[ This comparison sprang from a series of question asked on my Rovio Facebook group by Nesar. Thank you Nesar for the questions. ]
What is driving each robot like?
I've driven both robots. I have a Rovio and a Spykee owner let me drive his. Remember too, Spykee is a kit and you have to spend a fairly tedious hour or two putting it together (according to the owner I spoke to who has a video on YouTube).
Which has the best battery life?
WowWee quotes 2 hours for Rovio and Meccano quotes 3 to 10 hours depending on use. Obviously this is a nearly meaningless comparison because of the use aspects but that's what they stated. However, unless you intend to drive either of them continuously for more than 2 hours in a single remote viewing session, it's kind of a moot point, since they can both self dock and recharge.
Which one is easier to control?
I would say clearly the edge belongs to Rovio here. Spykee's camera is fixed and can not be moved while Rovio can adjust the camera to one of three positions: down, midway, and up. Also, Rovio has a unique omni-directional wheel base and each wheel has embedded rollers. This allows Rovio to move straight sideways as well as turn, a very handy feature during camera alignment. This wheel base also gives Rovio the ability to make precise movements which are invaluable when trying to get a face or an object centered in the view screen. Also, treads like Spykee have, when they come in contact with a wall or steep obstacle, have a tendency to grip the object and can lead it to fall over. Note: regardless of what you see on the web, Spykee can *not* go up stairs. Meccano's own documentation says this and it was confirmed by the Spykee owner I spoke to.
Also, Rovio has the Northstar navigation feature and Spyke has nothing comparable. This means *Rovio can drive itself* via patrol routes you create; a critical and invaluable feature if you intend to use Rovio frequently over web connection. Many times you will find yourself with a web connection that is flaky making driving the robot remotely virtually impossible. With Rovio you still have an effective home or office monitoring solution since you can execute your preset patrol routes with a single mouse click. Rovio can then trace the route and take high quality photographs at the desired waypoints and E-mail them to you, giving you a solid picture of your home or office despite any current web connection problems (except a complete lack of one of course).
Which one would be easier to mod / hack?
You can use standard Erector parts with Spykee to create custom models and attach other parts. Rovio is a self-contained unit on the other hand. This gives the edge to Spykee for hardware hacks since Rovio hacks will require opening up the unit and doing warranty unfriendly things to the unit, frequently with a soldering gun. On the hardware side Spyke has the definitive edge for hacks and mods.
Spykee comes with a .NET framework based API which you can use to write software to. This means that you have to install the .NET framework on your computer and know how to program in one of the programming languages supported by the .NET framewor. This also means if you create any software that you wish to share with other Rovio owners, they too will need to install the .NET framework to run your hack/mod; if they donít already have it. Rovio, on the other hand, has a very easy to use API that uses simple HTTP operations, just like those used by your browser, to do nearly everything you might want to do with Rovio. Since Rovio has the built-in additional capabilities of infrared based obstacle detection, autonomous path finding with location information, and other features that Spykee lacks, you can do more with Rovioís HTTP based API since Rovio can do more. On the software side Rovio has the definitive edge for hacks and mods.
You can view the complete API specification with all itís available function calls and data reports by viewing the Rovio 1.2 API PDF document.
Would you recommend paying slightly more and getting the Rovio instead of the Spykee?
Yes if your intent is to do robust home or office remote surveillance. If you are more of a kit guy who wants to tinker a lot with custom robot configurations then Spykee could be your choice.
Which one is the most fun to use?
They are both fun but again, if you're a software tinkerer read the Robocommunity thread I listed above to see what may be possible and then compare it to the Spykee .NET API. If you're a hardware tinkerer then probably Spykee. However, Rovio is a real treat to drive. Spykee is fun to drive too but was not as fun for me.
Which one is the most durable (I've got a very active 1 year old son)
That's impossible to tell without the passage of time. But I can say that Rovio has the advantage of being streamlined and more compact with very rugged wheels. Except for when the camera or antenna are raised, there are no other small protruding parts. Spykee is made of kit parts and most configurations I've seen have small limbs or pieces that could be twisted off and broken. Also, with a 1 year old soon you might have to watch out for choking hazards because of this.
Which one do you prefer overall?
Rovio, especially for the A.I./navigation reasons mentioned earlier and due to its superior ease of movement and camera alignment. Watching Rovio monitor the ceiling for the Northstar navigation beams and make small precise alignments while backing in to its charging deck is a breathtaking science fiction moment. WowWee has also done a great job in providing support with router/hub/WiFi configuration issues and the web interface is terrific. For home or office surveillance there is no other choice. There are other big reasons which I can't talk about yet. But I've got a YouTube video coming in a day or two which will really help clarify some of that statement.