The interactive Roboni-i, built by Robonica was initially dubbed “the world’s first robotic gaming platform.”

This $249.99 (suggested retail price) Roboni-i system kit includes the robot, a base station, wireless controller, seven preloaded games, USB cable, special “hubs”/markers, and other accessories.

The personal robot has impressive hardware including four processors, several sensors, obstacle detection, propulsion, and a speaker.  The three main components use AA batteries: the robot requires six, the mobile controller four, and the base station two.

The controller has an LCD screen which shows robot status, battery status, the current game being played, and the robot’s “happiness” level. The controls promote 360-degree motion and quick turns for the wide, two-wheeled robot, which moves best on hard, flat surfaces.

Game modes and interactions include one player, multiplayer (another robot needed), and online, which includes games for cash prizes. Players can start with the preloaded games (four are one player and three multiplayer) on a playing field with specially placed hubs. Players were previously able to try out flash games online like Pod Chase to get a sense of the game modes.

The robot performs actions like basic movements — going from one accessory to another, picking up balls, firing its gun (infrared light), and reacting to wall hits while the controller gives directions and game status on the screen. Beginning levels automatically line up gunshots so one important objective becomes mastering the robot’s movement. The preloaded Colors game provides a good introduction as players run over the colored hubs in the order given on the controller display. Other single player preloaded games include CodeBreaker, MaxOut, and CounterAct. The preloaded multiplayer/team games are SpacePods, ConQuest, and OverLoad.

Players interface with a computer to change the robots volume; register for contests; and view competition schedule then find other player’s score, ranks, and profiles. The command center software is ideal for a laptop computer so players have more mobile gaming options. This software works with Microsoft Windows XP, Vista, and Windows 7 operating systems and includes a tutorial.

The online downloadable games can give players a constant game cache. Players can also create their own games or download games made by others. Unique customization options, programming capabilities, and other tinkering bits and pieces means this very tangible system can create a very high player ownership level. Additionally, as players earn higher “RoboTX” levels, they unlock new interactions. The robot explores on its own in the physical world and performs unique moves as players change the robot’s proximity to the base station.

All these elements may make the Roboni-i a unique gaming experience that’s impressive and expansive, but could have been more user-friendly. Recommended with reservations (**1/2 out of four stars).

Copyright © Michael Siebenaler

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