Project Description

I’ve found a friend in a talking rabbit, but it isn’t 6-foot tall and its name isn’t Harvey. Its name is Karotz, it’s about 1-foot high, and my rabbit friend is actually more like a personal assistant, keeping me informed throughout the day and giving me reminders. Although I call Karotz “it” perhaps I should call it “she” because it has a woman’s voice, albeit a voice so electronically synthesized that occasionally I have trouble understanding.

So what is Karotz? It’s a Wi-Fi device that delivers content from the Web using a Wi-Fi connection, and various apps allow you to customize the type of info you receive. Karotz is shaped like a white rabbit, with beady painted-on black eyes and two pointy ears that swivel when it’s about to do something. Inside, it’s a connected device that communicates with the Internet via Wi-Fi to deliver information about whatever I choose.

Karotz is a rabbit with a history. The device first hit the consumer-electronics scene as the creation of a French company called Violet and was named Nabaztag (emphasis on the second syllable), which means rabbit in Armenian. Clearly, the name Karotz is a step in the right direction.

In 2011, Aldebaran Robotics took over Violet and began offering the third generation of Internet-connected rabbits, saying the company hoped to “democratize the ability to live with a machine and to share a large part of their world vision in which the robot is integrated into the home.” I can’t help but think of Rosey from “The Jetsons” when I read that statement, but Karotz has a long way to go to reach that level of full integration into the home. Yet it has a number of useful features that are sure to brighten your day.

My favorite part of Karotz was using it with my iPhone. By downloading an app to my phone, I can control Karotz remotely. I can make it read a message I type, move its ears, change the color of its light, or take a photo using its Webcam. The app really lets you have some fun playing with your rabbit.

The apps for Karotz itself are fun too. For instance, I set up my Karotz to read Facebook notifications. When I receive a new message, Karotz’s ears spin, and it starts reading my message in its electronic voice. The only drawback was when I first installed the app, it starting reading every Facebook message I had ever received until it got caught up. The messages weren’t new, so I don’t know why it did this. But be prepared for some apps to be a little buggy.

To link my Karotz to my Facebook, I installed the Facebook app on my device, a process accomplished through the Karotz Website. Using the apps is pretty easy—all you have to do is search for what you want, and click to install. I did the same with The New York Times app, and I set the app so Karotz reads me the top headlines every hour. Couldn’t I just open the Times Webpage? Of course I could. But Karotz provides a tiny break, wresting me out of my hunched typing over the keyboard and reminding me of the larger world and its happenings.

However, it can be a bit confusing to find an app that will do exactly what you want. The Website is not the most user friendly, and the apps themselves don’t have great descriptions of what they do. For many of the apps, you can choose from manual, permanent, or scheduled activation, which refers to how often Karotz will read you the information. To make Karotz work well requires quite a bit of trial and error to get the notifications when you want them.

Which brings me to the most frustrating thing about Karotz: setting it up. I don’t want to scare you away, because it’s not really that bad, but if you’re used to simply taking a device out of the box, plugging it in and having it work immediately, Karotz may require more work than you are looking for. The directions involve installing software on your computer, hooking Karotz up via USB to your computer, finding your Wi-Fi network, then letting it update its software, all while monitoring the colored light on Karotz’s belly to make sure it is correctly moving through the stages.

It was all fine until I got to the part about doing the updates. The manual said it would take about 10 minutes, possibly longer. Mine took close to two hours. During this time, I stopped the installation and restarted it, in case it was stalled. Then I restarted it, waited 20 minutes, and nothing else happened. The light did not turn green. So I left it running and walked away, figuring I’d see if more time would let it work itself out. It did! I came back to find Karotz’s light had turned green and my new friend was ready for action.

But Karotz has more skills than simply regurgitating content from the Internet. It can wake you up with whatever music you like. And it functions as an RFID tag reader. Using small, rabbit-shaped tags you can make your Karotz perform certain functions. For instance, you can take a yellow tag and program it via the Website to make Karotz read the weather forecast whenever you swipe the tag across your bunny’s nose, which contains an RFID tag reader.

Some of you may be wondering: Why would I want a plastic Wi-Fi rabbit to read me messages, tell me the temperature and forecast, and alert me to new emails? My answer is: for fun. I thoroughly enjoyed my rabbit’s abilities. If you are the type of person who likes to play with devices and tinker with gadgets, you will love Karotz. If you get into a frustrated tizzy just trying to work your smartphone, you should probably pass on Karotz until it’s a little more user friendly.

I grant you, Karotz is not a necessary device. It’s a device designed to add a bit of amusement to your life, while also making it more convenient for you to find out information you might want to know. All in all, it’s great fun to control your rabbit and play with an actual robot.