Let's face it–until they're cooking us breakfast and doing our laundry, the most fun you can have with store-bought robots is the fun you make yourself. Sure, robots like WowWee's Roboraptor (and its companions, Robopet and Robosapien) are surprisingly capable for $60-to-$200 toys, with wide ranges of motion, touch sensors and powerful software. But it's those same out-of-the-box skills that make the 'bots such prime fodder for hackers. Within weeks of the Robosapien's introduction in February 2004, tinkerers flooded the Web with new tricks: programmed dance routines, crazy voices, infrared vision. Some companies threaten legal action against such amateur upgrades ([cough] Sony [cough]), but not WowWee. Its designer, Mark Tilden, intentionally gave his 'bots tinkerer-friendly features such as easy accessibility (each comes apart with a single Philips screwdriver), a painstakingly labeled circuit board so you can see exactly what each bit does, and a cavernous crust
of exoplastic that can accommodate additions like an extra micro-processor brain, an MP3 player or a butane flamethrower. Say, there´s an idea...
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Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.