The robosapien lands on my doorstep one sunny afternoon, packaged in one of those large FedEx boxes that never fail to make life taste sweeter. I'm enthralled, partly because it's been touted as the first robot with personality, and partly because I can finally get rid of my monkey servant who is always throwing his feces at my face.
Hong Kong-based Wow Wee, which has obviously disregarded the valuable lessons taught by the Terminator franchise, has developed the world's first "intelligent entertainment humanoid." The 14-inch Robosapien will be introduced in August at an affordable $129 (at Toys R Us , 900 Dufferin, 416-532-8697, and others), effectively making it this year's Furby - but not as shitty.
I take the package out of the box and, after popping some batteries into its feet and into the remote control, the set-up is complete. It's built on B.E.A.M. (biology, electronics, aesthetics and mechanics) principles, so it relies not on microprocessors but on seven motors placed throughout its frame. In less than 10 minutes I have my own personal slave - ready, I hope, to lick my stamps, iron my shirts and sew some Nikes for worldwide consumption.
Using the science of applied biomorphic robotics, a technology developed by Mars Rover designer Mark Tilden, Robosapien moves in a more natural manner than familiar robots of yore like C-3PO and David Blaine, walking in a pendulum-like movement, its hips shifting while raising one arm, and shaking after peeing.
Though the average movie portrays robots speaking in a British woman's sultry voice, Robosapien communicates in Caveman, a universal language of grunts, groans, yawns, whistles, belches and farts, making me believe that the good people at Wow Wee did all of their voice-over work up in Woodbridge.
Included are 67 pre-programmed functions, including pickup, throw, kick, sweep and an array of kung fu moves that would make Jet Li wet his pants. Robosapien also comes equipped with three demo programs, Dance, Kung Fu and Rude Behaviour, each one setting it off on a multitude of blazing-fast moves that will really freak out of any cats in the vicinity.
It also has half a dozen sensors scattered throughout its body to detect and avoid obstacles and obstructions, and exclaims, "Ouch!," when one of them is triggered.
I press the button labelled "dance" while saying maniacally, "Dance for me, my pet! Dance!" Unlike my girlfriend, Robosapien obediently hops into a frenzy of disco-era moves. It never makes me sleep on the floor or tells me I need to "change."
After toying around with the basic functions, it's time to get down to business. Using the custom programming option, I attempt to enter a sequence of commands to get it to bring me a beer, wash the Passat and scare the shit out of those irritating neighbour kids who're always calling me Creepy McNopants while throwing rocks.
Disappointment overcomes me when I discover it's not equipped for such complex instructions. Robosapien responds by blinking its eyes, roaring, doing a 360, then picking up a sock and throwing it at my face.
Still, I think, better than feces.