I just bought a Zoomer robotic dog out of curiosity and I am quite impressed. The toy has a really innovative design and it has a very zoomorphic level of interaction. Yes, it is more of a toy than a robot as far as motorized complexity and brain power, but the clever crafting of its drive system coupled with excellent infrared collision avoidance blurs the line a bit. Zoomer has an engaging personality, if you like frantic small dogs, although I found myself thinking it was more like a rodent or ferret when it really became insane. Voice control is superb, and the robot understands exactly the number of commands any sane person should commit to memory for such a toy.
Even at this early stage of examination, Zoomer shows hints of developing behavior at a level of complexity I did not expect. The robot does not always react the same to a command and almost always varies its responses. At times Zoomer will slow down its rapid wanderings to lay down, fall asleep, or just wag its tail. One of the most fascinating things to watch is the way the toy's eyes move when dog navigates--that is if you can keep up with it. Zoomer moves with RC car swiftness at times and can change direction with dizzying forward and backward movements as it uses its binocular infrared vision to negotiated tight spots. The toy’s sensors are very effective at guiding the robot, and reaction is quick enough to actively follow animate objects like receding human heels with relative ease. I've seen Zoomer navigate a forest of chair and table legs without getting stuck, only to emerge from the forest and do it all over again from a different angle.
I can't help but think that it is a shame this toy was not scaled up a bit and given a few more motors, a bigger battery and a programmable brain. Zoomer's ability to rapidly traverse terrain gives the toy's interactive behavior a boost, because it is at the level of an animal with a high metabolism. Zoomer can easily keep up with the walking pace that humans use at home and I think a larger one could match that of a real dog trotting along outside. The independent four wheel drive system allows for instant acceleration and quick stops, and the articulated "suspension" arms and wasp waist make for tight stunt turns and exceptional traction. The design would make for a cool full size quad ride
I feel it’s worth what I paid for the little toy, although naturally I would have happily paid less. It’s not an Aibo knock off, or a new i-Cybie. It’s not in the league of either of those robots as far as mechanical complexity or programmability. Zoomer is a new thing; it’s faster and more agile than anything out there and it offers a glimpse into the faster paced interaction possible with future robotic pets.