by Brent Dirks
October 19, 2012
Are you in the market for a fun toy you can control with an iOS device? If you’re not willing to spend an enormous amount of money, there are some more reasonable options. For $29.99, the CarBot from DeskPets is definitely a lot of fun for the price. As you could probably guess by the company’s name, the toy car is designed for indoor use on a hard, straight surface like an office desk or kitchen table. While the price is definitely right, there are a few things to consider. While more expensive toys connect to iOS devices via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, you must use the included smartphone IR adapter that plugs into the audio port. The adapter wasn’t very large and easily fit both my iPhone 5 and new iPad with ease. After turning on both the car and adapter, you can start the app. As a final warning, you do need to make sure that the same channel chosen on the bottom of the car is selected on the app’s screen. Once you take care of that, you’ll be ready to race. A positive feature of the CarBot is its battery system. Instead of having to deal with a separate charging cord, the bot has a built-in USB port at the back. Simply flip it down and plug it into a free USB port on your computer. Around 40 minutes of charging will net 25 minutes of hard racing action. The car is controlled by the free DeskPets app available to download in the App Store now. It is designed for the iPhone/iPod touch, but is compatible with the iPad. It has yet to be optimized for the larger screen of the iPhone 5. There are four main modes of play with the CarBot. You can change the mode by pushing a large button on top of the car. The first, and probably most fun, is the drift ‘n’ race mode which allows the chance for pedal-to-the-metal racing fun at full speed with drifting and car horn sounds. Since I only had one car, I didn’t get the chance to try out the battle mode, but it does look like fun. With the infrared sensors, two cars can compete and try to disable each other with the fire and boost buttons in the app. To further show off the infrared sensors, the maze mode allows users to create obstacles and mazes for the CarBot to automatically navigate through without any help. Personality mode allows the CarBot to automatically go crazy drifting, speeding, and spinning with lights and sounds. And parents, the CarBot thankfully does have a mute button to cut down on the noise level when desired. But it does cut down a little bit on the fun, though. Both the maze and personality mode can be activated without the corresponding iOS app, but doing your own steering is what makes the car so much fun. If you’re planning on using the car, make sure you have plenty of hard surfaces to work with. The CarBot got hung up in my carpet, but was easily able to burn rubber on tile, wood, and hard countertops. Also, since control is via IR, the car has to stay within your line of sight. If it goes around a corner or under an object, it will stop in its tracks.