Several months ago, I reviewed a humanoid robotic product for the first time, the UBTECH Alpha1 Pro. This time round, I took on the UBTECH Jimu robots kit. The difference is that Jimu robot kits are modular and consists of various components to assemble together into any shape and form you desire.
The components are packaged in 6 bright-coloured boxes and clearly labelled. The Main Control box is the Jimu robot’s “brain” and battery. The 6 servos are the joints to perform actions. The other boxes contain connectors, fasteners, character parts and wires, and the charging adapter. The connectors appear to be similar to Lego Technics elements.
In terms of play value, the Jimu robots are more fun, yet more affordable. The Buzzbot & Muttbot kit on review here is retailing at S$299. This kit has 2 names, because it contains components that can be assembled into either a humanoid or a quadruped. There are step-by-step instructions via the smartphone app, and these assembly instructions are highly interactive which allows the user to swipe and zoom to see the steps in 3D perspective. The inside of the retail box shows all the components in labels, which helps in locating them while assembling.
Once the build is complete, you can navigate on the apps to other sections, like “action” page, “coding” page, “controller’ page. As the names suggest, action page is to make the assembled robot execute some pre-determined actions, or to create your own. The app also allows you to record short video clips while you tap the actions to execute. The coding page lets you create interactive actions based on events. The controller page lets you configure a page of buttons to control the robot actions.
The list of coding blocks are not as extensive as Lego Mindstorms, but they are sufficient to keep the programming manageable for the young ages. Some coding blocks may not apply to the various kits. For instance, the Buzzbot & Muttbot kit does not come with IR sensor or gyroscope, so these coding blocks cannot work. The app also has a community section to see the creative works of other Jimu users, where you can read comments and offer likes.
I find the Muttbot more entertaining, because it is four-legged, which makes it appear like a pet animal. But the Muttbot only uses 4 servo motors while the Buzzbot uses 6 which achieves more elaborate actions, like twisting the hips.
Here is a demo of all the preset actions of Muttbot.
Compared to the Alpha1 Pro, the Jimu units are less noisy, since there are fewer servos. Its centre of gravity is lower and so less tendency to tip over and fall. I do miss the ability to record the actions by posing, which the Alpha1 supports. The Alpha1 also has built-in speaker which makes it more appealing as a robotic entertainment unit.
The Jimu, on the other hand, encourages robotics development, much like what Lego Mindstorms have been doing. The Jimu Kits are affordable and delivers instant fun, while Mindstorms require more patience before achieving results.
Robotics may not appeal to everyone. My daughter was only keen in assembling, and never got down into exploring the programming aspect. Fortunately, she can be kept entertained with the various features to move the robots and have a good laugh. The Jimu Buzzbot & Muttbot Kit is a start to exposing robotics to the young generation to trigger his or her inner interest, without the steep learning curve of Lego Mindstorms.
The six Jimu Robots kit are available now in key retailers such as Tangs Orchard, Robinsons Heeren, Harvey Norman, Nubox Stores, Changi Airport Terminal 1, 2 & 3, Analogue+, hachi.tech (Online) Courts (Online), and authorized UBTECH retailers in Singapore, distributed by Ban Leong Technologies Limited.
Retail prices of the Jimu kits:
- Mini Kit S$229
- Karbot Kit S$259
- Buzzbot Muttbot Kit S$299
- Explorer Kit S$379
- Inventor Kit S$659
- Tankbot S$279
All Jimu kits include a main control box and a lithium ion battery & adapter and feature:
Interchangeable Parts – All Jimu Robot parts are interchangeable with other Jimu sets, so after building the official models, you can create your own inventions by mixing with parts from any other set.
Servo Motors – The key to the Jimu Robots’ amazingly lifelike movements is the high-torque robotic servo motor, allowing for fluidity and stability when moving from one pose to another.
Jimu Robot App – The free app provides easy-to-follow 3D-illustrated building instructions, pre-programmed actions, Pose-Record-Play and direct-servo programming, Blockly coding to sequence your actions, and an in-App “Joystick” remote to control your Jimu Robot in real time on your smart device. The app also serves as a portal to a closed online community of Jimu enthusiasts.