When I saw a video of Meccano Max, it reminds me of the Q-Bots in the Next Gen movie. In the movie, these Q-bots have artificial intelligence and were promoted to be an integral part of the family who could do anything – from playing with human, providing cooking recipe while a mom is cooking, an exercise buddy, a student buddy and protector. Basically, an endless interaction with human as if it is another human.
My thought was, “Oh wow! That futuristic movie is actually happening now!” And the price is unbelievable! Meccano Max is actually being sold for under $150! That’s cheap! Sweet! 🙂
M.A.X. is an abbrevation for Meccano Advance X-Factor. MAX arrived 2 days early from the expected delivery date through Amazon. What a treat! Jem has been waiting for Max for several days! Inside the box were several bags containing screws, hard plastic pieces, wires and 2 tools. Max needs to assembled piece by piece. Instruction manual noted that it takes 1-3hours to built it.
Jem, our 8-year old son, had a bit of difficulty assembling it by himself despite having a well laid out instruction manual with step-by-step colored pictures assembly process. So Lito, his dad, had to jump in and help. He was as excited as Jem anyway! It took them more than 4hours to fully complete building MAX, while charging the Ni-MH battery initially for 4-6hours.
Max has two modes: Robot mode and Drone Mode
Interacting with MAX in Robot mode
The first encounter with Max was super entertaining, it felt like Max was a robot with a mind on its own, just like the kids animations on TV, as it led the initial conversation with his creator in an excited, yappy voice. That initial conversation is actually the “baseline information” about the owner. Basic questions like Are you my creator? What is your name? How old are you? Are you a human girl or a human boy? Do you have siblings? etc. That yappy introduction was actual coupled by a dance! It was fascinating! Then it continued making instructions like open his claw, wave on his IR sensor, turn his head to the right & left. All these are actually “hardware tests” to make sure all his hardwares are working properly.
Its Mecca Brain has 4 buttons that creates a quick access to certain features: Blue is for Exit, Record is to Record LIM, Green is for Fun & Games and Yellow is for Assistant.
All of those excitements about having a robot with a mind of its own expectations mellowed down after the initial setup conversation, when it stopped talking. Looking back to its manual, we learned that there’s only several command phrases that it understands. The voice commands has to be said exactly as written below:
- Max: This is to get wake him up & get his attention
- Let’s DJ, Max: Max can change the speed of the pre-loaded songs when its neck servo is tilted, it can scratch the record by moving Max’s claw or Max can fast forward/rewind song when rolled back & forth.
- I want to show you something: It scans the object through its Infrared sensors (IR eye) & repeats the name of the object after you say the name of the object or reacts about it.
- Let me introduce you: This is to teach Max about the people around.
- Go to Sleep: This is to turn off Max
- Go on Patrol: Once set, you have 15secs to move out of his sight. Whenever he hears any movement or sees anybody, he will give a warning to enter the password with a second chance. If the password is wrong, he activates the loud alarm to scare off the intruder
- LIM Library: It records motions & sounds. LIM stands for Learned Intelligent Movement.
- Let’s Play a Game: There are 4 Games
- Are you smarter than a robot?– where he’ll ask a random science, technology, news event, etc with a multiple choice answer or true or false. An answer is selected using a button on its Mecca brain. Number of players can also be set.
- Robo tennis – human against Max game right on its face screen. Human’s controller is using Max’s right claw.
- 2 Truths & a lie – you have to figure out which statement is a lie using his Mecca brain buttons to select the answer.
- Would you Rather – Max provides situational questions that you can choose from either A or B through his Mecca brain.
- Make a Delivery: This is a task to deliver light & small objects that it can hold through its right claw. Programming comes in with this capability, where human can program to whom the delivery is for, the path he’ll take to reach destination by using its mecca brain button. There is also a meccano app for Android & Apple to do software programming using text syntax by dragging & dropping the available commands into the programming window. Or use the same app to actually control its movements. Its infrared sensor helps sense obstacles and navigate surfaces during this task.
- Commands that do as stated:
- Tell me a joke: Max tells you a random joke
- Let’s Dance: Max shows you his dance moves once a song is on.
- Set a Reminder
- Set Clock
- Set Volume
- Take a Message
- Tell Me a Fun Fact
- Tell Me My Fortune
MAX in Drone Mode
Drone Mode is engaged by toggling the switch button at the back of his Mecca brain. Once engaged in the Drone Mode, the directional buttons can be pressed to direct his movements to the right, left, backwards & forward.
What we like about Max
- It features artificial intelligence and customizable programming using its Mecca brain buttons or an IOS or android app.
- It’s not a typical toy that does the same one thing over and over again. Max has lots of ways to interact and lots of things to do with it. The more you interact with him, the smarter he gets. That means a new Learning level will unlock the more you play with him. With every new Learning Level, there are new games and activities.
- Moves & talks at a command which are really entertaining
- Can record names & some words/phrases that makes interaction feels realistic
- Pre-loaded with interesting trivia questions and answers, fun facts and entertaining games that forces you to interact with him.
- [Update after having Max for 3 months] Customer service is very responsive and helpful. We had issue about making the app work. I had email communication with them and got a response with solution and even offered a real-time trouble-shooting support. All I needed to do is follow the instructions and wait for the software to update. In our case, it actually took atleast 2 days to make the app work again after updating the software. It’s not the best user experience, but knowing that the customer service is there to help at anytime is a big plus.
What we don’t like about Max
- It’s left hand is not connected to any wiring, it’s just a robot arm that’s part of the design but never really moves unless moved manually.
- There are two dangling unconnected wires that looks misplaced.
- Its wheels’ squeaky movement is so loud that it is hard to hear the words it is saying on some commands.
- Some screws and bolts keep on getting loose with Max’s movements. Needs to constantly find where it supposed to go & tighten them.
- Programming direction is confusing, left actually means right and forward actually means backward. Lito sent this comment to the app creator. Below was their response.
Meccano MAX robot has a lot to offer for a relatively cheap price. It is designed for 10+ ages but an 8-year-old even a 45-year old definitely finds it interesting and educational to play with.
What do you think about MAX? Share your thoughts below! 🙂