A review of the Elite Optimus Prime Transformer robot from Robosen
Check out this cool robot
One of the hottest consumer robots that was staged in CES 2023 in Las Vegas was the Elite Optimus Prime Transformer robot from Robosen. As an example, check out the antics demonstrated by this robot at the CES stage.
Ever since I watched this video, I became intrigued about the engineering behind this robot, and did my own research on it. This post is a review of my findings.. mostly from watching videos and reading articles. I have yet to set my hands on this robot.
Robosen and the Optimus Prime
First, about the company. Robosen seems active for at least 15 years. It “About Us” mentions that it was started in Beijing in 2008, and then moved to Shenzen (also known as China’s Silicon Valley, and the home to another robot we frequently discuss: Petoi Bittle) in 2017. It seems that the product lines t has in the amrket have mostly been engineered in the last decade. Although Robosen has released consumer robots before, the Optimus Prime built in collaboration with Hasbro (the toy company which sells the transformer toys) and released first in 2021, has clearly received more virality in social media than its previous endeavors. The decision to base the robot based on a known toy (The Hasbro Optimus Prime Transformer) has certainly paid rich dividends for Robosen, as the Optimus Prime robot has goen viral on the Internet.
The Optimus Prime comes in two different flavors: (i) the Flagship model which bigger in size and has metal servos and is currently priced for $999, and (ii) the Elite model which is a bit smaller, has lighter plastic servos, and is currently priced for $699. There are also some interesting accessories including a trailer.
In terms of the product, most people are raving about the signature move in which the robot transforms itself to a truck (which is also called the ALT version). You could see the signature move and some other moves in the following video, which also does a great job explaining all the features of this toy.
In terms of a gadget, I was debating whether this is more of a toy or a robot. The Optimus Prime certainly has some very interesting gaits, and all its servos (27 of them) can be programmed independently. Here are some ways I found Optimus Prime different from the other robots we frequently discuss on our channel.
27 degrees of freedom. Certainly, that is much larger than the 9 servos in Petoi Bittle. Given that there is a servo is pretty much every joint, there is certainly a much larger combination of maneuvers than what we have seen in the past.
Functionality in both modes, the standing mode as well as the truck (ALT mode). This is certainly an unique and distinguishing ability. You speak to the robot and can make the robot move in standing pose, as well as the transformed truck.
Ability to import gaits developed by other users. This is certainly a very useful feature, because it allows the community to grow and users to have more fun using community supplied gaits. It may not be unique (Petoi Bittle has the ability to create custom gaits and share it via their git), but in this case, it just seems very easy to import a community supplied gait on the mobile app.
Interesting Mobile App. Gaming approach. The mobile app is cool, and it reminds me of the design and elegance of the Anki Overdrive App. There is a lot of attention to details and sounds. You can unlock features, and the gaming aspect though not unique, will certainly attract more users. I wish the Annki vector App had something of this kind.
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Unsure about stability, or if it can stand up from a fallen position. Since I didn’t have the product with me, I am limited to seeing the demos online, which could be canned. I have seen no documentation to make me believe that the robot could recover by itself from a fall. In contrast, Petoi Bittle can stand up after a fall. Anki Vector has sensors to prevent it from falling.
Limited AI. Not sure about path planning. While the product page boasts of AI capabilities, this seems limited to voice recognition, and may be face recognition. I don’t think this robot can evade obstacles, or even sense if it is about to fall from a table.
No SDK or APIs to program. To me, this is a major limitation, which makes this gadget more of a toy than a programmable robot. The mobile app does support a programming mode, but is limited to block programming, which from demos looks pretty inferior compared to Scratch based programming. The following demo has some examples on how you could program the Optmis Prime robot.
In summary, the Optimus Prime robot from Robosen definitely has some interesting aspects, and I suspect it will sell well despite the steep price tag. The association with a popular toy and collaboration with Hasbro is definitely very helpful. And by all accounts available online, this robot seems to have very solid engineering behind it, and most users and reviewers seem thrilled with it. If you are the owner of an Optimus Prime robot, or have access to it, please join the discussion below.