Friday, February 25, 2011

Robo Xero kit, and Robot Marathon

You may have already seen news stories on the first full-length marathon race for robots (specifically, 2-legged ones). The sponsor is Vstone, maker of most of the robots entered in the race, and it's being held over 4 days in Osaka, Vstone's hometown.

What's interesting to me is that DeAgostini Japan is starting up another one of their "installment of the week" kits, this one called Robo Xero. Like all of their installation kits, you receive 3-4 pieces per week, at a cost varying between 800 and 2000 yen ($9-$25 USD) each, over the course of several months. A least one past kit ran 53 volumes. The Robo Xero looks to be very similar to Vstone's Robovie-X, which retails on amazon for 94,500 yen (approx. $1,100 USD), except that where X has metal slabs for hands the Xero has individual fingers, and the Xero is supposedly capable of image and voice recognition. When completed, the Xero will be 30 cm tall (12"), and 900 grams (just under 2 pounds). According to the website, there will be 70 volumes to the set. Because each volume can vary wildly in price, it's hard to guess at an average price / kit. Assuming that most of the kits will be around 1,500 yen, that's 100,000 yen, or $1,200 USD. Given the current price of the top-end Robovie and the fact that the Xero is more advanced, the Xero is not that bad of a bargain. Forking out $40 a month makes the total cash outlay much less painful. The downside of course is that it's going to take over a year to finish, and if you miss just one installment, you're out of luck. Another consideration is that generally installation kits are twice as expensive as buying the full product all at once. Of course, you're getting the magazines that come with the kits, so there is some added value. If that's what you're really after, then the DeAgostini approach is worthwhile (if you're in Japan and not paying import mark-ups). Personally, I'm more inclined to wait and see if Vstone ever comes out with a similar high-end version with articulated hands.

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