How to Train Your Robot: The Ozobot Evo

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Evo app-connected robot from Ozobot

So here's my childhood: Get up. Watch cartoons. Play. Go to school. Watch after school cartoons. Play. Go to bed, safe in the assurance that when I grew up, I woudln't have to work because we'd have jetpacks, flying cars, cooked food on demand, and robots.

Now that I've left 50 in the taillights, and ponder the weight the advent of microwaves and Uber Eats has put on me, I finally get one more step closer to the future that I was promised in comic books and LOST IN SPACE.

The robots are here!

Yes, they've been here for a while, I suppose. But for the most part, consumer-obtainable robots have been pretty much RC cars with special effects.

The Evo from Ozobot is a few steps beyond that. While it's still not quite capable of going to the fridge and delivering a beer so I don't have to get my lazy butt off the couch, it is quite programmable. In fact, that's it's major feature -- programmability, and the way it teaches kids to understand rudimentary coding concepts.

There are a few ways to program Evo. Of course, you can download the app to your phone, which has several presets and access to the Ozoblockly page where you can drag and drop blocks of code that get downloaded into your Evo. Yes, your phone pairs to your Evo via Bluetooth, and you can start controlling it remotely, sending it basic driving commands or more complicated procedures, as well as controlling lights and sounds.

The more basic method of programming your Evo, however, is done with colored markers -- so simple, a child can do it! The most rudimentary function of the Evo is to follow a drawn line. But you can put codes on that line by using sequences of colors, like chromatic Morse code. As the Evo passes over a color, his LEDs project the color, so you get a light show. Further, when the Evo passes over one of these sequences of colors, it treats them like a command, from simple things like "Go faster," "Go slower," "Make a U-turn" to more interesting ones like "Tornado."

Once you've gotten used to your Evo's basic abilities, check out what else you can do by dropping a skin onto it, such as the ones made for Marvel Comics' AVENGERS. These skins come with built-in circuitry and a micro-USB connector so that they don't just sit on top your Evo, they integrate with it. Your Evo app will recognize that your Evo is now an Avenger, and your App interface will change, giving you a whole new set of controls. (Pairing your Evo -- skinned or unskinned -- with your phone will also control firmware updates to your bot and/or skin, so it never gets stale.)

We've put our Evo -- officially named in the Evo Ozobot registry now as CriticalBot -- through several paces, drawing out twisty-turny paths and sending it around the office to scare people with its sound effects. Maybe our generation didn't come up with home consumer robots precisely because we would use it for stupid stuff like that. Thankfully we hung around long enough to see the new generation produce the stuff of our dreams. We can't wait to see where this progresses.

The Evo Ozobot boats IR proximity sensing -- however CriticalBot will giddily drive straight into an object and persist in trying to push it while voicing frustration. CriticalBot's also a bit suicidal, eager to dive off the side of the desk (we catch him, so far). We've not yet tested the character downloads (not sure Ultron counts as a "download" since he's a slip-on skin), and since we don't know anyone else with an Evo, we haven't yet experienced the multi-bot networking or Evo-to-Evo messaging (i.e. OzoChat), but we're just getting started -- and CriticalBot has a learning curve that's progressing quite nicely according to our app, which records all of CriticalBot's accomplishments and training, earning him badges and levels.

Now we need to go refuel on coffee. Is there a Ozoblockly code for that?

4.5 / 5.0