WowWee Rovio Review and Unboxing

WowWee Rovio at RoboCommunity

Rovio by WowWee

I'm sure you've heard the buzz about WowWee's new robot, the Rovio. Billed as a "mobile webcam," the Rovio connects to your local network via Wi-Fi (802.11b/g) and is controlled via a web-based interface served directly from the robot. Rovio has the TrueTrack Navigation System built in, which allows you to save various locations, allowing your robot to automatically navigate itself to a specified location. Should the battery run low while Rovio is "out and about," this same system allows Rovio to return to it's charging station for a refill.

Like many, I've been wanting to get my hands on one since I can remember first hearing about it, and now I have. Read on for the unboxing photos, action shots, and my experiences using this slick little 'bot.

Arrival and Unboxing

It all started on a quiet, sunny, Southern California morn. There I sat, minding my own business, when suddenly... there came a rapping, rapping, rapping at my chamber door.  Unsure as to what may be causing this AM disturbance, I convinced myself 'twas but some early visitor, only this and nothing more.  Gathering myself I approached - here I opened wide the door, and quoth the FedEx guy, "Rudolph? Sign here please."

Okay, that was pretty bad. Truly sorry about that. I'll make an effort to be less dramatic for the remainder of the story.

Having signed off for the package, I accepted a rather dull looking cardboard box. Bringing it inside, I realized my other robots were quite keen on discovering what this new treasure could be.

WowWee Rovio at RoboCommunity

Before I knew what was happening, they had pushed me off to the side and were opening the package!

WowWee Rovio at RoboCommunity

It was a new Rovio.  And there was much rejoicing!

WowWee Rovio at RoboCommunity

Okay, that was pretty bad. Truly sorry about that. I (and the robots) will make an effort to be less cheesy for the remainder of the article. Those responsible have been sacked.

Inside the Box

Armed with two energy drinks, a pocketknife, a screwdriver, wire cutters, a hammer, and wondering if I'll need a blowtorch, I began to open the box. The first things I found were the manual, CDROM, and a USB cable, sitting on top of a styrofoam clamshell packing block.

WowWee Rovio at RoboCommunity

"Interesting..." I thought to myself.

Seperating the two halves of the foam I found the Rovio, battery, and two pieces of the charging dock, all in seperate plastic bags, well fit into their respective cavities in the foam.

WowWee Rovio at RoboCommunity

"But... Where are the wire ties? Or the hot glue?" I wondered.

Nope, not here. I believe that a person could liberate a new Rovio from it's packaging in less than twelve seconds without destroying anything.


The manual makes it fairly clear how to set up the hardware. From my setup, and talking with others, there are a few points to pay attention to:

  • Make sure the mast is aimed forward when you install it on the dock, it seems it is possible to install it backwards.
  • When you aim the beacon at the ceiling, make sure the two red dots are parallel to the base. If they're perpendicular, Rovio will act fairly confused and have a hard time navigating its return to the charging dock.
  • You may want to attach the base to the floor in some way. I've found that it slides around fairly easily on linoleum when Rovio is docking. Even on carpet, some method of attachment is handy, as Rovio will occasionally run over its base while driving about (even with IR Radar turned on) and move the whole thing out of alignment. If you have a permanent location for the dock, you may want to tape the beacon lens in place as well, it seems to jar easily, moving the beacon out of alignment.[[ad]]
  • When everything is plugged in and the battery is installed in the robot, make sure the robot is turned on when you place him in the dock. It seems Rovio will not charge unless its switch is in the on position.

Now that everything is plugged in and charging, it's time to take a break. Mostly because Rovio will want about two hours to charge up the battery for the first time. You'll notice the blue lights around the perimeter will turn solid when the charging is completed.

Rovio Software Setup

Again, the manual makes it fairly clear how to configure the Rovio. Insert the CD into your Windows computer (XP or Vista) and follow the prompts.

You may find when plugging the mini USB cable into the robot that it takes a little more force than you're used to putting into a cable. When finished, it takes a similar amount of force to remove it again.

Just for the sake of messing with things I also tried connecting to Rovio with the Windows "Advanced" instructions. Following the steps in the manual resulted in a quick and easy Ad-Hoc connection, allowing me to complete the configuration of my wireless setup via the settings menu.

First Impressions

While I used Windows XP for the setup and initial uses of Rovio, I just couldn't bring myself to keep using Windows.  Happily, Rovio seems to function just as well under Linux with Firefox as it did on Windows. The two way audio feature only works with Internet Explorer, so I had to give that up, otherwise things seem about the same.

As mentioned, Rovio navigates via a beacon that is projected onto the ceiling from the charging base. Unfortunately, my house isn't well designed for ceiling based navigation. The living room has vaulted ceilings, and the dining room has a beam running lengthwise through it, which seems to obscure Rovio's line of sight. This has, however, created a great source of entertainment in watching Rovio try to navigate to places near the edge of its view of the beacon. I will definitely be buying additional room beacons in the future so it can more easily visit other parts of the house.

From time to time while auto-navigating to a waypoint Rovio will become hung up on something, like the corner of the throw rug, or the transition from kitchen floor to carpeted dining room. You can click the Stop button and take over driving manually, or wander over and pick it up and re-orient it.  Turning off Rovio's IR Radar seems to help with these little obstacles.

The headlight mounted in Rovio's "chest" illuminates a small spot on the floor directly in front of the robot.  Some people might like to see more light, so I expect to make an attempt at adding additional lighting for the Rovio... Keep your eyes peeled for more information on RoboCommunity!

The Moving Picture

Here are a couple videos I took of Rovio doing its thing. You may notice some interesting tidbits here.

  • When you tell Rovio to go to a specific waypoint it will locate the waypoint stored before that one and navigate from there.
  • Large obstacles, especially shiny ones, seem to confuse the Rovio a bit during auto navigation.
  • You'll be surprised how amusing Rovio's "Happy Dance" after docking actually is.

The End

All in all, I find myself impressed with the Rovio. The ability to control it from almost anywhere definitely adds a certain groovy-ness factor.  It certainly didn't take long for the little robot to endear itself to the family, we are all guilty of talking to it more than we should (eg "Well, go around it!" or "What happened?" or "Ha! You kinda missed a bit, didn't you?")

It certainly is a refreshing change from the walking variety of robot that is so prevalent in my home, and I hope to enjoy it for some time to come.


Quick Links

Learn More About the WowWee Rovio

Talk About the Rovio on the RoboCommunity Forums


roschler's picture

Love the picture with Robopet scratching at the box. Nice to see other Robosapien RS media owners like you, nocturnal, crmfghtr, and myself.

rybuger1's picture

Any robot review that involves Monty Python, even if it is only a fey senteces, is a winner.

Grandlarseny37's picture

I'm so, so, so jealous! Nice video!

Rob's picture

How did you get your Rovio so early?

costap's picture

Do you need to buy a beacon for every room the rovio can enter?

Rudolph's picture

costap said:
Do you need to buy a beacon for every room the rovio can enter?

Yeah, pretty much, unless it can see the beacon from the other room. Rovio can navigate my living room, dining room, and kitchen okay with the Dock in about the middle. It can only get about 5 feet down the hallway before the signal is lost.

I've not yet heard price or availability of the individual beacons. I'm looking forward to getting one though so I can move the Dock off to a corner somewhere.

I believe it'll remember 9 different beacons, and remember which one is closest adjacent.

roschler's picture

Yeah, pretty much, unless it can see the beacon from the other room. Rovio can navigate my living room, dining room, and kitchen okay with the Dock in about the middle. It can only get about 5 feet down the hallway before the signal is lost.

However, that's only for self-guided navigation. If you want to explore manually (driving Rovio yourself using the web interface remotely), you can drive wherever you like as long as you have a strong WiFi signal. In other words, Rovio should be able to go to every part of your home where you can connect reliably with a PC or laptop, while driving under manual control. The TrueTrack beacon signal is not pertinent to the manual driving range, only the WiFi signal.

Rudolph's picture

Good point roschler, thanks for bringing that up.

It is also possible to connect to it without a wifi router, via an ad-hoc connection from (for example) a laptop. Then you can manually drive Rovio anywhere at all :)

roschler's picture

One other tip. Remember when manually piloting your Rovio outside the TrueTrack range to reenter the room with the primary beacon before you sign off, execute a Go Home operation, and then sign off. Trying to self-dock manually without rearward facing vision would be a real challenge. Fortunately it is not necessary.

dj_siek's picture

i love how the robopet fell over when the box opened lol.

i actually have two of the separate true track beacons, but no rovio :(

Rudolph's picture

Do tell, where did you get the extra beacons?

dj_siek's picture

from wowwee of course. they posted very fast. but they did warn me they were in testing mode still and may not work correctly yet. (this was a while back)

i should point out that I work for a company that is involved in telepresence and I plan on demonstrating rovio to customers as a mobile telepresence example.

Rudolph's picture

Really... I've checked the wowwee store a couple times lately (today even) and not spotted them. Really looking forward to getting my Dock out of the middle of the room :)

dj_siek's picture

from wowwee not the wowwee store...they are not available as far as I know.

definately a vital addition to the rovio setup though. hopefully they'll be out soon so i can get some more!

Rudolph's picture

Ah, gotcha.

MrScott's picture

The only downside to the movie soundtrack is that we cannot tell how noisy the little beastie is as it trundles about.

Are the drive wheels and mast control noise on par with the typical WowWee robot motors, or something a little more subdued?

Rudolph's picture

For you, MrScott;

The parakeet is pretty loud in this clip. She's sitting about 4 feet to the left of the camera. The Rovio Dock is about 4 feet in front, and the far point (the Chair) is about 10 feet.

My hearing is pretty well whacked, so I'm a really poor judge of comparing the noise level to something. I guess I'd say the neck motor is on par with my Media's arm movement. Drive noise is similar to a couple of the toy R/C cars my son has, with a bit of extra noise from the omni wheels (they click a bit as the ten little wheels slide on their axle).

roschler's picture

Rudolph, what are you using to record you Rovio videos? I tried Camtasia studio which usually works fine but got very choppy video.

Rudolph's picture

These vids are just from my digicam, edited with Kino (and sometimes Cinelerra) then converted to wmv with ffmpeg.

I've not yet found a solution for capturing Rovio's video. I don't remember what I tried with windows, and I tried everything in the Ubuntu repos. Hardy seems to have broken most screencasting programs, based off all the forum posts I read trying to make it work... The windows progs I tried always ended up really choppy too. When I try to save the rtsp stream to disk with VLC I get a video file, but none of my editors can seem to read it.

dj_siek's picture

thast great it has very robotics sounds i love it thanks for posting the vid with audio.

CY's picture

Did you install the two LED lights by the camera yourself? 'cause I don't see them on other Rovio... its a great idea tho.

Rudolph's picture

CY said:
Did you install the two LED lights by the camera yourself? 'cause I don't see them on other Rovio... its a great idea tho.

Good eye. Stay tuned ;)

Marc123's picture

The rovio is still not available in the UK.
Any ideas when we'll be getting it across the pond?

roschler's picture


Red5 should be getting theirs around November 1st and I'm pretty sure they will be first.

Rudolph's picture

CY said:
Did you install the two LED lights by the camera yourself? 'cause I don't see them on other Rovio... its a great idea tho.

Here ya go CY :)

raag's picture

I got mine today and just configured it and played a little bit. The only thing I did not like and disappointed the pic quality in low lights, it is way too dark. I dont know either they are going to fix it or not.
PS: Watch out if you dont have very brightly litted rooms or area then it is useless to spend 300+ on it.

Darktan's picture

Hmm... watching the Rovio move on it's wheels and the navigation is making me wonder if I could hack a Rovio to a Roomba. The ability to set a defined cleaning pattern would be interesting and I think the wheels might be a designed a little better for certain environments. You'd probably lose that height to get under things.

Still an interesting combination.


napalm's picture


Where do I line up my IR LEDS? You forgot to better describe the relationship between the homebase and the parallel two red dots. then, How are the red dots parallel to the home base?

A :>
B ..>

A or B?

> = HOME BASE(open port left side)
: = IR LIGHTS (option A)
.. = IR LIGHTS (option B)

Xas74's picture

Nice video!, Just one qustion, when installing it, any chance to apply WPA encryption to secure the WIFI?

Rob's picture

Xas74 said:
Nice video!, Just one qustion, when installing it, any chance to apply WPA encryption to secure the WIFI?


napalm's picture

WAP encryption doesn't compute with Rovio. you first need to setup your router for WEP encryp and then your able to take over the world with Rovio! ;)

napalm's picture

I have my IR setup like this :> and rovio is excellent to locate flagship. I just started using IR like this ..> maybe it will work better but what happens to your eyes if you look at IR light to much. then my concern is that there is dangerous light beaming 25 feet away accross my room. so what works and whats safe?

napalm's picture

I have no time to tinker but if someone with more time wants to give me faint praise or rebuttle my conjurement please welcome

napalm's picture

why is my rovio not following the path I programmed? anyone else having this problem? I'm starting the path from the dock/flagship and then I stay within NAV signal and in 15 seconds I amm done with the path, and then I send him home to see what he learned and rovio isnt doing anything I told him to do. every path rovio attempts is a huge failure. rovio does everything wrong. rovio is very confused when trying to copy the path that wowwee said works. I even tried setting up the NAV lights like you told me to do. like this ..> and he hasnt copied one path or movement I recorded the right way, not even close, not even close at all. I'm pretty upset and I want to return this piece of shit. help!?

RobosapienV2-4mem8's picture

Nice presentation Rudolph, The only snag was I cannot see your video for some annoying reason. Does not even show up on my PC weird. But the rest of it was fun to read.

RobosapienV2-4mem8's picture

Looks like my Zone alarm security suite is blocking all y-tube vids and my web site system, M'mm.This was an upgrade from pro.

Mover's picture

should i get one? and were do u buy the extra beakons

Mover's picture

should i get one? were do u get the extra bekons

Mover's picture


Mover's picture

should i get one? were do u get the extra bekons?

Rudolph's picture

I can't answer that, it's totally up to you. Read all the reviews you can, watch a bunch of videos, and read others' experiences in the Rovio forum. Then make an educated decision from that information. It all depends on what you expect to get from something like this.

The beacons aren't available quite yet. A WowWee representative says they may be at next week or so.

T. Wayne's picture

Great job for rovio,  took a day to tweak the bugs out.  All my issues not rovios.  Now works like a charm. Docks great, goes around and keeps the dog moving.  sound is good ,  and controls from my Ipod, laptop and desktop.  Impressive.

Thanks for the fun

T. Wayne

dj_siek's picture

It really is a great product. I am down at the beachhouse and love checking in on my place just to make sure all is good (ps3 mainly). Well done wowwee

Robosapien V10's picture

Wow! Rovio looks cool.
My Dad lives in California and we tried to get a webcam going but it kept braking. I told him about this and he said cool! Problem is, he's SOOOOOOOOOOOOO Mac, and Rovio only works with Windows. But then, you can have windows running on a Mac.

Rob's picture

Hey V10, Rovio actually works pretty good on the Mac OS nowadays. However, a decent webcam is definitely a better way to stay in touch than Rovio. The reason are endless (mediocre sound & video w/Rovio, can be a steep learning curve to set-up Rovio, many things can go wrong), so I would recommend getting a new webcam (or try a different video chat service) to keep in touch with someone. Rovio has it's benefits, but unfortunately, it's a fairly bad device to keep in touch with someone, not nearly as good as a computer webcam.

Red's picture

Reality Check:
First, tech support explained to us that incredible lag times in the control software could only be solved by "using Firefox or another browser, you can't use Internet Explorer". OK, nice to find that out after a week.

Then there's range and control. For some reason, ours would often just die once it got 15-20 feet away from the base, even when there was good wifi coverage. Tech support eventually could only guess "maybe it has a bad radio" send it back and try another one. Sometimes it worked 40-50' away, sometimes it couldn't get 20' away, no consistency at all.

Then there's the camera and headlight. Come on, Wowwee. That camera needs an awful lot of light to work, and the headlight is a cruel joke, it doesn't produce any images with the camera.

Then there's paths. Tech support never spoke enough English to help us figure that out. Can Rovio memorize a path down the hall to another room? Or does it need optional (unavailable) IR remote towers in each ceiling, in order to do that? Heck, there were 'bots ten years ago that didn't need that. Who wants to put IR towers in every corner of every hall?

This could be a great little critter, but some serious attention needs to be paid to the problems, and Wowwee isn't paying it. There are a dozen serious applications Rovio could be used for, if Wowwee would only treat it more seriously than a six-year-old's toy.

Terribly disappointing.

Rob's picture

Where is Rovio overrated? Most ratings I see online for Rovio aren't that great. And this board has loads of complaints about the problems with Rovio (I've certainly been a big complainer about the camera and light, and back when there was only WEP security).

But, what other options are there, besides Rovio and Sypkee (and DIY bots)? It's clearly not so easy to make one of these things run well... iRobot dropped their attempt.

I will say, I've had no bad experiences with Rovio range, and don't remember reading other complaints about it. I think people complain about wi-fi issues in general with computers, and I'm not sure your range problem is a Rovio issue (and the Rovio base is completely out of the loop in communicating with Rovio, you don't even need the base to be plugged in, unless you're charging, docking, or running paths, so I'm not sure what your 15-20 foot issue from the base is all about).

polis's picture

Hi my english is very bad. Pleasy i need meet What microprocessor or microcontroller use rovio? Thanks your comments Bye

Zoobag's picture

That was VERY well done and more than a little entertaining.
Very cool job ya did man....had me laughing.....
Zoobag ~~~^..^~~~

Anant's picture

I have 2 Rovios at 2 different addresses. How do I control with my lap-top, which is on Wi-fi, the two from a third address/site ? One is at BT Home hub whilst the second is at Virgin-media connected to a wireless modem.