Gaming

Battle it out with this nimble robot

Geio from Chinese firm GJS moves quickly and sports a gun turret that shoots virtual bullets at enemies.
Geio from Chinese firm GJS moves quickly and sports a gun turret that shoots virtual bullets at enemies.

Growing up, I was fed a steady diet of cartoons featuring giant robots - Robotech, Transformers and Voltron - fighting to save the world from evil.

So I was intrigued and eager to try the Geio battle bot from Chinese firm GJS, which was funded successfully on the Kickstarter crowd-funding platform in just 18 hours in 2017. This toy robot has been available in Singapore since the end of last year from local distributor Ban Leong and is now sold at Best Denki and other consumer electronics stores.

From the polish of Geio's packaging, you can tell that this squat, four-legged droid is not GJS' first rodeo.

Unlike the company's earlier Ganker robot, which wields a large sword for close combat, Geio sports a gun turret that shoots virtual bullets at enemies. Its front camera captures and streams what the robot sees (first-person view) to your smartphone via the Geio app (for iOS and Android).

Geio feels sturdy and well-built and is made from aluminium and plastic. Its removable 2,000mAh battery is charged via a micro-USB port. GJS says the battery lasts about 40 minutes on a single charge. It takes more than two hours to fully recharge the battery.

The robot tries to give the impression of being sentient when turned on. It will move its turret in short, jerky movements, make a squawking noise or blink the single eye displayed on a small LCD screen at its front.

  • SPECS

    PRICE: $299

    SUPPORTED PLATFORMS: iOS/Android

    CONNECTIVITY: Wi-Fi (5GHz channel)

    WEIGHT: 730g

    BATTERY: 2,000mAh

  • RATING

    FEATURES: 4/5

    DESIGN: 4/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 3/5

    OVERALL: 3.5/5

It takes just a few easy steps to get the robot up and running - connect to its Wi-Fi network and run the Geio app. Like a mobile game, you move the robot and aim its gun using controls that overlay the first-person view from Geio's camera. It can also be controlled by tilting your smartphone like a steering wheel.

Note that the robot uses a 5GHz Wi-Fi channel, which may not be supported on budget or older devices.

The video feed from the camera is not the sharpest and exhibits a slight latency. It is likely compressed to conserve bandwidth, but is adequate to show the robot's surroundings. You can record a video or take a photo using the camera with the app.

The quality of the video seems to deteriorate when the robot moves farther from your smartphone - I recommend being in the same room as the robot.

It is deceptively fast, accelerating from rest to zoom towards a target in a split second. It is also very nimble, thanks to its omni-directional wheels - you do not need to rotate the robot towards your intended direction before setting off. But it does take a while to get used to its manoeuvrability and requires more practiceto make use of it to outflank an enemy robot.

The app offers a few game modes, such as Race, Battle and Explore. As their names suggest, Race and Battle are multiplayer modes that require a second robot, while Explore lets you see your surroundings from the low vantage point of the robot.

Battles are usually short and intense, though you can spice things up by adding the included totems - cards with printed symbols - to the playing field. Scan these totems with the robot's camera to acquire power-ups, such as virtual bullets that slow down your opponent.

Each robot is priced at $299, though the cost is effectively $598 since a pair is required for a robot duel.

• Verdict: A polished toy robot that impresses with its nimble and fast movements.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 20, 2019, with the headline 'Battle it out with this nimble robot '. Print Edition | Subscribe