Last week I ordered a Sphero, www.gosphero.com, from Sparkfun, www.sparkfun.com. Sphero is a delightful little robot in the form of a ball that can roll where you tell it and change colors. The Sphero robot is about 3” across, so it’s about the size of a baseball. The shell is tough polycarbonate, which the company says is strong enough that you can stand on it. So far I haven’t tried that particular test, but it does seem robust. It’s also waterproof, so you don’t have to worry if it rolls through a puddle, or if your dog slobbers all over it.
Well, that’s all well and good, you might say, but what is it good for? The answer is that it’s a lot of fun; more fun than you would initially guess. This little robot can talk to your Apple or Android smartphone or tablet using BlueTooth and the company that makes the robot has created all kinds of little games you can play using the robot. You can even use the robot, which is filled with sensors, as a game controller. There is even an Augmented Reality, AR, application, Sharky the Beaver, if you are an IOS user. (Meaning you use an iPhone. Since I’m an Android user, I can’t tell you much about this program.)
Better still, the company has released the programming toolkit which lets anyone who knows how to program on Android or IOS create new applications for this little device. There are already several independently created games and applications on Google Play for this robot. There are probably even more on the Apple App Store.
When I got my Sphero, it didn’t wake up as the directions said it would. I figured it was simply in need of a recharge, so I dropped it in its charger, waited a couple of hours, and tried again. That time everything worked just as it was supposed to. I paired Sphero to my Nexus 10 tablet, loaded up the basic Sphero application, and started terrorizing the cats. (I didn’t actually mean to terrorize them, but apparently they don’t perceive a glowing baseball rolling directly at them as a potential playmate.)
Sphero goes for about $139 at Sparkfun and other places where I’ve seen it advertised. It’s a great gift for kids.