Karotz Smart Rabbit: A Fun Toy with Serious Usefulness

| In-Depth Review

The Karotz Smart Rabbit is a PC- and Mac-compatible gadget that brings a variety of fun and useful apps into a small, entertaining form factor. Through a web page interface, you can load up your Karotz with applications from an “Appz Store” that, while small, is growing daily and is open for developers to do business.

The review unit I received included the Karotz Smart Rabbit and two Flatnanoz, RFID tags that can fit on your keychain and be programmed to activate specific apps on your Karotz. The Smart Rabbit has a speaker with adjustable volume, a mini-USB port for connecting to your computer for configuration, and a full-size USB port for plugging in removable media (more on that in a minute). It also has a built-in webcam with an adjustment knob to control how far up (or down) the webcam points.

karotz

The Karotz Smart Rabbit

For a bit of extra money, you can purchase additional Flatnanoz, a circular USB tail, or customized ears and skins for your Karotz. The Karotz is, by default, tied to a power cable, but a rechargeable battery is available as a separate purchase if you want the flexibility of taking your Karotz where no power line has gone before. If you’re outside the United States, or traveling internationally with your Karotz, the Karotz also includes a variety of international power adapters, so you never have to be without your Smart Rabbit.

Karotz can be controlled using the Flatnanoz RFID tags or by voice control. To activate your apps, you either program a Flatnanoz for the app or press the top of Karotz’s head and speak the name of the app you want to run. The voice recognition is a bit twitchy, though. To activate the included Tai Chi app, I had to speak “Tai Chi” as though the words rhymed: “Tye Chye.” Many of the news and weather apps support multiple configuration profiles, allowing you to speak commands to check the weather in Youngstown, Ohio, or in San Francisco, California, without skipping a beat.

There are many ways someone could use this Smart Rabbit, probably more than I could find the space for in this review. The list below is just a snapshot.

Home Security

Using one of several streaming webcam apps for Karotz, your smart rabbit can become an innocuous home surveillance device. When you take still photographs with Karotz, the shutter sound can easily give away what the smart rabbit is doing. The live webcam apps, though, don’t generate any noise on the rabbit’s end. The apps make it easy to activate Karotz’s web cam remotely, giving you a rabbit’s-eye view of what’s happening in your house.

Music Player

You can plug a USB drive loaded with music files into the back of Karotz, and turn your smart rabbit into a funky jukebox. Using the free Music Player app, or the Karotz Controller app on your iPhone, you can play by file name, artist, album, or playlist. The music only plays in mono, and the sound quality isn’t the greatest from Karotz’s speaker, but it certainly makes a lightweight music player for some impromptu entertainment.

Weather Information

Several of the free apps available for the Karotz Smart Rabbit provide weather information. Using these apps, Karotz can read the latest weather information and forecast to you. I programmed one of my Flatnanoz RFID tags to launch the weather app, allowing me to simply swipe the tag across Karotz’s nose to hear the local weather forecast.

KarotzFlatnanoz, RFID Tags for Your Karotz

Other Apps

The app store for Karotz is small but robust, with new apps being released almost daily. Developers can program for Karotz using either a REST web-based API or a Javascript API. Apps have already been written to allow your Karotz to check Twitter, Facebook, or the news. Other apps can turn Karotz into a clock (with alarm), a radio (several radio states have released Karotz apps) or even an educational tool for toddlers, such as the Animals app that teaches youngsters what sounds 26 different animals make.

iOS Remote

A free app, Karotz Controller, is available for your iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch running iOS 4.0 or later in the App Store. Karotz Controller turns your iOS device into a remote control for your Karotz, allowing you to control several features of your smart rabbit from, well, anywhere. You can move Karotz’s ears, change the LED color on the rabbit’s belly, and begin music playback from the app. You can also activate Karotz’s camera, and the rabbit will begin taking still shots and send them to your iOS device. Finally, you can type a message, which Karotz will dutifully speak aloud.

Karotz Controller

Karotz Controller

What I Liked

Once the Karotz is updated and configured, it is surprisingly simple and easy to use. You download and install apps to the smart rabbit from a web page, and can even configure your Flatnanoz RFID tags from the web page. To configure Karotz to connect to your wireless network, you plug the included USB cable into the back of the smart rabbit and run a small utility, Konfigurator, which guides you through configuring your wireless connection settings. The utility will locate visible WiFi hot spots, but will also allow you to type in the SSID of hidden hotspots. Karotz supports open, WEP-encrypted, and WPA/WPA2-secured wireless networks.

What I Didn’t Like

The WiFi antenna inside Karotz is either inefficient, or the rabbit loses its configuration information. I’ve had to plug the rabbit in twice to reconfigure the wireless networking settings.

The documentation for Karotz could stand to be a bit better, too. I had to do a bit of hunting to figure out why I could play music using the Karotz Controller on my iPhone, but not directly from the rabbit. As it turns out, the Karotz Controller App that installs on the smart rabbit to interface with the iOS app includes its own music player. If you want to play music without connecting to the rabbit from your smart phone, you have to install the free Music Player app.

The Karotz Smart Rabbit also seems a bit finicky at times. My review unit played music perfectly one day, but abjectly refused to play the next night. I have occasionally had to let the rabbit go through two or three reboot cycles for it to get full connectivity to the Internet, which meant I could listen to RSS feeds from the rabbit but couldn’t connect to it with Karotz Controller or the Live Webcam app installed on the rabbit. Since this is the third generation of Violet’s smart rabbit, I had hoped for a bit more stability and consistency, but it just isn’t there yet. Still, I’ll rate Karotz as Solid for the novelty and cuteness factor, and the fact that most of its features work quite well.

Product: Karotz Smart Rabbit

Company: Violet

List Price: $129.99

Pros:

Fun toy with lots of customization options. Innocent-looking home security device

Cons:

Poor documentation. Occasionally loses WiFi configuration. Poor-quality speaker

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