Today we meet a friendly, second generation robot who loves to tell jokes. He’s the Meccano Meccanoid XL 2.0 Personal Robot, and he’s just dying to be your friend. Join me below for a complete review of this year’s version of the build-it-yourself bot known as Meccanoid. Last year’s version of this robot proved to be enormously popular with people of all ages, so what’s different this time around? Keep on reading for all the details.
The Meccano Meccanoid XL 2.0 Personal Robot is a build set comprised of a whopping 1014 parts that allows you to create your very own, roughly 4 foot tall, mechanical friend. Ideal for kids ages 10 and up, Meccanoid features large, expressive, LED eyes that can light up in over 500 distinct colours, and he can communicate over 3000 different pre-programmed phrases, including telling jokes, stories, words of wisdom, and fun robotic trivia. This represents a significant upgrade from the original Meccanoid G15 KS Personal Robot’s 1000 pre-programmed phrases, so this guy is pretty intelligent. And speaking of intelligent, Learned Intelligent Movement (LIM) technology allows Mr. XL to remember movements that you program into his servos simply by moving them about. Other Meccanoid play patterns include Motion Capture (played via the free Meccanoid App & using your smart phone) whereby Meccanoid watches—and mimics, your every movement, and the app based Ragdoll Avatar feature where you give Meccanoid movement commands by moving his avatar on your smart device screen. Finally, thanks to Meccanoid’s Voice Recognition Technology, you can give your XL 2.0 numerous voice commands and see how he reacts and responds. To me, this is probably the main way that you can interact with and enjoy your robot. It’s really fun!
PLAYING WITH MECCANOID
The first thing that bears mentioning about this toy is its intensive build process. Last year I believe I somewhat enjoyed the process, though it certainly doesn’t get better with repetition. The photo you see at left is an in-progress shot of the Meccanoid build, which took somewhere between 5-10 hours to complete this time around. I can’t really be more precise than that because I kept leaving and coming back to it repeatedly, plus I was frequently distracted, and the time it takes others to build will vary depending on a great number of factors. These include whether you’re building it alone or with help, whether you focus fully on the project or do it in a half distracted manner (like listening to hockey or watching movies), and whether or not you can follow the often incomprehensible instructions.
These instructions, while highly detailed & extremely comprehensive, are sometimes so convoluted that it takes a PhD and three detectives to figure them out. I’m not too sure how this is conducive to fun, but at least the kid that figures it out is probably something of a genius. The image you see at right is just 1 of 149 separate instructions in the Meccanoid booklet, and, as you can see, it consists of several sub-steps in the form of nuts and bolts that need to be perfectly placed and tightened before you go on to the next step. Getting one aspect of a single instruction wrong can lead to extensive deconstruction later on, once you’ve discovered your mistake, and this is what can lead to much longer build times. Even so, I’m sure that there are many people that would absolutely love the challenge of building something with this level of complexity. If this is you, great! If, however, you (or your child) are an impatient person, this toy could potentially drive you crazy!
Thankfully, if you wish, the Meccanoid only has to be built the once. And, once he’s been fully assembled, he becomes a whole lot more fun to those that are not mechanically inclined! I personally enjoyed giving him voice commands above all other play patterns. My favourite command, which I gave him many, many times over, was “Tell me a joke.” Meccanoid seems to have an endless supply of very lame jokes that kids (both the young and the overgrown kind—such as myself) are sure to simply love. He’s got such a dry sense of humour. I just couldn’t get enough of those jokes! Of course, there are numerous other commands that you can give, including “Do a dance” (to which he responds by dancing), “Teach me something” (which results in Meccanoid giving you an interesting lecture on one of a variety of subjects that you may choose among, including science, robot history, how Meccanoid himself works, and much more), and “Words of wisdom” (which leads to some deep insights from your Meccanoid). I believe that the latter two are new to this year’s model, because I don’t remember them from last year. Other commands that I also believe to be new are “Hug me” (and he will), “Tell me a story” (he has a few, from scary, to funny, to just plain interesting), and “Robo trivia” (bot thinks he’s Alex Trebek!).
If interacting with your Meccanoid via voice commands isn’t interesting enough for you, there are certainly other options. Meccanoid can, for instance, communicate with your smart device via Bluetooth and the Meccanoid App. This opens up a variety of different interactive play options, as I mentioned above. I think that my favourite of these is the Ragdoll Avatar feature. At right I’m providing a photo of what this avatar looks like. All you need to do to enjoy this feature is make the Meccanoid on your device screen move his arms and head, and turn him any which way you like. When you play it back, the actual Meccanoid robot will do all of the things that you made the avatar do. You are essentially writing a string of programming code when using this feature. Very educational! You can even record an audio clip as part of the string if you want. It’s a really cool feature, and I haven’t even talked about LIM yet! LIM, which stands for Learned Intelligent Movement, is kind of the same thing in a way. Once again you’re programming your Meccanoid to do certain movements and gestures. Only, with LIM, you’re physically moving Meccanoid’s limbs about in the way that you want him to move. Once you’ve programmed a LIM recording, your Meccanoid can store it and play it back at any time. Another cool feature! And honestly, I’ve barely scratched the surface of what Meccanoid XL 2.0 can do in this review. To give you the total picture would necessitate writing an entire book! Suffice too say, Meccanoid is oodles of fun (as well as highly educational) once you get him fully up and running.
Quick note: You may occasionally find yourself having to say to your Meccanoid: “Friend, you’ve got a screw loose!” This is because the Meccanoid does sometimes jitterbug himself so violently about that he works a few nuts and bolts loose enough to actually fall out. If this happens to your bot, just pick the discarded bits up again, figure out where they belong, and screw them back into place. It also really couldn’t at all hurt to just go around tightening things up from time to time. Your robotic friend is sure to appreciate it!
EXAMINING THE VIDEO EVIDENCE
Please take a few moments to enjoy my not so brief video overview of the Meccanoid XL 2.0. In it I summarize several of Meccanoid’s key features and play patterns, I offer my thoughts on the long and complex build process, and I spend a good bit of the latter half of the video just giving my Meccanoid a variety of different voice commands and enjoying the entertaining results.
If you enjoyed last year’s version of the kid sized Meccanoid personal robot, then you’re sure to really enjoy this year’s version as well! If you missed out on last year’s Meccanoid, then this year you’ll benefit from a number of firmware improvements and feature upgrades. If you were one of the people who were extremely upset that last year’s Meccanoid was not made of metal parts, you’ll be no more happy with this year’s once again all plastic robot. Even so, Meccanoid is a whole lot of fun and I definitely recommend him to anyone that enjoys building toys, educational & STEM (Science, Engineering, Technology, & Mathematics) toys, interactive toys, and just plain old fun robots. I didn’t personally enjoy the building process all that much this time around, but once he was built, I certainly had heaps of fun playing with him. He’s definitely an upgrade over last year’s model, and you may still want to pick him up even if you already have the original. In any case, he’s a friendly enough chap that’s in no way connected to Skynet, so you needn’t worry about an attack. Enjoy!