SLIDESHOW

WowWee Robots of CES

The sharpest collection of robots this side of Blade Runner is on hand for the 2009 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, under the watchful eye of WowWee.

WowWee's Latest High-Tech Robotic Toys

WowWee is about to unveil its new line of high-tech robotic toys--but you don't have to wait until next weekend to see what's in store. Here's a sneak peek at the lineup that will be introduced at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas this week.

The products include a remote-controlled, Internet-connected robotic spy camera; a microprojector that can display images and video from your iPhone or iPod on any wall; a remote-controlled UFO-style flying machine; a couple of new interactive robots that can beatbox and battle; and some new lifelike robotic dolls for the kids.

Pushing the limits of robotics is nothing new for WowWee. The company made headlines in the past with such innovations as its robotic Elvis head, its BladeStar flying battle bot, and its flirtatious FemiSapien lady-bot.

Next: Spyball spy cam.

Spyball Spy Cam

We'll begin with what may be the company's most intriguing (and potentially privacy-trampling) addition to its lineup: the Spyball spy-cam. Spyball takes the idea behind the Rovio home surveillance robot and gives it a Bond-friendly edge. This bad boy transforms itself from a rolling, remote-controlled ball into a high-power camera in seconds, enabling you to sneak it into any room and observe what's going on inside.

Like the Rovio, the SpyBall is Wi-Fi-enabled, so you can tap into its feed from any wireless device to watch what's happening. The Spyball grabs both still images and video, and WowWee describes it as having "sleek wheels" that won't make a racket as they roll. Oh yeah--you can even hook it up to your home network so you can control the device from any Internet connection, anywhere.

You'll never have to ask "Am I on Candid Camera?" again because--let's face it--you'll never be more than Spyball's throw away from around-the-clock surveillance.

Next: The Cinemin projector

Cinemin Projector

The days of having to show videos on your iPhone or iPod screen are over, thanks to the WowWee Cinemin. The Cinemin uses technology developed by Texas Instruments to let you project sharp images from your mobile device onto any flat surface. It's the same type of foundation that powers HDTVs and real movie projectors.

The Cinemin comes in three versions: The Cinemin Swivel pico projector features an adjustable hinge that lets you display your show on the ceiling or anywhere else. The Cinemin Stick pico projector doesn't swivel but does come with an internal memory and an expandable SD Card memory slot so you can save graphical content right on it. Finally, the Cinemin Station pico projector doubles as an iPod docking station and provides the largest images and the loudest sound of the three models.

I project that I won't be able to afford any of these. But hey, there's always National Send a Writer $500 Day. It's tomorrow. I'll get you my address.

Next: The Joebot buddy

Joebot Buddy

If you're feeling a little lonely, the new Joebot robot just might do the trick. Described as an "interactive buddy," the Joebot will walk, talk, and even beatbox. You tap out a beat, and Joebot will repeat it while busting some serious moves. The unit's voice command feature enables it to recognize and respond to specific preprogrammed phrases (fortunately, this version of the robot is not programmed to issue commands that you might recognize and respond to).

Joebot's best feature, though, may be its Battle Mode. When you activate this mode, the little mechanical dude will wander around and shoot at things with its hand weapons. If you feel feisty, you can challenge Joebot to a duel by aiming a TV remote its way; the easily riled automaton will respond to the remote's infrared provocation by attempting to duke it out with you.

Oh, and as you goad Joebot into a flurry of fisticuffs, take a moment to consider whether your idea of fun and the fact that you were feeling lonely a minute ago might be related.

Next: The FlyTech Lightstar

FlyTech Lightstar

The WowWee FlyTech Lightstar may not be the most practical piece of machinery, but it sure looks neat. This flyer has LED lights throughout that are said to produce a glowing halo effect when it soars. It's supposedly crash-resistant (I'd like to test that), and you pilot it by means of a scroll-wheel remote control. One charge gives it enough juice to fly for 4 hours, according to WowWee.

Psychedelic substances not included.

Next: The Roborover

Roborover

Watch out, Joebot! Roborover's ready to rumble. The second new robo-friend in WowWee's 2009 lineup, Roborover gets around on Wall-E-style treadmill feet and has an interactive personality that develops as you get to know it. Roborover comes with built-in driving games and multiple sensors that help it figure out where it's going. (So much for existential robot angst.)

Roborover's best feature is its "Follow Me" homing function. Turn it on and the R-tron will use its LED sensors to track you down. The Roborover even has headlights to help it seek you in the dark.

Now, that's a directive Wall-E could get on board with.

Next: Plush Dolls

Plush Dolls

Finally, WowWee is upgrading its popular Alive Cubs (introduced at CES in 2008). The new additions include the WowWee Alive Seal Pup, Husky Puppy, Koala Joey, and Leopard Cub.

Like the '08 models, these new pals are soft and huggable, with animated expressions and sayings, and touch-triggered reactions. (Incidentally, that description also applies to me.) WowWee's promotional materials assert that the Cubs "come alive with love and attention." Each also comes with adoption papers and a family portrait.

Maybe not as cool as the Spycam, but the kids might like 'em.

And that's just the start of the great items on display at this year's Consumer Electronics Show. Check PCWorld.com frequently for updates on the hottest stuff on the show floor.