The basic design of each Kamigami robot is based on company founders Nick Kohut and Andrew Gillies’ academic work in biomimicry, which involved building machines that could walk like insects. When fully assembled, each Kamigami has six legs like a real bug, with three of the feet facing forward and three facing backward in an alternating pattern. This means that once you put it together and start controlling it with the app, there’s always one set of legs driving the robot forward, letting it run very, very fast.
The legs are one of the main things you’ll have to assemble yourself, along with the distinctive plastic shell based on one of six different insects, including a cute ladybug, a shiny rhinoceros beetle and a fierce-looking scorpion. Each kit comes with a pre-assembled central unit containing the electronics module and gearbox, equipped with useful sensors like an accelerometer, gyroscope, IR transmitter and two IR readers, as well as speakers and LED lighting. You’ll be asked to download the app on your phone and sync with the base unit via Bluetooth, after which the program will walk you through assembling the Kamigami.
It’s actually pretty simple, though a bit nerve-wracking. At first I was scared I would accidentally break the plastic pieces, but they proved to be pretty sturdy as I slotted them together and bolstered them with black rivets. But while I managed to put together the Kamigami in under an hour, it was still somewhat challenging. The rivets are hard to remove if you make a mistake, and some of the tabs are really small and hard to manipulate: I could see a kid getting frustrated and handing it off to their parents to finish.
Once you’ve got the legs and shell attached, you can just jump into rest of the app and have the bug skittering around almost immediately. You control the robot’s actions directly using the joystick on your screen, or select preprogrammed actions like a figure eight or a little dance. A coding mode lets you program simple movement, light and sound patterns for your bug. There’s even a battle mode that allows two Kamigami to wrestle physically in a sumo match and shoot virtual ray guns at each other.