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Technology Reviews

By Ron Brownlow  /  STAFF REPORTER

Peter O'Toole arrives for the film premiere of his film Venus in central London on Monday.

PHOTO COURTESY OF PRO PACIFIC TOYS

It keeps watch in front of your bedroom. If it falls on its back its legs lift it straight up again. It has four personalities, including an English butler and another that talks like a cowboy. A schizophrenic ninja? No, this is the Robosapien RS Media, a half-meter high robot that "sees, hears and even speaks!"

WowWee Robotics' Robosapien RS Media can be programmed to pick up and throw objects, dance, wave its arms and lie down. He talks to you with a vocabulary of 160 unique phrases. His head-mounted infrared sensor tracks movement and recognizes colors. This is the kind of toy that inspires children to throw tantrums and refuse solid food until their parents buy them one.

As advances in technology have made gadgets more affordable and user-friendly, children of all ages are expecting more from their toys. They want increasingly realistic robots they can program and command, toys that interface with their media devices, and cameras that actually take pictures and record video. Here's a sample of hi-tech toys that are certain to remain popular through the Lunar New Year.

Robosapien RS Media

At half a meter in height, Robosapien RS Media stands nearly at eye-level with a small child. It comes with four personalities, including Billy Joe, the Texas cowboy, Service Bot, the butler, and Space Bot, "a robotic hero committed to peace, justice and alien extermination." Wave your hand in front of his face, and he expresses alarm or makes a sarcastic comment.

Users can also create their own personalities, store them on SD memory cards, and swap them via the SC card slot on the robot's back. RS Media's color LCD screen offers a view of what the robot is seeing and recording through its head-mounted camera. It can also display an image or MPEG4 video stored on the SD-Card. Its USB port allows you to upload songs from an MP3 player for playback via the 11-watt stereo speakers in its hands and a subwoofer on its back.

Robosapien RS Media has been heralded as the most sophisticated toy robot on the market. It can stand guard in front of a room and won't budge until it detects movement. It can recognize different people and reacts to them in different ways. You can move the robot's limbs by hand or via its remote control and store the motion on its 1GB SD card. You can also record your own voice onto an SD card. All of this information can then be manipulated and tied together on a PC through the robot's BodyCon software package, in effect turning the user into a puppet master.

The first Robosapien model sold more than 2 million units worldwide over two years, including 8,000 in Taiwan. The RS Media has already sold 1,000 of the new units here. It's priced at NT$17,999 and is available at Toys'R Us, Shilin Electric (士林電機), and some department stores.

miFlower

You've probably seen solar-powered artificial plants in the window of your local toy store recently, the ones with flowers or leaves that rock back and forth at an incessant but somehow relaxing pace. Take one of these, add a speaker, an electronic face and a connection for a portable music device, and you get miFlower.

Connect miFlower to an MP3 player and it comes alive. Its leaves sway, its LCD face displays a variety of emotions, and its six LED-lit petals light up in different patterns, depending on what kind of music it's playing. Put on a soft ballad and miFlower sways gently. Play hard rock and it jerks back and forth. MiFlower will also smile if you interact with it, or complain if you ignore it.

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