Robots stole the show at last year's CES. There are a lot more bots on display this year, but so far I've had fewer HOLY $&%* moments. (Okay, when the Segway hoverboard turned into a robot I let one fly.)
That's not a bad thing. In the absence of a bunch of jaw-dropping, first-of-their-kind platforms, a subtler but more significant trend has taken root: These robots look familiar, but the way they're controlled has changed significantly.
Here are three toy robots that hint at the coming wave of gesture-controlled gadgets.
Ziro is a modular robotics kit made up of individual mechanized motor modules that are controlled by a wireless smart glove. The idea is that you can design and construct your robots out of any material you have available. In videos, cardboard seems to be a favorite. You use a smartphone app to configure the kit's modules to respond to your gestures. Your hand gestures send commands to the modules so that when you move, they move.
BB-8 by Sphero
Hey, did you guys know there's a new Star Wars movie out? It's weird ... I didn't hear much about it.
Out of the crap pile of last year's Stars Wars tie-in schwag, Sphero's BB-8 emerged as a genuinely novel design and a darn cool toy. Sphero plans to add motion control to the mix with its Force Band, a wearable that translates gestures to commands. Point your palm up and BB-8 looks at you. Spin in place and he spins also. The wristband at CES is a prototype. Sphero expects refined versions to go on sale this fall.
There's no promo video for the Force Band yet, but here's the original BB-8 teaser in case you missed the hottest toy of 2015.
CHiP by Wowwee
CHiP traces its spiritual DNA to AIBO, Sony's iconic robot dog. Developed by Wowwee, maker of automated toys, CHiP is a frenetic robo-pup that learns behaviors and develops a unique personality over time. Like a Tamagotchi on crack, it zips around the room asking for attention and doling out electronic affection. Smartband technology enables CHiP to uniquely recognize and respond to its owner. I don't really get robot pets, but CHiP does some pretty impressive stuff in this video. The unit is available for pre-order for $169.