Last night I picked up a Sphero 2.0 from the Apple Store as I needed to test it out for a client project. After about 5 minutes I remarked to my wife that, “This is exactly what’s good and bad about my job. On the one hand, I get to play with these neat kinds of toys and call it work. On the other hand, it’s a $129 dollar ball.”
Initially, I thought my 8 month old puppy would love it, as it was more interactive then her usual analog tennis ball, but she was terrified by the thing. My 3 girls however, were enamored right away.
I’ve been using it for about 24 hours now and the thing is remarkably fun. It is after all a Bluetooth controlled robotic ball. It has a range of about 50 feet and is surprisingly fast and nimble on the controls. When on, it activates a color changing LED that adds to the overall whimsy of the experience.
Update: I was remarking to a few folks at the office that I was surprised that it didn’t have a camera, as it can be hard to pilot around walls. One of our admins remarked that if it had a camera, people would use it for upskirt pics. Fair point.
Sphero comes with a ton of potential apps, including games that blend digital and real-world environments for seemingly unique gaming experiences, most of which I haven’t tested yet but will do so soon. The hardware and software platform are open source, making it ripe for experimenting with. As such, here are some of the things I’m going to attempt to try with it over the next few weeks.
An engine for LEGO machines
My girls are big into LEGOs and this is probably due to the fact that their father is as well. I’ve been digging out all my old LEGO train tracks to build a train with them and thought I could build an engine for the Sphero to power it. The idea centers around making a gear system that would power the wheels of the train when the Sphero is activated to roll forward.
An event triggered notification system
You can already hack a Sphero to follow you around as long as you have your phone with you. It will stay within a certain distance and use it’s Bluetooth connection to stay with you like a puppy. I’m going to try and build some scripts that make it like a Chumby that moves. Is it about to rain? Come find me and blink blue. New twitter notification? Roll on over and blink yellow. These tricks may seem overtly pointless, but they begin to unlock the potential for the platform. I’d like to have that figured out before I cut the thing open and use the guts for something else.
An robotic pool cleaner
I don’t believe Sphero is rated for water, but a simple rigging of a waterproof shell should suffice. When we moved, we bought a house with a pool an the skimmer doesn’t always reach where there may be bugs. I’m going to try to build a water-tight skimming device for my round little friend and see how it works.
I’ll detail and report back how it goes, but I’d love to hear what ideas any of you might have. Who knows, maybe I’ll build it.