Sphero is a robotic ball that can be controlled on an iOS or Android device through a Bluetooth connection. Using the multi-touch capabilities of these devices, you can move Sphero around indoors, outdoors and even on water. It is available online from Future Shop for $129.99
There’s a lot of cool technology in this small ball. It has inductive charging through the included dock; it features a multi-axis rate gyroscope and accelerometer that enables Sphero to hit speeds of up to three feet per second. It also has a 50 foot range and the LED lights which serve to communicate and entertain can produce thousands of colors.
The technology goes even further when you look at the various iOS and Android apps available. These include apps to better drive and control Sphero, a drawing app where you trace the ball's path on the screen and it will follow your lines and even an app that allows you to shoot photos with your camera app while navigating the ball.
Once connected to your controller you can enable over-the-air firmware updates to ensure that you have the latest software for the device and the controller.
Driving Sphero from the central app is just the start. An open API for iOS and Android invites developers around the world to create new ways to use Sphero. I tested Sphero on my Galaxy Nexus Android smartphone and was able to use various apps not just to control the robotic ball but also to play a simulated game of golf as well as use it as a toy for my two cats that were slightly freaked out at the device’s pulsing lights and my bad driving.
Getting started, you need to make sure that Sphero is charged and you can set it on the included dock and you’re good to go once the pulsing light turns off.
Since Sphero has no buttons, you turn it on by giving it a good shake. Once it is on you fire up the app on your device, link up and are off to the races.
Learning to drive Sphero is challenging, the controls allow you to choose the speed setting but it is navigation that you need to master. You also need a lot of room as the ball picks up momentum pretty quickly especially when you press the Turbo button.
If one Sphero is fun, multiple Spheros can be a party. There are various ways to use the devices to race, run though obstacle courses and even use in swimming pools (don’t dunk your phones!).
There’s a bit of old fashioned homebrew appeal to Sphero and its ecosystem of apps. Users can get creative and develop their own apps or just devise their own way to play with this creative and engrossing new techie toy.
How much fun can you pack in a 3 inch sphere? The Orbotix Sphero takes fun to the next level with your smartphone. A simple download lets you drive Sphero however you like, while multi-coloured LEDs let you change it into thousands of colours.
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