Stormtroopers aren’t considered the smartest and most effective citizens in the Star Wars Universe, but robotics developer UBTech is looking to make one their new best friend. After months of anticipation, the First Order Stormtrooper robot hit store shelves just days before Christmas, selling on Amazon, Best Buy, and the Apple Store.
This app-controlled 11-inch automaton can patrol a room, use facial recognition to identify you, and play a simple game. Although future software updates may improve the experience, at present, the Stormtrooper does not provide enough functionality to justify its high price of $ 299.
The 11-inch tall robot is a faithful reproduction of a first-rate Stormtrooper, though its stature makes it far less threatening. If nothing else, it will look amazing on your shelf. Our colleagues yelled and praised, and they are grown adults (or so they say).
The robot has two legs, which it uses to walk, a pair of arms that can move up and down, and a rotating head. It comes with a small gun that you can put in one of its hands, but the fingers don’t move, so the robot can’t pick anything up. As for the weapon, it is a nice accessory, but the Stormtrooper will never target a person.
A set of microphones and speakers allows you to speak and recognize commands, while a camera allows you to see your surroundings and use facial recognition. Sensors on the bottom of the feet help the robot detect when it is approaching the edge of a table to prevent it from falling.
Downloading the application It was easy enough, but that’s because we had an iPhone and an iPad. You need an iOS 11 device, so Android owners can’t control their own Stormtrooper at the moment (though that will come at the end of the month).
To control the Stormtrooper, you connect via Wi-Fi, using your home network, or going directly to the robot’s internal modem (the app suggests a home network is better). The setup is pretty straightforward. The application asks you to connect to the robot via Wi-Fi Direct, and the robot itself reads you both the password and your network SSID. We wish that there is no password or that the password is written in the box, because it is annoying to have to write down what the robot says in real time.
If you want to go through your local network, which we recommend for maximum flexibility, you will be asked to give the robot your router’s SSID and password. The system then allows you to do a facial scan so that the robot can recognize you later, during the game.
You can skip the face scan, and you may want to, because the process is unpredictable. While some Tom’s Guide staff had no problems, another had to try the initial scan (which involves staring at the visor), at least five different times, because it kept failing. The facial recognition function is only useful in “sentry” mode, and even there it is not necessary.
Once everything is set up, the app offers you three modes to choose from: Sentinel, Mission, and Training. In Sentinel mode, the Stormtrooper patrols a 5 x 5 grid and stops when it hears noises or sees unfamiliar faces. If the robot does not recognize someone, that person can still pass, but only if they know the password you assigned (all are phrases from Star Wars). Set the patrol route within the grid (for example, go up three squares and then turn right), and you can set the password, choosing from a dozen terms (like Kylo Ren, First Order).
In our tests, the robot often did not recognize a face that had already been registered. However, it is not that important if it recognizes you or not, as you can speak the password and it will use voice recognition to determine if you said the right thing. But the payoff here is really limited. If the robot approves you, it says something like “go ahead” and, if it rejects you, it asks you to leave. That is all.
Arguably the most “fun” option of all, Mission mode allows you to send the Stormtrooper on missions to find data tapes or Resistance targets to destroy. Unfortunately, the game doesn’t benefit much from actually being tethered to the robot and it would probably work just as well if it could be run independently.
The robot walks on the planet Jakku and uses its camera to superimpose it on a room in your house, desk or wherever you are playing. What you see on the screen is the desert world of Jakku, with a horizon showing your living room (a blue sky would have been nice).
Guide the robot around a 5 x 5 grid and watch the scenery change in the app and the real world robot walk across your floor. When you arrive at a location with ribbons or a Resistance ship, you move a crosshair on the screen, which also moves the robot’s head, until you find the object. The problem is that the robot’s movements are not meaningful to the game; You could put it in a box and ignore it, and the game would play the same way.
Perhaps if the robot interacted with objects in the real world, the game would make more sense. Anki’s Cozmo robot, for example, comes with three wireless cubes that it can detect and use as part of its game modes. The company says it is working on content updates that will add more missions.
The last mode, Training, is a really rudimentary programming suite. You create “actions” by selecting a voice line (“Set your eyes on the target!”, “Hooking up the scum of resistance!”, “I’ll need to search the area”, etc.) and choosing a move to accompany it. . Most of those movements are the robot moving its head in some way. There is not much to tell him to do.
You can then manually control the Stormtrooper, using a set of arrow buttons to make it walk around the room or turn its head. You can then tap other buttons to perform any of the actions as you go, and you can also see what the robot’s camera sees in real time.
Currently, the Stormtrooper doesn’t provide enough functionality to justify its hefty $ 299 price tag.
The app itself doesn’t allow you to capture photos or videos from the robot’s point of view, but you can take screenshots just like you would in any iOS program. The images we saw through the camera weren’t particularly bright or sharp.
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The problem is that simply having it walk through the manual control is not a particularly convincing experience, and the robot itself is quite slow. The Stormtrooper’s gait appeared stable on wood and other smooth surfaces, but it appeared to waddle when we tested it on a carpet.
UBTech claims that the First Order Stormtrooper robot can last 2 hours on one charge and based on our anecdotal evidence we believe it. The robot endured some lengthy gaming sessions without running out of power.
The company also says that it takes an hour to charge, and in fact, after about 45 minutes, ours had reached about 75 percent of capacity.
Future updates and scheduling
UBTech says it plans a number of major software updates for the First Order Stormtrooper robot. The company expects to add real programming capability, with some form of block-based language, in the summer of 2018. A representative also said there will be more missions and other entertainment content coming soon.
The bottom line
The design for this first-rate Stormtrooper robot appears in Episodes VII and VIII, but the experience of using it is more like the prequels – disappointing. The robot’s attractive design and robust hardware specifications give it great potential for future software enhancements that could include serious programming and far more engaging games. However, with its current feature set, this is a difficult product to recommend, particularly at such a high price.
If you’re interested in getting a Star Wars robot, there are a couple of BB-8 units that are much more functional for less money: the $ 129 Sphero BB-8 and Spin Master voice control Hero Droid BB-8, which is about as big as the real thing and costs just $ 149. If you want a robot friend who does facial recognition and plays with you, consider the $ 139 Anki Cozmo. Kids and teens who want to learn programming will also love the UBTech’s own Jimu robot series. And you could buy two or close to three of the robots we just recommended for the price of a top-notch Stormtrooper robot.
Crédito: Andrew Freedman / Tom’s Guide