Today I review the new Meccano Meccanoid G15 KS Personal Robot—an absolute beast of a toy, and one of the very best of 2015 (particularly if you like toys that make you work!). If you like the idea of having your very own personal robot to wait on you hand and foot, then you’ve really got to see this guy. Of course, he won’t really wait on you at all, but he is a whole lot of fun and about as close as you’re going to get to having an intelligent mechanical companion unless you happen to be Geordi La Forge and can claim friendship with the incomparable android, Lieutenant Commander Data. Read on for full details of this modern toy marvel!
My first impression? Well, just take a look at that photo over there –> and I doubt you’ll have any trouble guessing. I was absolutely blown away by the sheer volume of bits and pieces that this thing comes with, and I was certainly overwhelmed at the thought of putting it all together. I just didn’t know how I was going to get it all done. Of course, I’ve always enjoyed a challenge, and this thing certainly provides that! When you feel the weight of the box and see the 1188 individual parts inside, all you want to do is get this thing up and running as quickly as possible.
Take a look at the nuts & bolts bag that the Meccanoid comes with. It’s crazy! It must weigh a full 2 pounds, and there are multiple types and lengths of bolts (as well as 2 different kinds of nuts and an included screwdriver that fits them all). Actually it’s an Allen Wrench with the handle of a screwdriver. A pretty convenient inclusion, really. And there’s another small wrench that’s good for holding nuts in place as you screw the bolt in. You don’t really need it much in the beginning, but as things start to come together more fully, the small wrench is your only way to reach into tight places and hold the nut in place as you attempt to screw in the corresponding bolt. I’ve included a photo of these 2 useful tools in the mini gallery below.
Charting the Key Considerations
|How much set up (assembly) time is required to build this bot?||The fact of the matter is this: This bot takes some serious time to put together! It’s a lot like putting together a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle, only this guy has nearly 1200 parts in total and many of them are electronic, moving parts. Of course, as with any puzzle, the assembly process is at least half the fun. All up this bot took a full 20 hours for me and my wife to complete.|
|What type & quantity of batteries does the Meccanoid Robit use?||Meccanoid comes with 1 x Ni-MH 1800 mAh Rechargeable battery and a plug-in wall adapter to charge it up with. Aside from this, you’ll need no additional power source.|
|What are the mobility (& range) characteristics of the Meccanoid?||The Meccanoid Personal Robot has 8 servo motors (the innards of one of these is servos is shown in the mini gallery below) that provide as many points of articulation throughout the upper half of his body. He’s got 2 servos for head / neck movements (one for side to side turning and one for side to side tilting), 2 servos in each shoulder (one for forward and backward movements and one for moving his arm outward and away from the body), and 1 final servo in each of his elbows. All up, Meccanoid’s arms feature a full range of motion. Meccanoid has no knee or hip mobility at all, however, but he does have wheels in his feet that are controlled by 2 additional (though a different kind of) servo motors. That’s 10 motors in all! This allows your Meccanoid to roll forward and backward on his rollers—when he wants to follow you around.|
|Does the Meccanoid Personal Robot feature any special lights & sounds?||Yes, Meccanoid features light-up buttons & eyes, fun robotic sounds, and he can speak over 1000 pre-programmed phrases. He’ll even ask you your name and repeat it back to you later (though it’s just a recording of your own voice saying your name). Sometimes Meccanoid can talk a bit too much, but that’s ok, he’s just a really friendly kind of guy.|
|What is the suggested age range of the Meccanoid Bot?||Meccanoid is meant for kids ages 10+, and I would definitely not recommend him for those any younger than that. In fact, Meccanoid is so complex and difficult to assemble, that many 10+ kids may not fully enjoy him—at least from an assembly standpoint. Any 10 year old child is likely to love playing with this guy, but I would suggest that mechanically inclined kids (or those who love to assemble complex puzzles) are the ones most likely to enjoy putting him together (which is a key part of Meccanoid’s play value). For many families, Meccanoid could serve as a great family project, with parents and kids pitching in together to get him fully completed.|
|How much of a WOW factor (on a 0-5 scale) does the Meccanoid have?||
I think it’s fair to give the Meccanoid a solid 4 / 5 on the WOW scale. He would probably score higher if he had lower body articulation (i.e., knee and hip joints), wasn’t so frighteningly complicated, and didn’t remind me so much of the robot from Short Circuit. I’m not sure why that last one bothers me, but it does.
Testing & Play
Much of the “play” value of the Meccanoid Personal Robot is the actual assembly process. You can spend days and days building his humanoid robot form, or you can create any other creature that your imagination can conjure up. There’s even an official dinosaur mode that you can build (see image in the mini gallery below), though the instructions for this configuration are not included with the set. Much of the fun of the Meccanoid, then, is in letting your imagination lead you to build whatever you like. In this way, the Meccanoid is a lot like a large LEGO set, except with nuts and bolts to hold everything together. Sadly, I suspect that some kids may lose interest in their Meccanoid in the face of such a daunting assembly task. Still others may not be able to figure him out. If you have a 10 year old child that successfully assembles the Meccanoid inside of a month with no help from any adults, I suggest having him or her tested. You might just have a genius on your hands!
My wife and I actually spent so much time putting this guy together (20 hours over several days), that we’ve barely had any time left over to play with the end product. Still, we’ve been practicing giving the Meccanoid various commands and seeing how well he obeys. Maybe not surprisingly, he’s a pretty well behaved bot (though we were briefly concerned about a possible robot uprising!). As for what your Meccanoid can do, the list is actually quite long. A short sampling of his abilities includes being able to give you a high five, being able to tell you a joke, and being able to follow a long list of commands. For example, if you say to Meccanoid, “Walk with me,” your mechanical friend will ask you to take his hand and lead him along in a walk, whistling as he goes. Meccanoid can also tell you the time if you’ve programmed the correct time into him. There’s even a free app that you can download to your smart device to unlock enhanced play features.
Not bad Meccanoid, not bad at all!
For & Against
The biggest thing that the Meccanoid has going for him is probably the fact that he’s a very rewarding project to complete. I could see kids, adults, pretty much anyone taking a great deal of satisfaction in the successful completion of this seriously challenging bot. It could be a real boost to a child’s confidence to put this thing together, even if they do it with a little help from mum and dad. And the great thing about ultimately completing him is that you finally get to play with him, which itself is no small thing. With all of the amazing ways there are to interact with this guy (which includes things like giving him verbal commands or having him mimic your actions), there are literally hours and hours of play value here beyond the building aspects of play. Add to that the fact that you don’t have to follow the instructions—you can literally build anything you want (quantity of parts permitting), and you’ve got a real winner of a toy! It’s imaginative, fun, and seriously educational. I guess that’s a lot more than one thing that the Meccanoid has going for him then, huh?!
Similarly, there isn’t so much a single significant factor that recommends against buying this guy. Rather, there’s an accumulation of several smaller negatives that really begin to add up. Included in this list are the considerable expense of the Meccanoid, the fact that he’s super complex (which may be a positive to some), the surprising lack of extra nuts and bolts (he’s got almost exactly enough to be assembled with very few spares remaining), and the (at times) difficult to follow instructions (which occasionally show things like wires leading to nowhere). On the whole, though, the instructions are actually quite good (there’s over 50 pages of them provided), but in some places they can be vague and lead to mis-steps in the assembly process. This is not only quite frustrating to deal with, but it also leads to backtracking (i.e., undoing the steps you discover were done wrong) and a whole lot more time spent working on the Meccanoid than he really should take.
Examining the Video Evidence
Please check out my short introductory video of the Meccanoid Personal Robot (my apologies for the background noise—there’s been construction going on across the street for weeks)…
In the grand scheme of things, I do recommend the Meccanoid Personal Robot, though with a few key caveats. First of all, you’ve got to make sure the kid (or kids) you’re getting this for are going to enjoy playing with it. Those with an interest in building things, putting puzzles together, or a mind for the mechanical are the strongest candidates. Secondly, also keep in mind that you, as the parent, may have to put this bot together for them (in other words, book a week’s vacation beginning the same day you present this to the recipient). Thirdly, it ain’t cheap! And, finally, if your child would like an interactive robotic toy to play with (but not to build themselves), there are certainly plenty of smart toy options that come already assembled and work right out of the box. Click HERE for several fun examples.
That’s all for now folks. But keep an eye out in the next few days for my review of 4 amazing Star Wars Force FX Lightsabers. It’s gonna be a blast!
Mini Gallery of Additional Photos