The future has arrived in form of the Spykee Wifi robot. While the product is clearly aimed at a young audience, I stumbled across it during a recent Woot-Off and for $100 it became mine, because once you look beyond the toy appearance you will find some interesting stats:
• 200 MHz ARM9
• 32Mb SDRAM
• 4Mb NOR Flash
• WiFi client 802.11b/g
• USB host
• 8-bits VC to control the dual DC motor and control the charge
• 4 status LEDs
• Infrared receiver
• Charge control for the 9.6V NiMH battery
• JTAG / Serial / port i2c port available
• Loudspeaker 8 Ohm 2W
• Audio sampler microphone 16bits / 16 kHz
• Sampler speaker 16bits / 8 to 48 kHz
Yes, you will find all this inside the base of this toy, plus it comes with a web cam with build in microphone and white LED. As the final touch, the unit can self dock and charge.
Since I left most of the plastic junk off the unit (only the webcam actually does anything, everything else is in the base.), I quickly turned this toy into a webcam I can drive around my house from work! My cats are not quite as excited by this:
The unit is controlled via a proprietary software available for Windows and Macs, but the protocol has been deciphered and alternative software is in the early stages of development. The unit can be used in ad-hoc mode or with an access point - and if you know how to open up a few ports, it can then be controlled from anywhere in the world with Internet!
The track drive on the unit works great when it has to overcome an occasional sock or cord, but cannot handle any stairs or otherwise non-flat surfaces. The camera produces good video at 320x240 and the internal speaker and microphone on the unit do their job just fine. Only bad point so far is the battery run time, only around 15-20 mins of driving around time until the unit want to dock again.
In regards to hacking not too much done has been done with this robot, but firmware with USB and NFS mounting capabilities and telnetd running are available. One hardware modification was to add the ability to move the camera up and down to be able to see more - although I found that a $2.58 Wide-Angle "Jelly Lens" works even better to improve the viewing angle.
But even with those shortcomings, this is a great product. I wish it was less aimed at kids and that Meccano would take their developers more seriously, but it is a blast either way.