

    lunacy8m and crew entertained a RoboSapien remote-controlled robot for a few weeks, resulting in a video full of mischevious hijinks, pool pimpin, and other tomfoolery. Along with video evidence, GadgetMadness offers a complete and thorough review …

  6. A Complete Waste of Time September 1, 2004 at 5:23 pm -

    RoboSapien rules

    It may be only 13 inches tall, but the reviewers at GadgetMadness.com think the RoboSapien …

  7. C September 1, 2004 at 5:54 pm -

    Yeah, how can we get more pics of the girl?

  8. na September 9, 2004 at 10:06 pm -

    Cool review. What is that Plasma Globe you show with the robot? Got any links to one?

  9. Anonymous September 10, 2004 at 3:48 am -