There have been some really cool robots produced over the years and there will be more to come as advances in microelectronics allow majorly complex systems to be included in childrens toys. Some of my favourite robot toys are not the classic Robbie or R2D2 style models, but the kind of design that reflects the more industrial, purely mechanical robot.
Radio Shack and Tomy made one of the best robot toys ever, the Armatron. Essentially a static arm on a powered base, Armatron had five degrees of articulation in its powerful manipulator, controlled by a pair of joysticks on the base. More of a dexterity game than a model, the idea was to use the arm to build a simple 'reactor' from parts placed within reach of the base, before a timer ran out and cut power. It was quite difficult to synchronise all the movements of the arm to pick up the parts, especially as the batteries wore out and the arm began to slow up!
After the original Armatron, Radio Shack decided to add the missing element of mobility and created the awesome Mobile Armatron. This time Armatron sported a head and eyes and a pumped up single arm. Mobility was provided by a set of wheels beneath and he was controlled by a wired keypad.
Bandai, one of the largest japanese toy makers were not to be outdone and produced a robot which is easily my favourite, even if it does have the stupidest name! The Robot Arm Machine was seconded onto the Robo Machines franchise and came prepared for all eventualities. The compact, tank treaded body is reminiscent of WALL-E and the arms can support three detachable tools. A motor drive in the front of the robot powers the tools, a shovel, a grab and a rocket launcher.Control is wired again and by means of paired joysticks.
An especially nice touch is the use of a famous japanese illustrator for the box art. The artist produced most of the contemporary Imai Macross kit packaging and the style is extremely gritty and realistic.
The Robot Arm Machine design was also 'borrowed' by Blue Box for its larger Worker Robot. A simplified and bulked up version was produced but which only came with two tool attachments.
Finally, Radio Shack brought all the elements of robotic play together in a big boys toy - the Battle Iron Claw. A big sturdy tank base, a powerful grab arm, menacing red sensor and full radio control make the Iron Claw a real force to be reckoned with.Eating batteries for breakfast, this rock solid toy powers across the floor with the push button remote and has a remarkable capable claw at the front to wreak havoc on unsuspecting action figures and dozing pets. You can perform Thunderbirds style rescues with it or batter you way into enemy enclosures before gripping hold of the treasures and making off at top speed. A classic fun toy!