- Comes preloaded with basic skills out of the box
- Open-source platform, works with Raspberry Pi and Arduino environments
- Multiple controllers: IR remote, desktop app, mobile appFree online curriculum, video tutorials, and online documentation readily available.
- Short battery life (only lasts one hour per charge)
- Calibration issues arise after some use
- Codecraft (custom Scratch-based programming) only works with older firmware
- Head falls off easily.
Although the idea of quadruped robots is not new, it is just as intriguing and exciting now as it was when four-legged robots first appeared a few decades ago. Even if the area of robotics has made significant strides since then, it’s crucial to keep moving forward and motivate the upcoming generation of engineers. By creating products like Bittle, which educates young robot enthusiasts how to construct and programme their creations, Petoi carries out this purpose.
A programmable robot dog named Bittle is designed for robotic novices aged 14 and older or for anyone who wants to enjoy learning about and playing with robots. Bittle, which costs £340 (assembled), is pre-programmed with a few simple behaviours like the walk and trot that students may use to get a feel for the robot’s capabilities before moving on to more advanced ones. Even if the current state of the economy may make this STEM kit look pricey, it is still rather inexpensive when compared to other quadruped products now available on the market. .
In fact, several quadruped robots with servo motors, such as the PuppyPi and Xgo Mini, sell for closer than $1,000 at retail. Petoi’s open hardware framework and open-source software platform allow for lower production costs.
In order to expand Bittle’s capabilities, investigate AI machine learning projects, or carry out numerous STEM experiments, you may additionally attach Grove sensors or add a Raspberry Pi to the open-source platform. You must buy these add-ons separately because they are not a part of the fundamental bundle. You could have trouble finding a good deal on a Raspberry Pi, let alone finding one in stock, due to the fact that they are still hard to come by.
Bittle ships in two models, a pre-assembled kit and a DIY construction kit. It comes with three color options: black and yellow, blue and yellow or red and yellow.
The pre-assembled Bittle sample device we had sent through, has the black and yellow colour scheme. Since the main body and legs were already assembled, setup was simple. Bittle was ready to use right out of the box after only snapping the head (which also arrived pre-assembled) in, adding the tail, and charging the batteries. This model is accessible to almost everyone, even younger makers (children under 14), who simply wish to play with Bittle as a regular pet toy and gain some practical experience with movement manipulation or expanding on its pre-built routines.
There are three ways you can operate your Bittle: using the IR remote control that comes with the kit, downloading the mobile app on your phone, or installing the desktop programme on your computer. The pre-assembled robot also came calibrated and pre-loaded with a set of fundamental skills, including walk, sit, stand, and trot. You may use the controller of your choosing to speed up or slow down any of these movements. My nine-year-old was eager to immediately try “Say Hi,” “Pee,” “Do pushups,” and “Play Dead,” as well as other entertaining antics.
Childrens eyes light up as they watched Bittle walk and trot around so easily. It moved quickly and with good balance as they switched the direction of its motions on the living room floor from left to right and back and forth. On carpet, though, Bittle wasn’t as graceful as it was on flat surfaces like hardwood.
Kids had a great time changing the speed of each movement, which lead them to learn about Bittle’s unique ability to flip itself back to a standing position if it tripped or fell owing to something in its path. The fact that this fail-safe manoeuvre was autonomous and appeared to be something a real pet would perform astounded them. Bittle, who is under a kilogramme and stands six inches tall, is the ideal size for children to pick up and use in various play situations.
The limited battery life of the Bittle rapidly became a problem. It turns out that an hour isn’t even close to being enough time for play and exploration. My son realised it was time to put Bittle back in for recharge when the warning light came on and he slowed down or stopped. In order to minimise the disruption to the fun and learning, it would be a good idea to buy extra batteries (available separately or as an add-on).
For those who are interested in robotics, Bittle is also available as a DIY assembly kit that ships unassembled, allowing you to gain the experience of putting the entire robot together yourself. Additionally, you’ll study wire management and circuitry. Even so, it is less expensive than the one that is prebuilt.
Legs and the main body frame are made of tough, long-lasting plastic. Parts simply snap into place thanks to a sophisticated interlocking system. If you need guidance or assistance, you can find online instructions and videos for assembly. The online handbook also includes diagrams that you can consult. You’ll need to upload code to the NyBoard and double-check that your connectors are attached to the proper circuit when assembling Bittle by hand.
The flat-end screws can be attached after calibrating. The kit includes a little screwdriver, but if you have an electric screwdriver on hand, you can use it to expedite the building process. The software should be assembled, calibrated, and uploaded in around 40 minutes.
Although our review unit did not initially need to be put together, I would say that we had the opportunity to do so in an effort to resolve certain calibration problems that arose after a significant amount of time was spent evaluating Bittle’s manoeuvrability. I had to disassemble everything, unscrew each leg, take the servos out of their sockets, and then put everything back together. Following that, we had to manually calibrate each servo motor. The kit’s calibration joint tuner was useful, but the included screwdriver proved challenging to use.
Nine modified PS1 servos are used by Bittle: two on each leg that serve as joints and one for the head. As a backup, the kits come with an extra servo.
Note: To ensure that the legs of the robot will function properly, it is crucial to position the servos correctly when assembling it. To guarantee that robot activities go well, the motors’ orientation is crucial, and the wires’ connections to the NyBoard must be correct.
Based on a customised Arduino board, Bittle can do a dozen cool tricks or routines thanks to pre-programmed code (for the assembled model). Although Petoi has already released version 2, our review sample came with the original iteration of the board. Bittle comes with three adaptors that you can use to charge, code, calibrate or load new firmware to the robot.
An IR remote control is provided with Bittle kits (battery not included). Every button displays an icon that represents a pre-programmed move you can use. After a while, our remote control stopped working, even with a new battery. On iOS or Android, download the Petoi Robot Controller App, and pair it with Bittle using Bluetooth. From here, you can upload additional capabilities, use the main control pad to interact with Bittle, or calibrate each servo.
Use the Petoi Desktop App to upload new firmware, calibrate together, and learn new compositional techniques. It works with Windows PCs and Macs. To connect to Bittle using the USB adaptor, you will need the Micro-USB dongle. We discovered that this approach is not always effective because the programme occasionally displays problems when it is unable to locate a port. We liked using Bluetooth to connect to Bittle.
To start coding Bittle, there are two applications available: using Codecraft (Petoi’s custom Scratch-based app) and the Petoi Desktop App. You must have OpenCat 1.0 in order to use Codecraft to programme Bittle because version 2.0 is not yet compatible with Codecraft. In order to determine what version of OpenCat is currently installed, you must first connect to your Bittle. Connect using the WiFi or Bluetooth dongle, USB adapter, or both, then launch the Petoi Desktop App. Click the Firmware Uploader button in the main menu window. You can view your OpenCat version in the following window. Using the pulldown menu option, switching between versions is simple. Simply select the necessary version, click the Upload button, and then adhere to the on-screen instructions.
To begin experimenting and developing various routines for Bittle, you can either download the Codecraft application for your PC or go online to https://ide.tinkergen.com/ and select Bittle. When finished, select Upload from the menu on the left. Bittle doesn’t start executing your script for a while. My son, who is already accustomed to using Scratch from its use at school, started playing Codecraft right away. He really appreciated watching Bittle trot to Jingle Bells while combining and looping several talents.
With a pet robot like Bittle, who wouldn’t want one? It’s cool, enjoyable, and engaging. Additionally, it’s a fantastic piece of technology that will engage young enthusiasts and hobbyists and teach them the fundamentals of robotics. It’s true that Bittle doesn’t have the friendliest appearance of any pet robots. But even that might present a significant challenge for young makers, who can use their own imagination to come up with novel ways to replicate in-person dog relationships. One concept we had was to fiddle with its head movements to give Bittle more personality and character.
In terms of value, Bittle £325 is now the more cost-effective option when compared to Xgo Mini or PuppyPi £344 – £765 If you or your child merely want to use Bittle as a toy for pleasure, it might seem like a high fee to pay, but the real benefit of Bittle is the education it offers. Bittle is unquestionably a valuable investment due to the practical coding experience provided by the apps, the free online coding training, and future expansion projects and experiments. not to mention the assistance of the online open-source neighbourhood.