The WowWee RoboPanda

Mar 29, 2012

You can’t say I’m not doing my part for conservation; I adopted a panda. After all, If not now, when? If not me, who? Okay, that’s a little over the top but you get the idea. Anyway, in thinking about it, I’m not so sure that the panda I adopted is going to have that positive an effect on the environment because it’s a robot. So, what did you expect on a robot website?


I finally bought the last actual robotic toy that WowWee has to offer. I’m not a big fan of all their off the wall weirdness like PaperJamz music instruments, the little USB talking characters (which never worked for me) or their mini projector. Those things are a departure from what I think WowWee is good at, and that’s little robots.  I have Robosapiens small and large, Robopets and Raptors, Femisapiens, JoeBots,Rovers, Mr. Personality …you get the idea. Anyway, I saw the RoboPanda on the Woot! website for a remarkably low price and so I bought it, thinking I would probably give it to my grandkids.


Of course, when it showed up I realized that:


A: It would not last 10 minutes in their destructive little hands; and

B: It was too complex for them to operate at their tender ages of 3 and 4.


Okay, there’s a C  here too, and that is that if I kept it, my robot collection would be complete as far as WowWee is concerned.  I mean the WowWee that roboticist Mark Tilden made famous with his hacking-intended, nearly indestructable Robosapien. The Panda displays none of the attributes of a Tilden design, which figures since the designer wandered off from WowWee some time ago and since then the company has been running on steadily decreasing inertia and producing less and less respectable products. But the Panda was a last kind of orgasmic spurt, exhausting the seed planted by Mark Tilden so very long ago. Rest in Peace, WowWee. Yeah, I know they’re still alive, but not as far as any discerning customer is concerned.  I mean, really. PaperJamz?


Yes, the RoboPanda is a kiddie toy. Which goes to demonstrate the confusion in the executive branch of the WowWee headquarters. They built a robot for little kids that tells stupid stories, plays games only a toddler can love, and has small parts perfectly sized for lodging in kiddie throats while being as durable as Italian crystal wine glasses. They should have given it the “Ha Ha You Can’t Break Me” durability of the Robosapien and the simplicity of the JoeBot to appeal to the market they aimed at. What they’ve built is a product that parents will take one look at and then spirit it off somewhere safe before the kids can get their peanut butter encrusted hands on it. (Late at night you will find those parents hiding in closets and watching the Panda do its stuff, wishing they could program it for more adult jokes and action sequences.)


In a stroke of ironic genius, they made this panda to have a plushie panda toy of its own. It will play with it just like you wish you children would play with all of their toys. Quite gently and without need for vigilant supervision. It cracks me up that a toy would have a toy, but hey, I’m also fascinated by small shiny objects. Especially if they talk.


So, were I to give this item a review, first I would give it 5 stars for concept, 4 stars for ease of use, three stars for needed batteries, 2 stars for durability and 1 star for packing. I swear to God, WowWee packs their shit so it takes HOURS to unwrap all of the protective wires and supports, tape and plastic forms, and two trees worth of cardboard. These things were packed to withstand the rigors of disgruntled Postal workers drop kicking the packages to the next galaxy. When you set out to open one of their packages, come equipped with a machete, a Sawsall, wire clippers and a lot of valium. And pack a lunch.


For all of the trauma involved in freeing the toy from its packing, the battery installation is almost therapy. It requires a game of Find-The-Compartment that results in C batteries in the soles of its feet and a four pack of double As stuffed up its ..rear. But then you can switch it on and delight yourself for an hour or so with the user guide in one hand and the other poking and prodding the panda as you put it through its paces. Only then can you expose it to children of that youthful age under your watchful eyes. Be ready with canned statements like:


Don’t pull its arm off

Quit twisting its head

Don’t pull its leg off

Touch it gently

Stop kicking it


Better yet, just keep it for yourself.

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