ROBOT: Rocket

From: J. R. Molloy (
Date: Wed Oct 18 2000 - 10:11:17 MDT,10738,2638331,00.html
Priced at $100 and designed for ages 3 and up, Rocket the Wonder Dog is a
decidedly more downscale dog. We didn't expect it to compete with a
technological purebred such as Sony's Aibo, but Rocket is one pathetic puppy.

Perhaps Fisher-Price can do some tie-in with the re-release of The Exorcist,
since it seems the dog's designers were inspired by the movie. Various body
parts, such as the legs, can spin 360 degrees. If you happen to be holding
Rocket when this occurs, your hands get pinched between its legs and its body,
and as you let go in pain, it drops to the floor with a thud.

Virtually every inch of Rocket is covered with moving parts -- mouth, eyes,
eyebrows and tail all move in different directions -- and the dog lets out a
continuous stream of pants, whines, barks, burps (yes, really) and the
occasional song. The overall effect is sure to drive parents to drop-kick the

Rocket comes with a remote control and a headset that you can use to train it to
recognize its name and simple voice commands. When we first tried this, Rocket
just sat there scratching an ear and staring at us.

We finally broke down and read the directions, but even then training was hit or
miss. As you speak commands into the microphone, the system reads them back in a
garbled voice that sounds something like the grown-ups in Charlie Brown
cartoons. Eventually, we were able to get Rocket to respond to a few commands
("Do Tricks" seemed to be its specialty). But most of the time it seemed to have
a mind of its own.

The most disappointing aspect of Rocket was its sluggishness. You'd think a dog
named Rocket with little rubber wheels for feet would have some speed. But this
thing is no greyhound. When it does decide to walk, it's about as fast as a
one-legged tortoise.

As much as we'd like to see it now, our prediction is it'll be at least one dog
year before anyone comes up with a household robot that is both affordable and
worth owning. Sorry, Rocket.

Stay hungry,

--J. R.
3M TA3

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