Tuesday, 4 August 2015

The New Meccanoid G15 Robot - A First Impressions Review

We are now the proud owners of a Meccanoid G15 house robot. We've got lots of plans for the little guy and I'll be writing more about him in future, but for now here are our first impressions.

Meccanoid is a buildable robot from Erector / Meccano, yes the guys who make the metal construction sets. The G15 is the smaller version of the robot, but it's still really big at around 2 feet tall (61cm), the larger G15 KS is around 4 feet tall!

Meccanoid will be the 'big present' under the tree for lots of kids this Christmas. Let's take a look at what you can expect.

Meccanoid is intended for children age 10+ to build themselves. Younger kids will enjoy the robot but will need help with the build.

Update: The new Meccanoid 2.0 robots are now available for 2016. These robots have an upgraded more powerful Mecca brain and improvements to features. The batteries used are now D rather than C (many users reported battery issues with the smaller robot, these were often resolved by customer support, but hopefully we'll see fewer issues with the new version.)

Update: Behavior builder drag and drop coding has replaced motion capture in the app. This means you can now program Meccanoid.


For more information see Pixel Art Advent Calendar - A Chocolate Alternative


The Box


First of all, Meccanoid looks like an impressive gift. The box is big and weighty. Not the most important factor, but it does add to the wow factor. 

The Build


Meccanoid is very much a robot that you build. If you want a ready built robot then try something like Miposaur. This is a Meccano robot, building it is a big part of the experience. 

Meccanoid is put together using standard Meccano nuts and bolts.  The required tools are included. 

Compared to regular Meccano the build is actually fairly straightforward. The pieces are sturdy polycarbonate rather than metal and this means that they can have indentations where the nuts go, this makes the process of connecting nuts and bolts fairly easy. The nuts stay put while you turn the bolts. 

The build time is long though, expect it to take several hours. You can speed things up by having more than one person working on the build, there are plenty of sections that can be built in parallel. 

My eight year old was capable of building the robot. More capable than me in many cases! But he wouldn't have had the staying power to built the whole thing. 

There weren't many spare nuts and bolts left at the end. More would have been appreciated as we're bound to lose a few over time and also to allow us to attach other things. You can use standard Meccano pieces though. 

The LEDs for the eyes seem oddly placed, they are quite far back and a lot of the light doesn't make it to the eyes. It looks like they can be repositioned though and we can always 3D print a part to keep the light in. 

Turning Meccanoid On


We connected up Meccanoid according to the instructions. Well not quite according to the instructions as the motor cables seemed to be drawn upside down in the instructions that we have. There wasn't any choice in how to actually connect them though so we did what worked. 

We turned Meccanoid on and it ran through a series of tests requesting confirmation that each action had working. Everything worked first time. 

I was very glad about this after several hours of assembly!

Playtime


When you turn Meccanoid on it runs through an introductory tutorial that explains some of the features. This works really well for getting started. My kids aged 8 and 6 were soon getting Meccanoid to tell (bad) jokes, leading him round the room by the hand and teaching him new routines using LIM. 

LIM is learned intelligent motion, basically you put Meccanoid into a record mode where it reads motion from the servos in the arms and can then play back the motion. This is really effective and fun. 

The Walk with Me function where you guide Meccanoid by his arm was a big hit with my 7 year old. Shaking hands and doing a high five work really well - Meccanoid actually senses your movement via the servos. 

Meccanoid responds to voice commands. We had trouble with some commands initially but after a firmware update via USB this improved but still requires several attempts sometimes. I felt like Meccanoid was training me to say the words in the right way. Our accents may be a contributing factor. Voice commands that we created ourselves worked pretty well. 

Meccanoid's eye colour is used very effectively to signal the mode he's in so it's easy to see what to do next. 

We had to turn the volume up to maximum to hear the voice above the sound of the servos.



Meccanoid G15 vs 2.0 Update

There are new Meccanoid 2.0 models available for 2016. There's a small version which replaces the G15 and a larger one that replaces the G15KS.

The new robots have an improved Mecca Brain, a different colour scheme and general improvements rather than radical changes. Note that the 2.0 smaller Meccanoid takes D batteries rather than C batteries. The larger version has a rechargeable battery (which is a very useful feature.)

We're really pleased that the new Behavior Builder coding feature is available for the older G15 Meccanoids as well as the new ones. This means that it may be worth picking up an older model if you find one discounted to a bargain price.


Conclusion


Clearly there's lots more to explore. We haven't tried the Motion Capture (now superceded by behaviour builder) or Ragdoll animation modes which require an app. We're also looking forward to Meccano releasing specs for 3D printable parts so we can customize the robot. And we're looking forward to being able to properly program Meccanoid once the open source APIs are available. And you can design your own robots using the kit too. 

But so far, for a £169 / $179 robot we're pretty impressed. There's a lot of good technology in here. The LIM technology works really well for recording movement of the arms. 

The robot feels solid though I'm going to keep tightening the bolts as I imagine they will work loose over time. 





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Comments:

Scorch said...

Hi what did you do to resolve the motor issue? I have the same problem. He turns right on the forward command!

Tracy said...

We found that some initial problems like that improved after updating the firmware at http://www.meccano.com/meccanoid/firmware.php via the USB cable.

Stephen Merritt said...

I just finished my g15 yesterday, When he's done moving his arms around he tends to but the arms at his sides and kind of rub his hands on his waist, which constantly changes the finger position., do you get this problem?

Tracy said...

Ours tends to have its hands just in front of his body (with palms down) so when they do move around a bit they don't hit anything. If we have the thumbs stuck out then they certainly get knocked out of position sometimes. I don't think we're seeing quite what you are. It might be worth making sure you've got the latest firmware in case anything has been updated.

Stephen Merritt said...

Yeah updated the firmware first thing , still have that issue...Perhaps something is too tight? Although the casing on the arm servos seem a bit loose, it seemed that it was suppose to be that way...Mine tends to rub his hands against his waist when idle or anything that requires a strait arm which of course changes the finger position .

This is my first time of anything like this in general or meccano/erector & even self built robots and i tend to man handle things when it comes to torque :D...I didn't feel like you could over tighten anything servo or motor wise though.

Nia said...

Does any one know if the battery pack from mecanno g15 4 foot is compatible with the 2 foot version and if if it can be purchased separately. As g15 small is very heavy on standard batteries.

steve b said...

exactly what I would like to know.....nia ....where to bu and will it work. I bought 2 g15



Holland McGee said...

@stephen Merritt- There is a rounded but that must be slid into the arm casing and it is easily dislodged with the positioning of arm attachment. Do you think it's possible you forgot or overlooked that nut? It would cause the loose case that you are describing...

Unknown said...

Hello... How can I solve the motor issue? He turns right on the forward command, left on the backward command, etc.
I already did a full wipe and new update.
Thanks

Dixon said...

Hello, I got my 10 year old son a g15 this Christmas & he refused any help, said he wanted to build it on his own. He did it 2 days & it worked great at first, but now it keeps saying battery low, to recharge. I'm lost. We tried connecting it to the computer, it seemed as if the charge went up but as soon as we turned it on it said battery low again. Any ideas. Charged it for like 7 hours too. I'm not good at this stuff.(building & robotics) Maybe I got bad batteries? Edna

Unknown said...

I have the same problem about Battery low

Rex Davies said...

Had the problem with forward turning right. Found the construction details showed second foot upside down! Look at pictures and see that the drive wheels are symetrical. Had reports of low battery but seems to run on.

Veronica said...

The battery comes with separate charger - the computer connection is only for firmware update (as far as I can tell).

Veronica said...

Our g15 has lost the blue color in the right eye - is there a way to fix/replace the led?

Garry Beadle said...

how do you plug up the eyes to work

Unknown said...

Has anyone figured out a solution for the battery not sufficient and shutting down? I have bought new batteries twice. Both times with brand new batteries right from the packaging I install into mecannoid G15 and after five minutes of commands the robot says battery not sufficient then powers off. Very disappointing if you can only play with this robot in five minute increments.

Unknown said...

I'am having the same battery issues, he barely gets past the start up then we get the insufficient battery speech, I have downloaded latest version of firmware and reinstalled 3 lots of new batteries? I have informed the store where I purchased and have been asked to bring it back.. Would love to hear from someone who has resolved this problem.

William Cassels said...

Having the same "battery low" issues mentioned earlier, 5-10 minutes on brand new batteries doesn't seem right. Downloaded the latest firmware, didn't help. Contacted Meccano support, still haven't heard back. Any update on this issue? My 10 year old would like to play more with the robot she spent all that time building ...

Tracy said...

The 5-10 minutes on new batteries definitely doesn't sound right. Ours runs for a few hours.

Kieron Thomas said...

1-2 Hour battery life on brand new quality batteries makes this a very expensive toy to run. Would like a rechargerable battery pack investigasting making one myself with a Yusa NP1 2-6 battery and some wires. anyone got skills in Electrics Will I blow up the block ??? Help

Will Smith said...

The battery issue seems to be a common one that those who are having it haven't found a solution yet. I too am having the same battery issue. Five minutes and it's shutting down after installing new batteries. It's interesting that some are having the problem and some are not. Could it be a wiring, assembly or software defect in those cases?

Tracy said...

If you have battery problems then make sure you are using reasonable quality alkaline batteries and have upgraded the firmware. If you still have problems then contact Spin Master customer support. They're really helpful and will be able to take you through diagnosing potential problems.

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