WowWee Mintid Dog-E: One-minute review
In repose (or powered down), one might describe WowWee's new Mintid Dog-E robot toy dog as lacking curb appeal. Its nearly all-white plastic body resembles a tiny dog covered in opaque white paint. Aside from a cute black-button nose, it lacks virtually all other dog-like adornments like fur, markings, and even eyes.
It's not until you turn Dog-E on for the first time that you get a sense of its potential appeal. The eyes, chest, and paws light up, it barks and yips excitedly, and it acts in some ways like a very real puppy. Unlike any puppy I've ever seen (real or robot), though, when Dog-E's tail wags, the strip of LED lights uses persistence of vision – the optical illusion where our eyes continue to briefly see an image after it’s disappeared from view – to show you symbols and even send messages. This has its pluses and minuses, but more on those later.
There have been many robot dogs – some more interesting than others, like Sony's expensive but generally amazing Aibo – and WowWee is responsible for some of those, including Chip. Not to be hyperbolic, but Dog-E is unlikely any of them. Not because it outshines the technology found in many of those robo-pups, but because of its mintability.
That's right: when you unpackage and turn on Dog-E for the first time, it's minted in a relatively unique way: the combination of lights, actions, attitude, and even the color of the plastic tongue it occasionally sticks out of its slotted mouth are unique to the toy in your hands.
Dog-E has enough motors for some basic movement and tricks. It can tilt its head up and down, and sit or stand on all four legs. Under each foot is a wheel that lets Dog-E race forward (usually when it has its magnetic toy bone), and, of course, there's the tail-wagging motor. It wags the tail rapidly and quite loudly; in fact, most people who sat nearby when I first powered up Dog-E expressed annoyance with the loud snapping noise. The pay-off is the visual red LED hearts, smiles, and full-blown messages like, "Thanks for being pup's best friend." that appear in the rapid movement.
There are a few sensors that add to Dog-E's realism. It responds to pets on its muzzle, and when you pick it up. Sometimes the tiny tongue will stick out like it's trying to lick you – the licking sound is a bit over the top, but you'll get the message.
The Bluetooth-connected app is useful for learning all about the robot dog. You start by entering all the details about your specific pup. In my case, 'Charlie', as I've named him has two half-folded, yet flexible ears, purple trapezoid eyes, a pink bone on its yellow dog collar, and a pink tongue. If you buy Dog-E, you might get a different-colored tongue – and if it's gold, that's an ultra-rare Dog-E.
The app lets me play games with or without the dog connected, and dig into controls. I can even customize some of the Dog-E's lighting colors or set up a completely different profile. Say someone in my house wants a Dog-E named 'Ralf,' but we don't want to buy another one – we can just build and save a new profile in the app.
The app lets you control the sounds Dog-E makes. When I set off a howl, my son told me the sound was creepy. Volume control is in the app and you may want to adjust it or let Dog-E be just like a real dog: as loud as he wants to be.
Even though I can control some of the robot dog's motion, there's no way for it to reverse, or turn with the wheel paws. All I can do is have Charlie roll forward.
Still, Mintid Dog-E has its charms. It's cute, responsive, "unique," and relatively affordable considering what previous robot dogs have cost. The miniting concept is either smart or maybe a bit much, but I do like how my Dog-E will invariably be different to yours.
Will Charlie become a part of our family? It's too soon to tell.
WowWee Mintid Dog-E: review: Price and availability
The WowWee Mintid Dog-E was unveiled at CES 2023 and officially launched in September 2023. It's available for pre-order on Amazon US priced at $79.99, and it's available to buy now from Amazon UK for £90. Starting in October (2023), Dog-E will be available in US retail outlets including Target, Macy's, and Walmart.
WowWee Mintid Dog-E: review: Setup and play
To get started with Dog-E, you unpackage him, pull off the plastic band to unfurl the segmented ears, and flip the robot over to access a compartment that houses a power switch and the USB-C charge port (it ships with a cable but no charging adapter) and then flip the 'on' switch. Dog-E is rated to play for roughly four hours on a charge and that pretty much matches what I found during our time together.
Dog-E immediately starts yapping and lighting up. The tail wags excitedly (and so loudly) and basically, the robot creates a lot of commotion as it goes through the minting process.
I let this go on for a bit before heads started turning in my direction – I was in the office – and I powered Dog-E down. I decided to complete the minting process at home. The easy-to-follow instructions show you how to set up and use Dog-E with or without the app, but the app plays an important role in understanding what kind of robot dog you have. During setup, it asks you to give Dog-E a name, and then quizzes you about all its unique attributes, including ear color and positioning, eye shape and color, paw and chest color, dog tag color, and tongue color.
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The app can also tell you about your Dog-E's personality. Mine is shy, picky, energetic, snuggly, and sweet. The app also notes the robot pet's activation date, and exactly how old it is, and illustrates what each tail color means (green is happy, red is not). Considering that Dog-E doesn't do all that much, this level of detail and in-app control is smart, and should appeal to app-obsessed children. The mintability and advertised uniqueness may appeal to the adult NFT set, as well.
The app also includes Dog-E activities and games, including one where you can use Dog-E as a pooch-shaped Bop-It game. The app lights up where you should touch Dog-E, and then you have to touch each spot in time to win. I lost repeatedly.
One of the best utilities lets you program custom messages and images that can appear when Dog-E wags its tail. I drew a pair of eyes in the app, hit play, and watched the image appear in Dog-E's wagging tail. Next, I carefully wrote out 'Hi Lance' (drawing anything on the app's grid is a bit of a challenge), and then Dog-E perfectly replicated it in its tail-wag playback.
Dog-E ships with one toy, a small, magnetic bone toy that it can sense when you hold it in front of Dog-E's face. When I placed it on Charlie's magnetic nose (which is also a button), Dog-E would lurch forward (and can, according to WowWee, go in circles if you leave the bone attached). There are no edge sensors, however (not surprising, considering the price), which meant Dog-E could happily zip right off a table. While I enjoyed how Dog-E could recognize the bone and get excited about it, I felt like it was a bit of a one-trick pony when it came to interaction. Every single time I put the bone on its nose, it took off in one direction. This got old, fast.
Dog-E is relatively robust. It can run into walls and chairs without damage, and even withstood being lifted by the tail by a four-year-old (it's recommended for those aged six and older) who generally seemed intrigued by Dog-E but also didn't quite understand how to interact with it.
Overall, WowWee Mintid Dog-E is as loud, silly, and unpredictable as a puppy, but it's also a full-blown robot toy that, with its fairly deep app functionality, could keep kids and maybe even adults engaged for hours. It might not be long before Dog-E owners are meeting up in real dog parks to show off their own minted, custom Dog-E.