WITH THE return of Robot Wars this week, we thought we'd take a look at some cool gadgets for fans of the show, and budding Roboteers alike. And people who just like breaking stuff.
HexBug BattleBots Arena
While we wait for the official Robot Wars toys that are due before Christmas, Hexbug, who make a whole range of cool interactive robot toys have released the Battle Bots arena, tying in with the US version of the show.
A sturdy (it'd have to be) arena with two lightweight robots and tiny remote controls. The secret is that the bots shells are held on with magnets and clips so when you start using the controllers to bash them into each other, bits will go everywhere. There's two in the box, and more available separately.
Whether it scratches the itch until new UK toys are available is up to you, but our gut feeling would be to buy both.
Technology Will Save Us Mover Kit
TWSU have been making some cracking kits for budding coders for a while now. This one, the Mover Kit can be used to create gadgets that react to movement, for example, a wrist display that lights up when you point it at your face, or a fitness tracker. It comes with loads of lights and sounds and is a cinch to code, so you can make whatever you like quickly and easily.
Asus Tinker Board MG3215T-C
A bit more grown up this one. After the success of the Raspberry Pi, it was inevitable that we'd start to see loads more barebones computers arrive. Now even the big boys are joining in. The Tinker Board boasts a Rockchip 3288C quad-core 1.8Ghz processor, 600MHz Mali GPU, 2GB of RAM, will upscale your video to 4K via HDMI, has HD Audio, Bluetooth and the familiarity of similar kits but the oomph of Asus. There are four USB ports, microSD for the operating system and bags of possibilities.
Ubtech Jimu Robot Astrobot
Imagine the best Lego set you ever had, then add an app, then add coding, then add... well the possibilities are endless. And so it is with Astrobot, one of a range of sort-of-supposed-to-be educational toys that are basically about building the frick out of robots from parts using your phone as both your guide and eventually your controller. There are lots of different forms that Astrobot can take, it's not a one time Airfix type deal, and the joy is working out what you can do with what arrangement. We love it. And let's not pretend there's not a Stormtrooper version coming out in time for Star Wars, yo?
When Sphero isn't busy making Star Wars droids, such as the wildly successful app-controlled BB-8, it makes balls that roll around. They're the same principle as BB-8, but they have a lot more possibilities when it comes to coding. Widely used in classrooms, the Sphero series has just been augmented with the Sphero Mini - nearly a quarter of the price of old BB and able to do much the same stuff, plus you can learn to code him at the same time. And if you're so inclined, dip him in paint and let him roll you some modern art.
Tsprotek magnetic protect work mat
We almost screamed when we saw this. Why had no one told us these exist before? It's very simple. It's a mat to do your screwing and unscrewing on. It means you don't lose the screws... duh! And at this price, why wouldn't you have one? This one also doubles as a whiteboard so you can make a note of what screws you've put in what square so they don't get mixed up. It's the mat that keeps on giving and is so handy its actually making us a little bit angry at how good it is.
EasyTool 51-in-1 Mobile Phone Repair Set
From the same stable as the magnetic workmat, this gorgeous and, let's face it, very thorough, 51 piece tool kit is brilliant for your close up work - putting circuit boards together and such. It has tools for prizing apart phones, tweezers and lots of screw-heads for screws that you're not supposed to unfasten. Ideal for anyone who voids warranties habitually and it all zips up in a neat case. Great gift too.
Satechi Universal USB-C Power Meter
With USB-C the standard for just about everything now, it was inevitable that there were going to be some hiccups. As it turns out, not all the USB-C cables manufacturered (especially from mysterious makes you've never heard of) didn't put in the right resistors and so when you start using them as power supplies, you... fry stuff. If you want to make sure that doesn't happen to you, or you're building something that absolutely must not blow us, this power meter will tell you what current is flowing in what direction. It draws just enough power to make the screen work so the readings are damned accurate. Means you spot any spikes before you fry a motherboard.
Things Mobile SIM
Although most of the robots you see on TV are still controlled by RF, there's an argument for going other ways. One such example, especially if you're planning a remote or autonomous creation, is to use a SIM. Thing is, to make your device in a way that will allow it to work in more than one country can get expensive. Fortunately, the makers of ChatSIM have come up with a 3-in-1 SIM just for the Internet of Things. Pop it in and it will work seamlessly across Europe at just 10 Euro-Cents a megabyte, which goes a long way when all you have to stream are zeroes and ones.
Seems like everything needs to be able to talk these days. So why not your robot creation? MATRIX Voice comes from the makers of the hugely popular Matrix Creator and adds a ridiculously simple way to add voice control, either proprietary or via integration with Alexa and Google Home.
It boasts 7 MEMS microphones connected to a Xilinx Spartan6 FPGA & 64 Mbit SDRAM with 18 RGBW LED' & 64 GPIO pins.
The Creator is already available and the Matrix Voice has already raised $125k on Indiegogo - one of the biggest Raspberry Pi based devices to date.
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