At a price of $2600, Systec Akazawa’s desktop robot Plen doesn’t come cheap, but I’ll be damned if he isn’t the single best desktop gadget ever invented. At 9” tall, Plen is a real Chibi-Robo that can bust a move, and by that I mean he has 18 DOF (degrees of freedom) – not bad for such a tiny ‘bot. You control him via bluetooth, and he comes with some neato accessories, like rollerskates and a skateboard.
Most bipedal robots are equipped with gyroscopic sensors and the like to help them maintain balance just standing still, so you can imagine how good Plen’s balance must be if he can roller skate. He can do it backwards, too. Even without articulated hands, he still manages to bear-hug things up into the air (assuming they’re light enough for his little arms to lift).
He’s coordinated enough to lift a paper soccer ball and kick it (an undeniably cute precious few inches) across your desk, or sweep away candy wrappers using a tiny push-broom. Despite the high price I must admit I’m intrigued. Still, one wonders why he is so expensive considering Takara Tomy’s i-Sobot (another diminutive robot friend) will only set you back about $100~$200.
Systec Akazawa went bust in January 2009, but Plen’s fate is still up in the air. Though Systec Akazawa’s website is no longer online, Plen’s homepage still is. Many retailers still sell the robot, but it’s unclear what kind of support you can expect if there’s something wrong with it or you need help with the motion editor software.
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