Friday, November 15, 2013

Review: Sphero robotic ball

When I first got the invite to the launch of Sphero, I was puzzled. What has this got to do with me, with parenting or kids? Still, due to my tech background, plus the fact that the person organizing the event is my good friend, I went for it anyway, curious to find out what exactly is this ball in question.

Held at Lowercase, a café bar located at the LaSelle College of Arts, the launch was a casual, chill event that saw the who's who of the tech media circle attend. Many new faces since I was last part of it, then at last, an old friend. I'm so glad to catch up with them.

Sphero 1
The folks who created the Sphero had flown in all the way from America to launch this innovative product. This word is just so apt to describe it. At first, when the founder shared the video and presentation, and mentioned augmented reality, it was hard to visualize what he really meant. The video may show how it works, but the reality didn't sink in, until I saw it with my own eyes.

Sphero 2
And the cool dudes from Sphero were determined to elicit a WOW from all attendees. On one side of the event space was a demo track. When the founder invited everyone to go over there, all were dragging their feet. Everyone must be wondering, what exactly is he going to show? What can this little ball do?

Sphero 5
The little Sphero ball is the world’s first app-controlled robotic ball and game system. Controlled by a downloaded app on the iPhone or iPad, this intelligent gadget moves on its own, does little tricks, hops and jumps. You can simply drive it using the Sphero's own app, or pre-programme a route using the Draw & Drive app and see the Sphero go zooming. The good thing about this app is that you can draw anything, from shapes to letters to numbers. This means that for kids, it’s learning with heaps of fun.

Sphero 4
The family can also get together and test each other’s memory and reflexes. The Pinwheel app is a memory game using colours that are randomly displayed, while the ColorGrab multiplayer app is a test of quickest hands first. Apps like these make the Sphero really perfect for training the kids’ memory and reflex. If EV and AA were older, they will also be able to get a crash course in programming, with the MacroLab app.

Sphero 3
What's really awesome is its augmented reality function, which is most prominent with the Shakey the Beaver app. Instead of the Sphero ball itself, Shakey is displayed on the screen, and moves wherever the ball goes. Is that cool or what?

I could totally imagine driving EV and AA crazy with this. And it certainly did. Here they are chasing after the Sphero, giggling and screeching after it.

Sphero 7

Sphero 8

Call me a tech geek, but I find even the box that the Sphero comes packaged in brilliant.

Sphero 6
I love the way the folks at Sphero included two ramps neatly in the box. Oh, you know how one usually looks for the charging points in a gadget? I was doing it too. Well, in the Sphero, there also isn't a fixed way. Just put it on to the nifty charger and automatically, the heavier side of the ball (which is so nimuscule) where the logo is, will roll to meet the logo on the charger. That’s because it is powered by induction charging. How cool is that? I suddenly feel so geeky.

You know, this Sphero is as much a kids’ toy and learning tool (EV and AA have affectionately named ours Ball Ball), as a parent’s toy. Why do I say so? DaddySay is out in the living room busy playing with it as I write this. Who’s the geeky one now?

Sphero 2.0
Sphero 2.0 is available for $189 at selected Apple Premium Reseller stores and $169 on the Apple online store.

Disclaimer: We were provided with a set of Sphero by the creator Orbotix for review purposes. No monetary compensation was received. All opinions and images are my own.


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