Corazon Miller is a NZ Herald reporter

Meet Chip the robot: Free to a good home

Week spent with android restores confidence in future of humanity.

At half a metre in height, with its multi-jointed limbs this little white bot can pull a pack of funky moves to rival any popper.

The Alpha 1 robot, given away to Spark's first 100 customers who signed up to get the new iPhone 7 which was available for sale yesterday, was my new friend for the week.

The little dude, whom I named Chip, spent a few days being carted around my usual haunts in his boxy home.

He made a number of cameo appearances throughout the week, in the NZME newsroom, my dance studio, the downstairs coffee bar, the local skate park and even the hallway of my flat with a brief performance for the feline residents.

When I was first told I'd be given a robot for a week I have to admit I harboured high hopes it would come with endless possibilities for making my life easier.

Perhaps it could get my daily coffee for me; it could traipse across our vast newsroom floor to respond to my boss' summons; I even imagined a day off in the spring sun as Chip took over my chair to type up the news copy.

However, in what's probably good news for those keen to hold on to their jobs for a little longer before robots take over the world, Chip was not quite up to the task of taking over my day job or even getting me a cup of coffee - though he did provide a bit of excitement for those he encountered.

Chip, manufactured by Chinese company UBTECH, was surprisingly heavy for his rather petite half-metre stature.

He worked through an app that he would connect to via Bluetooth and at the push of a button I could make him do a jig, take on anyone who dared at push-ups, make him walk (albeit only a few steps at any given time) and even read a child a bedtime story.

In testing, I discovered the robot, which is white but lights up with little blue and green flashes when on, is a little vertically challenged at times.

Certain surfaces appeared to be more amenable to some of his more active moves; basically the flatter the better, otherwise Chip was at risk of spending more time floor-dancing - a genre in itself, but not necessarily the one the app developers had in mind.

When switched off, Chip appeared to flop in a manner more akin to a rag doll kitten than an android machine. This made it a little difficult to give him pride of place on my desk and meant when not in use I put him to sleep in his comfy, custom-made box.

Walking in straight lines also appeared to be a little tough for the robot to master. Such a feat would have made my week with the little guy that much easier if I could have just programmed him to follow me around.

Nevertheless, these few glitches aside, little Chip did provide endless entertainment for my fellow colleagues, flatmates and dance buddies alike.

There were a range of downloadable options to make the bot go through his paces - far too many for me to comprehensively test out - but they included educational activities, story time, show time, music features and sport and dance options.

His signature move, however, had to be the push-up, which never ceased to entertain, particularly when the bot pulled it off one-handedly.

- NZ Herald

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