The serialized kits magazine publisher DeAgostini has just started the run for its latest series – Robi. As in the case of all similar kits, the first installment is priced cheaper, at 790 yen. You get a handful of parts for the top of Robi’s head, but there’s really nothing that can be assembled until kit 2 comes out in 2 weeks (at roughly 1,900 yen) and you get some of the other head parts that actually all fit together. There’s also a short mook (magazine book) with pictures of Robi with a roomba, an interview with the inventor of the kit, and a look at Astro Boy. I can’t find any indication of exactly how many volumes there will be, but a mention of a prize giveaway of a chair-shaped battery recharger implies that there’ll be at least 35. If they stay at their 2-week schedule, it’s going to take at least a year and a half to complete. Plus, if the average price is 1,500 yen, the total for 35 volumes is a minimum of 52,500 yen ($650 USD). Very pricey for something that only stands 33 cm (13″) tall.

The Robi webpage advertises that there’s no programming necessary to control it, and that Robi can sing, dance and even control your (Japanese) TV through its IR transmitter. It looks like a miniaturized version of the Asimo, which means that it is still pretty amazing. I’m tempted to subscribe to this kit, but I can’t justify the cost. And if you can’t program it, there’s a limit to what it will ultimately be able to do.  I’m tempted to try to find a copy of the Sega Ema for 28,000 yen, instead.


Things are going to be slow here for a while. I’m not working on the Java synthesizer right now, Gakken doesn’t have any new kits coming out, and the 50 Famous People series at the moment consists only of people that I’m not interested in. That last one should change pretty soon, and I do have one project involving the Animaris Imperio kit that I’ll get to in a few days (it’s only good for one blog entry, though).  Which is why I’ll be staying on a post-per-week schedule.

I’ve been hearing a lot more about Kickstarter recently. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s a website used for raising funds to start new projects or to support existing ones. The Order of the Stick webcomic raised some serious money this way, in part by offering different premiums for people pledging money at different levels (kind of like what you get with the PBS pledge drives). One of my relatives likes helping out microbreweries on Kickstarter, and one of the premiums she got in return for her pledge was a Blink(1). Not needing it, she gave it to me as a Christmas present.

Blink(1) is a USB LED designed and produced by thingm. It’s promoted as a “silent indicator” or “silent alarm” for things like letting you know if a particular person posted an update on Facebook, or a keyword shows up on Twitter. It’s open source, and supposedly has support for both C++ and Java. So far, though, I haven’t been able to find documentation for writing Java code for it, and there’s no app for Facebook posts to-date. At the moment, the only real use is to put a line in a batch file to have it blink or turn on at the end of a script. And, it’s just as easy to leave Facebook open and check it occasionally as it is to check if the LED is on. It’s a cute idea, but not really useful for home applications, yet (one complaint I have is that the top of the case is opaque, making it harder to see if the LED is on when you’re sitting right at the computer). I can see an application for it if you have a bunch of servers in a room and you want to quickly tell from a distance if one of them needs attention, though.