WowWee Robosapien V2

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This week on newsstands, youíll find TIME's Inventions special—and in it, my annual tech buyer's guide. To celebrate, I wanted to review the hottest and potentially hard-to-find high-tech toy of the season: WowWee's Robosapien V2.

The original Robosapien, introduced last year, was an unexpectedly funny bionic buddy, and a runaway success: to date, 2.3 million units have been sold. The newer version comes at a higher price—$250 instead of $100—but with jacked-up specs and capabilities. Twice as many motors control the limbs, digits, head and neck, and there are stereo microphones for sensing audio, while a camera detects motion and color. Mix a little of the original robot's sass with some nice new artificial intelligence, and you've got a robot that reacts to its environment or takes commands from the two-stick infrared remote.

Set the Robosapien on Guard Mode, and it will watch and listen, screeching out comical alarms if disturbed. When you return and switch its mode, it reports how many times its perimeters had been compromised. Stick your hand in front of its face, and it uses color recognition to determine that you are human, and then it offers a high five. Be quick about it, because it's apt to pull the old "you're too slow" maneuver. It comes with a green bowling ball and three red pins, which it can recognize on sight and play with a little. The play is clumsy, but it's still impressive to see it carry one red pin over to the other two and set it down without being directed.

Programming the original Robosapien was difficult, and it forgot the program the instant it was turned off. This one is easy to program in Puppet Mode. Wag its limbs, turn its head and twist its torso, and it memorizes all of the moves for later. You can also execute more complicated programs, as with the original, only this robot remembers its moves until you program in a new plan. Unlike its predecessor, this one speaks understandable English, too—speaks, in fact, of many things: Its likes (world domination) and dislikes (when you press Shift1, Shift2, Shift3 and D at the same time). It can ask for a hug or spare change, and will either shout for you to remain calm or startle you to action with its "Lost in Space" style "Danger! Danger! Danger!" But itís clearly still related to the old Robosapien: It roars, dances and suffers the same audible bodily afflictions.

What can't Robosapien V2 do? Well, besides being clumsy when picking up and putting down objects, itís also not terrific on carpet. If you don't have a nice tile or hardwood floor for this Robosapien, you're going to see it take its share of face plants. If it falls on its back, it can get up with a command from its remote, but if it falls forward, he shouts "User error!" I think that's supposed to be ironic, because the only way up is if you pick it up by the scruff of its body armor, and set it on its oversize feet again.