How the mRobo Ultra Bass Works

Do You Love Me (Now That I Can Dance)?

Toy companies and marketing reps have been selling us for years on so-called dancing flowers and their ilk, but they don't really rave so much as rock repeatedly to sound. Granted, many of us don't do much better, but, hey, we're human; the dance bar for us is, paradoxically, set lower.

The real selling point of mRobo lies in its proprietary software, which its Vietnam-based manufacturer claims enables the bot to analyze tracks for beats and rhythms and then match its moves to the music [source: Trang].

This, admittedly, is pretty cool.

The mRobo Ultra Bass is not TOSY's only dancing robot. DiscoRobo, his glowier and cuter cousin, can also, according to the company Web site, "catch the beat" and "feel the heat." The diminutive, toy-marketed bot makes up for his lack of speakers or storage with "lively facial expressions" that the manufacturer says also match the music.

The mRobo and DiscoRobo join a slew of mechanical creatures programmed to "dance" to music. My Keepon, a cutesy baby-chick-like robot spun off from a social-development aid and autism-study tool, both bops to the beats and reacts to touch. The 10.8-inch, 1.9-pound (27.4-centimeter, 0.9-kilogram) toy lists at $40, but sells for as low as $14.98. A portion of the proceeds go toward supporting development of My Keepon's research-related relative [source: BeatBots].

Fijit Friends, another interactive toy that can shake its mechanical groove thing, stands 8.6 inches (21.8 centimeters), weighs 1.6 pounds (0.7 kilograms), and can make digital faces and respond to around 30 phrases [source: Mattel]. It retails for around $14.99.

France's Aldebaran Robotics uses dance numbers to demo its NAO robot's remarkable balance and 25 degrees of freedom, but those dance moves are preprogrammed. Honda's Asimo shows off its balance in similar fashion.

So, who has it where it counts? Well, in a Popular Science-hosted dance-off, Fijit and Keepon got served by DiscoRobo's wider repertoire of electric boogaloo, and mRobo sports more degrees of freedom, more moves and more advanced programming than DiscoRobo [source: Iozzio].

At 4.3 by 6.3 by 7.9 inches (10.9 by 16.0 by 20.1 centimeters), mRobo's folded form takes up about as much space as nine stacked NOOK Colors. It weighs 3.3 pounds (1.5 kilograms) -- about as much as a tablet PC. When it hits stores in the fall of 2012, the rocking robot will retail for $199.

Yes, it will be your private dancer, your dancer for money, but will it rank as 2012's hot holiday gift, or will retailers drop it like it's hot?