Tomy to Sell Gesture-, Voice-controlled Toy Robots

Apr 8, 2014
Motonobu Kawai, Nikkei Electronics
The "MiP" being controlled with a hand
The "MiP" being controlled with a hand
[Click to enlarge image]
The robot carrying a bottle of water
The robot carrying a bottle of water
[Click to enlarge image]
Two units of the Zoomer having different patterns
Two units of the Zoomer having different patterns
[Click to enlarge image]
The Zoomer lying on its back
The Zoomer lying on its back
[Click to enlarge image]

Tomy Co Ltd announced that it will release the "Omnibot" series of toy robots that can be controlled by voice and hand gestures instead of a remote, etc.

"We will apply technologies being widely used in the robot industry to entertainment," Tomy said. The company calls the new products "communication robots."

As the first products in the series, Tomy will launch the "MiP" two-wheel robot June 21, 2014, and the "Zoomer" dog-like robot July 26, 2014. The manufacturer's suggested retail prices of the robots are both ¥15,000 (approx US$146, excluding tax). The MiP and Zoomer were originally developed by WowWee Canada Inc and Spin Master Ltd, respectively. And Tomy made changes to them for the Japanese market.

Tomy plans to continue to release products in the Omnibot series including ones that the company is currently developing. With the series, it aims to achieve sales of ¥2 billion in fiscal 2014 and ¥5 billion in fiscal 2017.

"There was a robot boom 10 years ago," the company said. "The trend made the rounds. And robots such as robot cleaners are now drawing attention again."

MiP
The MiP has an infrared sensor in each of its right and left eyes. When a hand is moved back and forth in front of the robot, it also moves back and forth. When a hand is moved from side to side, it turns accordingly.

With an inverted pendulum sensor, it can move on its two wheels and carry an object weighing up to 350g, which is the weight of the robot, by using a tray. In a demonstration at a press meeting, the robot was carrying a bottle of water.

Supporting Bluetooth Low Energy, the MiP can be controlled with a smartphone. The robot can follow a track drawn on a smartphone screen and dance to music. With four AAA battery cells, it continuously operates for one hour.

Zoomer
The Zoomer is capable of recognizing human voice and responding to 30 or more Japanese phrases such as "Osuwari (Sit)" and "Fusete (Down)" as well as 15 or more English phrases. When the user says, "Follow me," the robot follows that person by using four infrared sensors on its chest.

The Zoomer has a tilt sensor near its chest and can lie on its back and get up again. It can continuously operate for 20 minutes after its lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery is charged for an hour. The pattern on the body can be selected from 10,000 or more designs for uniqueness.