PC Magazine has a wonderful gift idea for Christmas?
Mr. Soccer is a little robo-soccer tournament in a box! You get two
little remote control soccer robots with remotes, a cardboard playing
field, a couple of goals and a tiny soccer ball! You can have a mega
RoboCup style tournament with all of your friends and have up to 7
robots on each side if you want to buy that many extra robots, though.
Of course the playing field is kind of small for that many robots so
you'll probably have to make a bigger playing field. It's not
autonomous, but it looks like great robo-soccer fun. Similarly, there's
another toy out called Sumo
Robots that lets you play remote control robo-sumo with a friend.
What I'd like to see is a mini-battlebots kind of thing! Perhaps, these
things could be hackable with an 8 pin pic chip on top to create the
ultimate autonomous mini-robo-soccer or mini-battlebots setup!
However, the price
of these things will have to come down a bit to make them worth hacking!
The "Mr. Soccer" set has been out in Japan for over a year now. My
wife surprised me with one for Christmas last year, and we had some
fun playing with it, though I'm not convinced it was worth the price
she paid (around USD$50). The soccer robots are cute, but have limited
functionality. If you have a bunch of friends over for a party, and a
good supply of beer, the game would be an attention getter.
Unfortunately it doesn't offer much to attract the hacker. I'm an avid
robot hacker and would have jumped at the chance to do some heavy mods
on poor Mr. Soccer and post them on my blog at Robot's Dreams but I just
couldn't figure out why I would want to spend the time on it.
You could certainly hack the remotes by tapping into them - but what
would you do after that? So, my Mr. Soccer set got pushed to the back
of the shelf for a while, and then into the closet where it hasn't
seen the light of day since the middle of January....
Well, I would have thought that for a lot of folks the mechanics of the
soccer-dudes would be a useful platform for er... robot soccer!
We've had a lot of success with removing the r/c gear from toys and
replacing it with PICs and H-bridges. In fact, you don't even need to g
o that far. A guy in our lab just cut some tracks on an R/C car so that
the radio gear became an input to the PIC which output motor commands.
Obviously some sensors would be needed for true robot-foota action....
"Well, I would have thought that for a lot of folks the mechanics
of the soccer-dudes would be a useful platform for er... robot soccer!"
I was really hoping that was the case, but unfortunately the mechanics
just don't lend themselves to hacking.
There are two drive motors (pretty cheap motors unfortunately) that
have a simple ratchet/cam mechanism that causes the 'foot' to kick
when you drive them forward but not when you drive them backwards. The
soccer like action comes from different combinations of driving the
left, right, or both feet at the same time. And there's a 'kick' mode
triggered by pressing the center button that causes a short burst
forward with both feet. It's cute, but no where near as hackable as a
R/C car from your local Radio Shack.
You can see my detailed comments, including a closeup of the
motor/feet action in some photos and a video in the Mr.
Soccer review on my website.