We love the holidays here at Robotics Business Review – not because of the egg nog, but rather because we get to focus on some robotics areas that we don’t normally on the site. Mainly, robot toys, educational offerings, and books and movies with robots in them. For the budding roboticist on your holiday gift list, or if you just want something cool to give away at the holiday office party, we proudly present the 2019 Holiday Gift Guide.
Many of the gifts we highlighted in last year’s guide are likely still available (except Anki’s Vector – sad face), so be sure to check those ideas as well. In addition, several of the companies listed below also make different robots, kits, or toys – so check those out as well if you are stumped or don’t like my options.
Finally, I didn’t pick any robot vacuum cleaners or similar products, I just wanted to focus on the “fun” stuff.
(Please note: Prices listed for items in the 2019 Holiday Gift Guide were noted at the time of publication. During special events, such as Black Friday or Cyber Monday, prices may change, and Amazon or other sites may change prices during the season.)
2019 Holiday Gift Guide
Iron Man MK50 Robot ($249.99, via UBTECH). Marvel’s Avengers: Endgame was the biggest movie of 2019 (and of all-time, actually), so that’s why we’re starting off with this robot. Users can control the Iron Man MK50 robot’s movement, lights, and sounds with a smart device (phone or tablet). You can complete augmented reality mission or code original custom action sequences. The best feature? You can customize Iron Man’s face with your own. Awesome.
Temi personal assistant robot ($1,999 via Amazon). I’ve seen demonstrations of this mobile personal robot a few times now, and seen its progression from its early days to the current iteration. The mobile robot was initially created to provide long-distance communication for families and others (basically, telepresence), but the integration of Amazon Alexa, additional artificial intelligence and sensors and cameras make it more of a personal assistan that can do things like play a music playlist while it follows you around, open window shades, and other smart home device actions. Check them out!
Myla the Magical Unicorn ($59.99, via Amazon). Usually when I hear about unicorns, I start thinking about billion-dollar-startups, but in this case it’s a unicorn robot toy from Vtech for kids aged 4-8. Also, I have to have a unicorn in every gift guide (a tradition I started last year). What’s cool about Myla is that you can change the color of her eyes, wings, and horn through touching a “magic brush” to a color palette. It’s not the fanciest robot toy around, but it’s a unicorn, so it has that going for it.
ROYBI ($189, through Indiegogo page). This combination smart toy / robot / teaching assistant can teach children ages 3-6 new languages and skills through the use of fun play. The AI-powered educational toy adjusts its classes to the child’s pace, considering needs, abilities, and interests. The system can teach more than 70,000 words and 500 topics to children in different languages through interactive games, stories, and songs. This can be a great assistant for parents and teachers to help kids learn and practice languages. And it’s cute!
Robo Wunderkind (Starts at $149 via Kickstarter). I’ve seen a lot of robot and coding starter kits for kids, but this one impresses me for its ability to work alongside LEGO blocks. If you have a LEGO fan you could certainly look at the MINDSTORMS offerings, but that can get really expensive quickly, and those systems are designed for kids ages 10+. The Robo Wunderkind offering is for kids 5-12, so you can see if they are really interested and then move up to the next level later. Kids start building with blocks and then progress through an app, with access to a community of users that encourages the sharing of ideas.
Snap Circuits STEM ($52.50, via Elenco). Back when I was a wee lad, we had stores called Radio Shack where every holiday season you’d see things called “science kits” that would try to introduce the concepts of electricity, engineering and other technologies to budding engineers. This seems to be the latest generation of those kits. Snap Circuits uses building pieces with snaps to assemble different electronic circuits on a rows-and-columns base grid that functions like a printed circuit board. Projects include ideas such as magnetic fields, electricity, and other STEM-related concepts. Geared for kids ages 8 and up.
SquareOff chessboard (Starts at $389, via SquareOff website). I’m a big fan of chess, but never got into the idea of playing it on my computer or on my phone. I like the physical nature of moving pieces around and viewing the board in three dimensions. My problem is that I don’t have anyone else to play with in the house – they’re all better than me. SquareOff solves a few of these issues – the automated chess board makes the opponent’s move by moving the piece automatically, thanks to some very cool robotics technology underneath the board. The system is also connected, letting you find opponents around the world for connected game-play. Or you could just play against the built-in AI, which has 20 levels of difficulty. The handcrafted pieces look beautiful as well. The company recently launched a new system, called NEO ($139) & SWAP ($189), via Indiegogo, which offers a less expensive chess board (Neo) and a multi-gaming system (Swap) that includes blitz chess and checkers options.
Miko 2 ($299, via Miko website). The Miko 2 robot has been available in Asia for the last four years, and this year it’s available for North American customers. The Miko uses AI and voice recognition to see, hear, sense, express itself, recognize faces, remember names, identify moods, and learn from its own environment to engage with kids. An encrypted teleconnect feature lets parents talk to kids through Miko, and parents can also receive analytics on their child’s usage and limit playtime.
RVR ($249.99, via Sphero). If your kids have graduated from the kid-stuff coding robots, the next logical move is give them a larger challenge, yet still remains fun. The RVR is Sphero’s new option on the programmable robot. It’s drivable right out of the box, but includes a suite of sensors and third-party hardware connections such as Raspberry Pi, Arduino, BBC micro:bit or Sphero’s littleBits.
Litter-Robot (Starts at $598.99, depending on the bundle, via Litter-Bot). Back before my kids took all my money, we had two cats and we invested in an automatic cat litter box, but the early technology was clunky and it was more of a problem getting it to work than just doing regular litter box maintenance. Since then, other companies, including Litter-Robot, have improved on the technology. In the case of Litter-Robot, the company recently teamed up with Ohio-based Sauder furniture to provide ready-to-assemble furniture in which you can place the litter box in. Cool!
Tertill garden-weeding robot ($450, but deals are available, via Franklin Robotics). The holiday season doesn’t generally make me think about gardening, but once the snow starts to melt and spring arrives, thinking about growing plants and vegetables might take precedence. Before that season begins, why not take a look at the Tertill robot, which comes from the minds of the original designers of the iRobot Roomba vacuum. The Tertill autonomously roams your garden looking for weeds to take out, while also protecting the plants and vegetables that are growing. If you have a gardener on your wish list, or if you live in an area where it’s always warm for your garden, check this out!