m4s0n501
Mechanical Fauna

RoboPhilo

Jan 4, 2011

RED ALERT!!!

Man, I wanted one of these things for a couple of years now. I was all ready to buy one a year ago, but my health got in the way and so I had to postpone my purchase. But after saving up again, I forked over nearly $300 for a RoboPhilo Jr from RoboBrothers.com. It brags 10 points of freedom and the ability to program it for all sorts of task, the primary one being robot to robot combat.

I had thought that I was dealing with an American company in California, but this thing came from the Orient as so many techno toys do. It bode badly when doing the initial inventory of inclusions in the Ready to Walk package I found it was missing a part. The robot has a little stand that supports the robot in an upright position. But the stand was missing a primary connector that the three tubes that form the stand all hook up to. I popped off a note to RoboBrothers asking for them to supply the missing piece.

I went through the Users Guide and set the robot up, charging and installing the battery. I took the little guy out to the kitchen so it would have a nice, flat floor to walk on and powered it up. I put it through a few paces, enjoying the Karate moves it was able to make. In the middle of one move, the robot leaned too far backwards and fell over. I recovered it immediately but in that one little fall, the robot knocked itself totally out of whack. After the fall, turning on the robot caused it to cock one foot akimbo and slam its left arm into its side, and then it sits there straining against itself unable to complete any moves. I am the owner of a $250 base price paper weight.

I understand that these are complex items, but I have a LOT of robots and because of this I know a little about them. The RoboPhilo is too fragile to be what it claims to be, and is built a lot more cheaply than I was expecting for the high price. I have a Tomy IsoBot which has virtually all of the same capabilities of degrees of freedom that outperforms the ‘Philo at half it’s cost!  I’ll grant that it is a full two inches shorter than the ‘Philo, but the little bugger has walked off tables, fallen down stairs and suffered the inquisitive fingers of children and has never required that I perform any maintenance at all except charge the batteries. The IsoBot is more stable and recovers itself more quickly and easily than the ‘Philo.

I sent off another email to RoboBrothers asking them their policies on exchange and repair. Frankly, I would just as soon return it for a refund and get something better. There are a number of choices in humanoid, bipedal robots ranging in price from $130 up to $700 in the RoboPhilo class. All things being equal, my Robosapien V2 is more fun to use and can withstand totally disreputable handling and like a Timex, take a licking and keep on ticking.  I’ll update this disappointing set of events as the story continues to unfold.

01-12-2011

I got my answer, but it took requesting a forced refund from PayPal to get it. I was simply pointed to the instructions for setting up a RoboPhilo from scratch and reloading its software. I tossed the instructions over my shoulder because I figure this robot is a wrote-off. RoboBrothers doesn’t honor warranty, but uses every legal trick to keep from having to be responsible for their product. In the end I found that the simple tip over has stripped a tooth from one of the servo gears. I replaced the servo with a servo that I had on the shelf, kept for just such a need.  Then I reloaded the robot and it was working again. But basically the robot became $30 more expensive in a hurry.

Once it was working, I found another weakness in the robot. It’s battery too low in amperage to maintain a charge very long. I get about five minutes of operation on a single charge and then the robot goes unstable and cannot complete entire movement routines. I got looking at it and came to a few conclusions: 1) The RoboPhilo’s feet are large enough to accommodate a 3.7v LiPo cell about 1.75 x 2.5 inches. That will add to its stability by lower its center of gravity and also increase its run time by a couple of orders of magnitude. I figure I will be hitting up batteryspace.com in the near future for a pair of these $10 cells. 2) If you have a 64 bit computer (and that’s pretty much all one gets these days) then you’re out of luck. RoboPhilo’s software is 32 bit only so a lot of Vista and Win7 owners will need to get a 32 bit device –maybe a netbook or something– to support the robot with. 3) The factory programming is so badly written that the robot is destined to fall over simply by virtue of the way it throws its weight unnecessarily. I can and will write a much smoother sequence.

So my bottom line is this: I wouldn’t buy a RoboPhilo if I had it to do over. It’s design and construction is way too fragile and the company is non-supportive –the language differences of english and chinese definitely making instructions difficult to understand. My so-called American designed Chinese made robot cost me $250 plus $50 shipping, plus $30 for a replacement servo, jacking the cost up to $350 right off the get go in out of pocket expense.  am still waiting for them to send me the part of the stand that was missing from the kit. My RoboPhilo sits in it’s original box and I’m not anxious to play with it. Doing so simply makes it break itself. So I will modify it and do a number of things that the designers and builders should have done. When I am finished, it won’t be a RoboPhilo anymore. But at least the robot will be useful.