SAN FRANCISCO--Robots at CES came in a multitude of shapes and sizes, but one of the smaller, friendlier looking devices was Sphero, the world’s first smartphone controlled robotic ball.
Sphero, which weighs in at just 168 grams with a 74mm diameter is controlled using Bluetooth from either an Apple device or Android smartphone, with a range of up to 50 feet.
Inside it, the control system includes a gyro, accelerometer and compass to form a mini navigation system which can determine Sphero’s position in three dimensional space.
The balls also contain multi-colored LED lights, capable of producing thousands of colors, and can reach speeds of up to three feet per second.
“They’re a lot of fun,” said a spokesman for the company at CES recently.
Sphero, he explained was “unstable at all times” and could offer users over an hour of game play on a single, cable free, induction charge.
The firm has opened its SDK up to any developer interested in writing their own apps for the device, which Sphero believes has applications not only as a game, but also possibly as a 3D mouse or controller for both PCs and smartphones.
“In terms of robotic activity it’s a really cool platform for doing any kind of augmented reality app,” said the Sphero rep, noting that the fact balls were fairly easy objects to detect, the possibilities for layering software interaction over the experience could be endless.
Let’s just hope the military doesn’t get hold of them and find them useful as remote control grenades.
At $129.99 (according to their website) its price point seems to be a bit high for the toy market. Hopefully, some developers will come up with some more useful applications. My first thought was to stick a big "8" on it and have some fun at the local billiards hall.
David Patterson, known for his pioneering research that led to RAID, clusters and more, is part of a team at UC Berkeley that recently made its RISC-V processor architecture an open source hardware offering. We talk with Patterson and one of his colleagues behind the effort about the opportunities they see, what new kinds of designs they hope to enable and what it means for today’s commercial processor giants such as Intel, ARM and Imagination Technologies.