The New Era of Toy Robotics is the article.
The online edition of the Wall Street Journal is where the article was found.
“IN OLDEN TIMES…” is how the article begins.
Nostalgia is what I felt.
Eric Sofge, author of The New Era of Toy Robotics, hit the proverbial ‘nail on the head’ with that opening.
In olden times young engineers like myself had to build robots out of Tinkertoys (has anyone seen any of those lately?) or erector sets.
Or maybe if you were lucky and your parents hadn’t cleaned the garage lately, you could cobble one together with some duct tape, wire and sheet metal.
In any case it was pretty much like Sofge says, “In Olden Times, the most an ambitious young tinkerer could hope for...was to be able to stick one funny-shaped piece onto another.”
And then all you had in front of you was the skeletal facade of a robot; you could roll it around the floor with your hands--and not much else.
But instead of whining about being too old, I’m thrilled to find that these new toys are as fun for us old guys as for young ones!
The Lego Mindstorm EV3, for example, has enough bricks, sensors and motors to put together 17 different programmable robots controlled by its Intelligent Brick.
As easy to assemble as any erector set, there are also a whole host of advanced programming features.
How about ROMOTIVE ROMO? All this little tank-looking toy needs to come alive is your ipod of iphone.
Put the iphone or ipod on top of the tank and watch it go. Build it a personality.
Program it to follow you around or run screaming from your kids or chase the dog.
According to Greg Reid, writing for The Wall Street Journal, this little guy “lets even those with no robotics experience dip their toe into the usually rarified world of command-line coding for machines.”
And then there is LITTLE BITS. These guys attach to each other with magnets.
They are color-coded for function: blue-bits for power, pink-bits for on-off switches.
There are LED lights, fans, and buzzers.
LITTLE BITS brings everyday objects like shoe boxes, plastic cups, rubber bands and construction paper to life.
Plans for every kind of home-made robot can be found on the LITTLE BITTS website littlebits.CC
My favorite is ORBOTIX SPHERO 2.0, a motorized ball.
You steer it with any Android or IOS device.
Forget about putting mice in plastic balls to annoy your cat.
SPHERO has a power source that rolls it along at almost five-miles per hour and will chase Kitty around the house with lights flashing.
Hey, maybe I wasn’t born too soon after all!