By: Jason Ciudaj (Contributing Editor)
It was a ball rolling around in a circle on a table with a banner that said “Meet Sphero”….Naturally I clicked where it said Sphero at the top of the page to learn more about this device. I then saw a close up image of Sphero with another banner saying “Part Robot. Part Ball. All Fun” I have to admit at this point I was more than just curious, I had to know what it was.
All of us who own smart phones and/or tablets know all about the fun games we can have on them. However all these games take place onscreen. Orbotix, the company behind Sphero says you can now take the game out of the virtual world and bring it into ours. “Engage in the virtual world. Play in the real one…At Orbotix our goal is to continue to blend the real and virtual worlds to expand the boundaries of what we expect from technology. With our smart robots and innovative software we’re exploring and defining mixed-reality gaming—the next evolution of entertainment.” Sounds like a lot of what we’ve heard and seen before. Yet it’s still interesting enough to take a look at.
So what the heck is Sphero anyway? Apparently it’s the first robotic ball out there (I had no idea). That’s right, I said robotic ball. Sphero is designed to connect via Bluetooth and be controlled with our smart phones and tablets that operate on the Android and iOS systems. However you tilt or swipe your screen translates into Sphero’s actions.
There is a note of caution that Orbotix posts stating “Sphero is a sophisticated electronic device, it is not intended for children under the age of thirteen. Do not change or modify Sphero except with approved accessories. Never abuse, kick, throw, hit, chew, crush, bounce,violently shake or excessively drop Sphero. Do not disassemble Sphero or expose to extreme environmental conditions.” From the looks of that statement, I had to remind myself that we’re talking about a ball and not an overemotional, hormonal pubescent teen on a major freakout. Either way, it sounds like Sphero’s a little sensitive, so be careful. Be nice to Sphero.
Now this sounds fun but I’m sure some of you are thinking what the hell you’re supposed to do with it? Well, there are a number of apps that can be found in the Android Market as well as on iTunes such as Sphero, Sphero Golf, Sphero Draw N’ Drive, Sphero Drive, and Sphero Cam. Apparently there is even a camera in Sphero that allows you to take pictures and videos while you control it. You can also customize the color of your Sphero to better suit your mood. There are of course other apps that are still to come, like Sphero Chromo, and Sphero Space Fighter. Apparently, Orbotix wanted to make sure no less than a boatload of Sphero comes your way. Hey, that’s cool.
This sounds great and all but I wanted to know some of the more technical info. So here we go.
Sphero is a ball controlled via Bluetooth connection to an Android or iOS device with about a 50ft range.
It can reach speeds of up to 3ft per second while keeping precise control.
The multi-colored LED claims to be capable of producing thousands of colors. Hooray color freaks!
The internal guidance system includes accelerometer, compass, and gyro.
Inside construction: Orbotix Smart Robot Outside Construction: Opaque high-impact polycarbonate shell
Dimensions: size 74mm diameter, weight 168 grams
Induction charging (so nothing to plug)
Lipo Battery: drive time over 60 minutes at full speed. With a charge time approximately 180 minutes.
When purchasing a Sphero, prepare for a bit of a sticker shock. The price tag with the cheapest method of shipping comes to $139.99. That does seem a bit steep. However, its not just a ball but an actual robot. In addition, some of the apps are also free. I expect more advanced ones for a premium.
Now it is up to you to decide if the $139.99 price tag is justifiable. I’ll make sure to let you know what I think when I buy one (I’m interested to try it when the new iPad 3 comes out.) Of course, the hours of fun and numerous conversations started might just be worth it.
So the next time you need a gift for the tech geek in your life or that fickle person who has everything. Just ask yourself…do they have a Sphero?