Still the best!
2017 may go down as the year Robots invaded toyland. Truth is, mechanical marvels have always been a big part of toyland, but the influx of radio controlled, sometimes semi-autonomous, and even programmable robots this year has been unprecedented. The best of them is Cozmo ($179).
Technically, Cosmo launched in 2016, but the little robot has recently had a major software upgrade, not to mention a brand-new collector's edition version ($222) , he is still the best robot on the market, and even better than before!
Cozmo is proof that big things come in little packages. In size, he reminds me of a pet gerbil or hamster. He fits nicely in the palm of your hands. Animated blue eyes are displayed on a tiny TV-like head, and together with his delightful bleeps (and occasional words) he is capable of expressing a wide range of emotions. This is the key to Cozmo's success; he is able to bond on an emotional level, making it much more than a mere bot.
Cozmo gets around on tank-like treads. This year you can even get a set of colored treads to make your robot stand out in a crowd. (Note: You might also consider the carrying case ($29.99) that helps keep everything in one place and safe and sound.) He doesn't have hand, or even arms for that matter. Instead he has a "lifter", kind of like a high speed fork lift. He can use it to play games with his three white cubes that come in the set.
There are numerous ways to interact with Cozmo. He can move about his environment semi-autonomously, using his built in sensors. You can drive him around using your smart phone, seeing what's in front of him via his blue-hazed on-board camera. Or, you can feed him, like a Tamagochi. Or, you can play games with him.
Finally, and this is the new bit, kids can program him using the Code Lab. Instructions are linked together visually using virtual blocks. No programming experience is required, and the pictogram interface makes learning to code easy and fun. You can program him to move, pick things up, emote, and more, and then you can add programming functions like "loops".
This is what makes Cozmo so special: he is more than an RC vehicle, more than a toy, really. He is a robot. He has and inspires emotions, and now (through coding) can be a gateway to further exploration and learning.
There are a lot of imitators, but there's nothing like him.
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