by Bryan Bergeron, Editor by Bryan Bergeron, Editor
Robotic Pet Teardown
One of the revelations of the post holiday shopping season was that Zhu Zhu™ Pets (www.zhuzhu
pets.com) made the most wanted list for many children.
The robotic, chatty hamsters that scurry about are
essentially carpet roamer robots on steroids. I assume that
the draw of these toys is the semi-realistic hamster fur
coat, the large library of sounds and phrases they emit
when active, and the semi-autonomous activity they
exhibit inside the various dedicated Zhu Zhu
modular design, relatively well planned circuit board (only
two wire jumpers), and excellent attention to the user
interface. If you’re interested in peeking inside your own
Zhu Zhu, all you’ll need for the operation is a small
Phillip’s head screwdriver.
Figure 1 shows the life-sized robot hamster intact and
upright. You can just make out the momentary contact
button embedded in the nose. The buttons accessed
through the head and rear are less obvious. Figure 2
shows the underside of the robot, with the front of the
robot to the right. Note the moveable studs to either side
of the fixed, center stud on the far right side of the figure.
The robot uses these two switches — referred to as data
readers by the manufacturer — to detect patterns in the
floors of the various Zhu Zhu environments. Depending
on the pattern, the robot might move ahead a few inches
and then go to sleep, for example.