Okay, so the Carbot isn’t creative in and of itself. You can’t customize it, after all; it’s just a tiny remote controlled car. But it does make creative use of your iOS or Android device, which becomes the controller. And considering it’ll only run you $30 (some retailers offer 2 for $50), it actually could make a decent stocking stuffer.
The Carbot is billed as a “fast ‘n’ furious, futuristic micro robotic race car,” very little of which is true. It’s micro, and it’s a race car; the rest is stretch it. But it is kind of fun, especially if you have multiple cars to race/battle through the four game play modes.
Before I get to those, though, the car itself is 3″ long and 1-1/8″ high and is available in translucent green, blue, yellow or red plastic. A button on the top is used to turn the car on (press and hold), mute the sound (double press) and change the game play mode (press once). The back has a flip-out USB connector that you use to charge the car (40 minutes of charge time to garner 25 minutes of play time). The bottom has a reset button and three channel frequency selector so you can play with up to two other cars (each on its own frequency).
The kicker here is that the car is controlled by the DeskPets app, a universal controller for all of the DeskPets products. When you launch the app, you’re asked to select your DeskPets product, then given your control screen.
Make sure your frequency matches what you selected on your car, then you’re all set. Your movement options are the throttle, boost and stop buttons, and you’ve got a race car style steering wheel for turning. This is good in that it’s a creative and pretty fun use of your iDevice. It’s bad in that the touchscreen isn’t conducive to this type of thing. Trying to keep your eye on the car while making sure your fingers thumbs are positioned properly was difficult to do, but rest assured that anyone you’re playing with will likely share your frustration.
In order for the iDevice to communicate withthe car, you have to plug the battery powered smartphone adapter into its headphone port (it’s designed to accommodate many third party phone cases, so I applaud the designers for that).
Turn it on, and you’re all set for any of the four game play modes:
- Drift ‘n’ Race Mode – Self explanatory. You’ll like spend most of your time here if you’re taking on other racers.
- Battle Mode – Attack your opponents with infrared sensors to see who score the most hits.
- Maze Mode – Set up objects into mazes and see if the Carbot can solve them with its infrared sensors.
- Autonomous Personality Mode – Let it do its own thing. Good for competition if you have two cars and no friends, or if you just want to drive the cat crazy for a while.
All of this combines into a decent novelty item. You’re not going to get serious remote controlled racing action out of the Carbot, but it can be pretty fun, especially if you’re competing against other “drivers.”
My only complaints are that both the car and the app utilize loud, annoying sounds, and that the app UI is poorly designed not just in control, but also with the web address that’s too easy to accidentally hit, kicking you out of the app.
Still, if you have iOS or Android owners on your gift list who are also into cars (or just unique gadgets), the CarBot could make for a fun little surprise on Christmas morning.