Brookstone Rover – App controlled wireless spy tank with night vision – eh?
by Troy Saxton-Getty
Of course our jobs here at dropSKIP are very tough, extreme testing of mobile gadgets, long term in-the-real-world testing of personal electronics and it wouldn’t be a complete job without the very tough job of playing with, um, I mean, “testing” of a tracked drone spy bot…
Yes, the Brookstone Rover! If you have an iPhone or iPad you can now control a little tank with a day and night vision camera wirelessly. Yes, over wifi the app lets you completely operate this little guy perfectly.
As soon as you open the box you are almost ready to run, simply flip it over and install the included batteries, you will need one flat tip screwdriver, flip it back over, screw on the included rubber antenna with your hands, install the app from iTunes for either the iPhone or iPad, turn on the tank, pick the tank’s unique SSID on the iPhone/iPad and you are ready to go, about 3 minutes from box opening to speeding down the hallway accosting your friends at work or family at home.
Immediately, our first bummer moment was when we realized you had to connect your iPad/iPhone to the tanks unique and unchangeable SSID. What a bummer, this changes so much of the fun we had planned for this little guy. If you could run it over your work or home wifi you could control it on much greater ranges. The manual says 200ft, 100ft with walls, I would say it’s about 40-60ft with standard house walls at best.
Outdoors it was quite a bit better, but it’s way more fun indoors and if it ran over a wifi access point you could cover the entire building where wifi was present, additionally you could control it over VPN in your home or office remotely, what fun and how down right freaky cool would that be!
We have some limited experience with the ROVIO, which can return itself to the charging base station and can be run remotely over home/work wifi, but this isn’t even close to that. Don’t get me wrong, its a $149, now $99 dollar bundle of fun.
The Box says it all
It looks huge on the box but it is really much smaller then it looks.
We found that deep carpet, hardwood floors, sliding door tracks and concrete outdoors all worked well with the Rover, it actually motors along over just about anything except if you have dog that constantly wants to eat it.
Rover attacking Rover
This little tank was worth the price of admission for all the fun you can have messing with the family pet, but this one has really sharp teeth, he’s fast and doesn’t mind eating some plastic parts.
The App takes some getting used to on controls, it can use tilt and angle or you can use the on-screen buttons for forward / backwards of the left and right track. Additionally the Rover can take pictures via the app as well as you can turn on/off the night vision.
Rover attacking Rover POV shot
At this point we had not figured out that the camera could be moved to a higher incline, so it is adjustable somewhat. However it the camera had been slightly aimed up, the dog would have scared the crap out of us!
The night vision works really well, here is a shot of the laundry room in total darkness:
Rover Night Vision Camera
The Day time camera shots are sometimes blurry depending on ambient light, here is a semi-lit hallway shot:
Hallway camera shot, driver view
Right on the app you can switch between tilt / angle control or button control mode.
Evidently you can program routes and such, but we never got that far, it was plenty fun enough to cruise around the house manually checking stuff out and freaking out the occupants.
We had no trouble sitting in bed and driving the Rover all around the back yard and climbing back over the sliding glass door curb to get back into the house.
Although not water resistant, the little unit is sealed up enough the cruise around damp areas and drive through a little water like a rain soaked deck etc.
What we liked:
iPhone and iPad app is full featured
Camera is decent quality but definitely standard def
Night Vision works pretty well
Simple to setup
What we didn’t like:
No Android app
The wifi is a special SSID and it runs in ad hoc mode, direct connection between app and tank meaning you can’t control it beyond the iPad/iPhone direct radio range.
runs on Alkaline batteries, it would be tough to unscrew both screws on battery cover for rechargeable use
Much shorter range then expected indoors
Can’t recharge itself like a Roomba or ROVIO
The Rover isn’t self operating, it can’t do anything without human direction via the app except for some simple routes etc.
Would we recommend it? For ages 4 and up, yes, for the price, it’s a fun toy, but it is just a toy…
We would also recommend it for office madness as well as for the person who has everything, as long as they don’t have this, you can buy it for them as a gift!
Battery life? Unsure at this point, still running on the crap brand of included battery a few days later. Hey, maybe we can have it fight the Roomba vacuum iRobot?