Back in the day the pinnacle of hi tech was a remote-controlled car with a joystick and the need for around 10 AA batteries. Which would last 30 minutes before you had to hook the damn thing back up.
Now the remote-controlled car has evolved into this ‘smart toy’ – the Sphero 2.0 Robot Ball, a robot you control with your smart phone or tablet.
Pretty cool stuff. And Dan was sent one by makers Orbotix and asked to share his thoughts on it.
The Sphero 2.0 Robot Ball is a small, quite heavy ball that’s slightly weighted and it hooks up to your device (using it with a tablet is a much better experience we’ve found just because the screen is bigger) via Bluetooth.
It recharges via the dock, pictured at the top of the page. It takes a couple of hours to fully charge and then gives around an hour of play and is apparently waterproof, dirt proof and shock proof. All of which I was a bit nervous to get my 11 year old to test because, here’s the thing, it costs nearly £100. Ouch.
It glows a multitude of colours (all under your control) and boy can it shift, so watch out under your feet. And mind you don’t scare your pets half to death as it bashes from table legs to sofas. There are even a couple of little ramps in the box the Sphero comes in to get it to jump (which we found nearly impossible as they slip all over the place on our wooden floors!)
So how does it all work?
It’s supremely easy. Dan had it all set up and working before I’d even realised he’d opened the box!
You charge the ball, download the Sphero app, link up via Bluetooth and you’re good to go.
You whack the Sphero two times to wake it up (it doesn’t always happen as quickly as that) and it’s time to drive.
Controlling the ball is quite hard to fathom to begin with but you soon get into the swing of how it moves.
And there are loads of other free apps available for different ‘play’ with your robot – from racing games (send the ball careering around you) to golf (set up a mini crazy golf course in your lounge). There is even an augmented reality game.
It’s all very sophisticated. Dan got bored with a couple of the apps after a few plays, but there are (currently) 25 to explore so there is plenty to keep you entertained.
So what’s the verdict?
It’s very engaging and lots of fun – for children, pets and adults!
Hell, it’s a fabulous bit of kit.
The danger is you spend £100 on a toy that gets forgotten and shoved to the back of a shelf somewhere once the novelty is over. Luckily the makers of Sphero have built in an ‘unlocking’ feature which means you can’t access all the app’s capabilities straight away; once you master certain things, it unlocks new ones.
We’ve had it for a couple of weeks but still feel there’s lots to learn and explore.
It does take a while to master the controls, but then that is half the fun and Dan had a ball (forgive the pun) learning how to manoeuvre it around the house.
Still, you can’t get away from the cost; Dan says if it were say £50 or £60 it would be on everyone’s Christmas list. But at double that price it makes you stop and have a good think before shelling out.
NOTE: There is a limited edition Sphero available through the Apple store; it comes with a custom outer shell which means you can see the robotics inside the ball.
It’s also interesting to note that Orbotix have launched an educational initiative to teach children the basics of programming, robotics and maths, which is exciting stuff.