How to Use RS Media as an Educational Tool

As more and more people own an RS Media, an increasing interest has been expressed in using the latest 'bot in the Robosapien line as an educational tool - especially to teach the Java programming language. These educational efforts are focused on RS Media's Java API, functionality made possible through a software package called the Java Robot Extension and created by Sun Microsystems specifically for the RS Media and WowWee Ltd.

The Java Robot Extension has been widely misunderstood, and therefore some controversy has existed around it. Also, few fully understand the licensing agreements in play that govern use of the RS Media or its Java API as educational tools. The purpose of this article, therefore, is to give current status on the robot extension, demystify some of the license agreement confusion, and explain how (using the Java API) the RS Media can be easily used as an educational tool. I write this document based on a long history, a close relationship, and a number of conversations with WowWee.

What's up with the Java Robot Extension?

The Sun Java Robot Extension (or "Robot SDK") is a software tool that was created by Sun for use with the RS Media's Java API. Every RS Media (except for a VERY small number in the VERY beginning of distribution) is basically the same, and can be programmed / manipulated via Java. However, the Robot SDK is required to make it work.

Initially, the Robot SDK software was available only at JavaOne 2007 to a select group of people who purchased the RS Media there (only 200 SDK CD's were produced). Copying and distributing them was then and continues to be a violation of law.

After JavaOne, WowWee made the remaining CD's available at the WowWee online store bundled with an RS Media robot. Those have since sold out, and although you can order the RS Media w/ Java Robot Extension bundle there, it is not in stock, and no shipping date can be confirmed.

WowWee is working with Sun to iron out the logistical details required to make the Robot SDK downloadable (free) from Sun's Java developer website. WowWee is working diligently on this, but there is no date yet given for when it will be available.

What do we do in the meantime?

Several things, actually. First, stay tuned on RoboCommunity for all the lastest news on this subject. Visit the RS Media and Java Central Command for updates as they become available. This is one stop shopping for issues surrounding Java and the RS Media. Central command also has more details and links to even more details about the robot SDK, etc.

Secondly, make WowWee aware that you are waiting for the SDK to be released. They want to know how many folks are interested. Do so in the WowWee product feedback forum on RoboCommunity. WowWee monitors these forums.

Third, check eBay. Who knows who's selling what!

Lastly, and this comes to the topic at hand...

How do I use the RS Media as an Educational Tool?

The bottom line is that you can reproduce the Robot SDK for internal use all day long.  So, if you have a whole army of RS Medias for your high school or college class, and even one copy of the Robot SDK CD, then reproduce the CD all day long and use it for your students. As long as your reproductions are for internal use, you're covered by the Sun Microsystems Binary License Agreement ... which you can view in all its glory for lots of detailed (lawyerspeak) information.

That's all Folks

WowWee has expressed to me repeatedly that they are very excited about the use of RS Media as an educational tool, and I'm very confident that they are doing all they can to make it easier for that to happen.  This includes working toward maknig the Robot SDK publicly available.  

In the meantime, check out RoboDuke's Java class and let us know if there's anything else we can do to prepare you for better Java- and robotics education.