GJS Ganker Fighting Robot
Note: The product below was provided to NoobRC for the purpose of testing and review. At time of writing the product is still in development and has not yet reached full retail status. Some features may change, and some issues may be resolved by the time the retail product ships.
Fact: I like robots, even more so when they are fighting. I’ve seen Real Steel. I’ve seen Pacific Rim too, sure, but I’ve also seen Robot Jox. Multiple times. Giant robot punching things? I’m in. That being said, Rock’em Sock’em Robots have never really done it for me. Sure they look like robots, but we all know it’s just a few plastic levers and a spring. NOT COOL. Not unless they’re five feet tall, and even then it’s debatable.
So I was cruising around the internet one day when I stumble across an IndieGoGo campaign for something called a GANKER. I don’t know what a Ganker is, but I’m pretty sure it is a terrible product name. Regardless I clicked the link out of curiosity, because seriously guys it was called GANKER. I am so happy I clicked that link, because staring me in the face was a FREAKING ROBOT DUAL WIELDING PISTOLS LIKE A BOSS. Another photo had a robot with a giant lance and shield. There was another with a sword AND a gun. DAAAAAAMN SON! This robot was serious!
The Ganker is a fighting robot design by GJS. It features a metal frame, nine joints for articulation, a Linux+RTOS brain, and is controlled via WIFI using an IOS or Android app. The IndieGoGo campaign to fund production was 132% funded by the time of this writing. It features both melee style combat with swords, shields, and lances, as well as laser-tag style gun play.
Long story short, this shows up on my doorstep a few weeks later:
Yes! YEEEEEEESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS! My robot friend had arrived! I set about unboxing immediately and discovered ANOTHER box inside the box, and with even better packaging. GJS (the manufacturer) wasn’t screwing around, this is retail-quality packaging.
Inside of the box was a high-quality printed manual in Chinese and English. The English is clear, but overall the manual is more of a “quick start” guide. It is enough to get you up and running for the most part, with instructions to download the full manual on the GJS.so website. Snuggled in the next layer of foam are some accessories. My Ganker (ugh, what a name) came with the sword and gun I had seen in the photos, but no lance even though there was a spot for it. There were also spots for an additional gun and sword though, so I believe they will be additional purchases and they were simply thinking ahead in terms of packaging and transportation to bouts. The Ganker is a fighting robot after all…
Under that layer of foam is the Ganker proper. Sliding it out of the foam was harder than it should have been, and I could tell right away that I had a problem. One of the arms felt loose, and while getting it out of the box I could hear something jiggling around inside of it. My years of RC experience (i.e. breaking things) has trained y ear to recognize that as a broken and/or stripped servo. Uh oh.
When I finally had the Ganker out of the box I was stunned. I just sat there staring at it for a moment. It looked so damn cool you guys. Just… so damn cool. It feels solid too, thanks to its metal frame. It is obvious this isn’t a cheap toy, you get the feeling that GJS is looking to make this the “next big thing” ala FPV drone racing.
Following the instructions in the manual I was able to attach the battery pack and power up. The robot sprang to life, thrusting out its arms and lighting up. I then had to connect the Ganker to my phone via WiFi. The Ganker provides the SSID itself, so you just wait for it to pop up on your device (IOS and Android supported) , connect, and then open the Ganker app. I ran into problems with the app crashing on my Samsung Galaxy S7, but it worked fine on my wife’s S5 active as well as my Galaxy Tab 4. I did not test on an IOS device. Hopefully GJS will address the app issues soon. Anyway, now that I was connected to the robot via the app I decided to try out the controls.
The Android app is polished in terms of looks and the controls are easy enough to master. There is a big circle on the left for strafing, two smaller circles on the right for rotation, and “skills” buttons for your attacks. The app includes four predefined skills, but you can edit those or even create your own. The skill creation screen is a set of sliders, and honestly it is pretty intuitive. Neither I nor my eight year old sun had any issues creating basic skills. More advanced skills can be created by using a series of poses set across multiple screens. This seems like it should be simple enough, but the app text is misleading. One button is labelled “save” and the other is “save as new”. Clicking save does in fact save the skill, but it won’t let you add another pose. Clicking “save as new” will allow you to create a new pose, but sometimes it takes your current pose and moves it to the next screen instead. It is confusing to say the least, and neither the printed manual nor the PDF that GJS provides on their site goes too deeply into this. Nevertheless you will get the hang of it and will end up creating cool fighting moves. You will also make the robot dance and perform rude gestures. It happens.
The arm that sounded bad worked, but would often get stuck and would require me to rotate it manually. I have contacted GJS support about the issue and apparently there are several other testers/early adopters having the issue which appears to be related to packing and/or shipping. GJS has assured me they will have the issue resolved soon, and will be sending a new servo for the arm to those affected. UPDATE: New servo in-hand. Thanks GJS!
The Ganker has plenty of power and speed, moving quickly across the floor on both smooth and carpeted surfaces, though noticeably better on the former. The four-wheeled design works great, and the strafing movement style is perfect for fighting. That being said I would feel better with a controller of some sort with dual thumb sticks and four shoulder buttons for the skills, ala an Xbox controller. Configuring a robot through a touch-screen app is one thing, but in-depth combat is different thing altogether. With some practice it is possible to pull of some cool moves, but it is too easy to lose track of where your thumb is and accidentally rotate away from your target. It is also rather difficult to use a skill and rotate at the same time since they both require the use of your right thumb (if holding the phone like a controller). Choosing WiFi for control over something like Bluetooth (which could support numerous game pad controllers) may not have been the best decision. Depending on the wireless hardware this may be something GJS can address with an update, but I wouldn’t count on it.
Minor issues aside, the Ganker is fun to pilot around and pester your family with. I would imagine it would be a lot more fun with a friend, so if you are considering buying one you may as well plan on investing in two. Keep in mind however that these are hobby-grade robotics, so prepare to spend around $600 on a pair. It surely isn’t cheap, but the Ganker is tough and built to last. The servos will of course fail from time to time (even the manual makes note of this) but GJS plans on backing it up with support and a warranty, not to mention they are standard metal geared micro servos that you can buy online. This also bring up the idea of upgrades and modifications. If you like to tinker you can also strip off the ABS plastic parts and 3D print your own, make custom weapons… maybe add a Micro FPV setup to the head and be a small-scale Robot Jox! The Ganker is easily disassembled and reassembled, and with the right tools you can have a robot that is all your own.
The GJS Ganker is a high-end robotic fighting toy that could easily grow into a full-blown hobby if it catches on. The app and control scheme needs some work, but is acceptable at this point in its life cycle. GJS will need to concentrate on improving their shipping methods to avoid damaging the products, as well as building a community centered around competition. It won’t be easy, but from what I have seen they are already on the right path. I am excited to see what the future holds for GJS and the Ganker… but damn if I don’t like that name.
You can get your own Ganker for a limited time discount by supporting their IndieGoGo campaign.