Sphero

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The Sphero 1.0/2.0
Sphero.png
A Sphero ball on the inductive charging base
Type spherical robot
Inventor Ian Bernstein, Adam Wilson[1]
Company Sphero (previously Orbotix)[1][2]
Country United States[2]
Availability 2011[3][4]–present
[[1] Official website]

Sphero is a spherical robot designed by Sphero, previously Orbotix.[4][5][6] It is a white orb wrapped in polycarbonate, capable of rolling around, and controlled by a smartphone or tablet.[5] There are two versions of the Sphero (1.0 and 2.0). The company also makes the BB-8 toy robot based on the droid from the 2015 film Star Wars: The Force Awakens as well as a cylindrical robot called the Ollie, and SPRK, a robot for academics for its transparent design.

The history of the Sphero[edit]

Sphero was initially prototyped by its inventors, Ian Bernstein[7] and Adam Wilson, with a 3D-printed shell and electronics taken from a smartphone.[1] It was then demonstrated in CES 2011.[8][9] A newer version of Sphero, Sphero 2.0, was launched by Orbotix in 2013, two years after the initial release.[10][11] The next version, Sphero Ollie (originally named Sphero 2B),[12] was introduced in CES 2014 and became available as of September 15, 2014.[13][14]

In July 2014, while participating in Disney's technology accelerator program for startups, Sphero's staff were invited into a private meeting with Disney CEO Bob Iger, who showed them then-unseen photos from the production of the 2015 film Star Wars: The Force Awakens and images of BB-8—a spherical droid character introduced in the film, and were offered a licensing deal to produce an official BB-8 toy based on Sphero's technology. Disney also made a minority investment in Sphero. The BB-8 toy was released on September 4, 2015; it is accompanied by a special Star Wars-themed control app, which also features augmented reality "holographic" messages.[15][16]

Operation[edit]

The toys are controlled with a smartphone or tablet running iOS, Android or Windows Phone via Bluetooth, and wirelessly charged with a charging base.[5][17] Since they have an accelerometer and a gyroscope, it can also be used as a controller for games on iOS and Android platforms.[17][18] Several apps and games have been developed for the platform.[5][17]

Users can program the toy with an app called Sphero Macrolab which includes a set of predefined macros, and orbBasic which uses a BASIC-based language.[19]

It should be noted that, unlike its other two Orbotix brethren, the Ollie and BB-8 version, Sphero is completely self-contained and sealed. It can operate and has been operated well in water, with mixed Bluetooth connectivity when in freezing water, as shown in one icy winter test. However, taking the head off of the BB-8 makes it water proof. There are also "nubby" covers sold that increase traction/durability, with only somewhat improved operation through water.

Other Products[edit]

Ollie[edit]

An Ollie Darkside with turbo tires on.
An Ollie Darkside with turbo tires on.

Named after the Ollie Skateboard Trick, the Ollie is not as much meant for learning as just doing tricks. Originally going to be called the Sphero 2b and have clear middles, the 2 wheeled robots now have a non-transparent middle with the Sphero logo being semi-transparent also with lines following backward that can be lit by RGB LEDs so that it can show any color. The Sphero company claims that it can reach 14 mph. Unlike all the other Sphero toys, instead of being inductively charged, it is charged by a Micro USB on the back. It comes in two models, the normal (white with choice of color wheels) or dark side (all black). Unlike the normal where it comes with only 1 pair of tires and 1 pair of hub caps, the dark side comes with black turbo tires, black nubby tires, and 2 types of hub caps (both black).

BB-8[edit]

With a license from Disney/Lucasfilm (see history), Sphero made a robot that models a droid called BB-8 from the Star Wars: The Force Awakens movie. The BB-8 robot is basically the same as a Sphero 2.0 with a removable magnetic head on top. It also has special features such as the augmented reality holograms.

R2-D2[edit]

Following on from the success of the BB-8 robot, Sphero has released a R2-D2 robot that is powered by Sphero technology. This is accompanied by an app which is available for iOS and Android (operating system) powered devices.[20] The R2-D2 droid, unlike the BB-8 and Sphero droids is not inductively charged, instead, a Micro USB connection is used.

Sphero Mini[edit]

Sphero Mini is a smaller version of the Sphero robot. It is the first Sphero robot to have interchangeable shells. These shells are very colorful, and come in white, blue, pink, green, and orange. The Mini is the cheapest robot made by Sphero at $49. The Mini has a new feature called face drive which lets the user drive the robot through the app with different head movements. The Mini is charged with a micro USB port, which means that unlike the Sphero 2.0, it's not waterproof.

Specifications[edit]

Hardware[edit]

Sphero is a white orb that weighs 0.37 pounds (170 g).[21] The processor on board is a 75 MHz ARM Cortex M4. It has two 350 mAh LiPo batteries, and also an accelerometer and a gyroscope. Bluetooth is used for communication[21][22] and for power Inductive charging.[7]

Mechanically the inventors compare the inside mechanics of the ball to a two-wheel electric vehicle such as the Segway PT.[7]

Software[edit]

Sphero's firmware is updated automatically with the official app.[23] An SDK is also available, making it possible to develop applications that can interact with the ball.[17][24] Unofficial SDKs are also available for other devices and platforms, such as Robot Operating System.[25][26]

Reception[edit]

The toy received mixed to positive reviews from critics. The critics praised the toy for its functionality and speed, but it was criticized for the high price and short battery life (one hour per three hours of recharge).[10][27][28] One YouTube reviewer of the product recently stated the product, after 3 years of use, has a charge loss of about five minutes, making for 55 minutes of use after being fully recharged. The Sphero 2.0 was awarded third Best Smart Product of 2015 according to Wellbots Top 25 Smart Products Ranking of 2015.[29]

Sales[edit]

The company hasn't released sales figures of the toy,[30] but announced that the shipment of the first batch of the toys would be delayed due to high demand.[31] However, the pre-ordered Spheros shipped out normally at last.[32]

Company[edit]

Formerly
Orbotix
Founders Adam Wilson & Ian Bernstein
Headquarters Boulder, Colorado
Key people
Paul Berberian (CEO)
Website www.sphero.com

Sphero, previously Orbotix,[4][5][6] is a toy robot company based in Denver, Colorado.

Sphero was a selected company for Disney Accelerator Program in 2014 which gets them up to $120,000 in investment capital from Disney with Bob Iger as their program mentor. Sphero's tech was license out to build a full size BB-8.[33] The company produced a robotic toy version of BB-8. For Cars 3 in 2017, Sphero developed for Disney Consumer Products and Interactive Media a app-controlled Lightning McQueen.[34] The company's next product was a multi-mode interactive Spiderman released on June 15, 2017.[35]

In June 2017, Sphero spun off their advanced robotics group into a new company, Misty Robotics[36]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Kimberly Weisul (May 28, 2013). "This Robotic Ball May Change Everything". Inc. 
  2. ^ a b "Orbotix". TechCrunch. Oath Inc. Retrieved February 5, 2014. 
  3. ^ Kadhim Shubber (August 14, 2013). "Sphero: the pet-tormenting RC ball that will help your kids program". Wired UK. Conde Nast. 
  4. ^ a b c Michael Gorman (December 19, 2011). "Orbotix Sphero review". Engadget. Weblogs, Inc. 
  5. ^ a b c d e Harry McCracken (August 15, 2013). "Sphero 2.0 Is a More Heroic Robotic Ball". Time. Time Inc. 
  6. ^ a b Elizabeth Denham (September 19, 2013). "Robotic Coding Teaches Kids Math and Programming". The Huffington Post. AOL. 
  7. ^ a b c Ian Bernstein interviewed on the TV show Triangulation on the TWiT.tv network
  8. ^ Mike Schramm (January 8, 2011). "Hands-on with Sphero at the CES 2011". TUAW. 
  9. ^ Chris Velazco (September 14, 2011). "Sphero Sports New Body, Rolls Closer To Official Release". TechCrunch. AOL. 
  10. ^ a b Brian Heater (August 14, 2013). "Sphero 2.0 rolls out at speeds 'slightly slower than a Lamborghini' (video)". Engadget. 
  11. ^ Jordan Crook (August 14, 2013). "Sphero 2.0 Is Twice As Fast, Agile, And Awesome". TechCrunch. AOL. 
  12. ^ "Sphero Ollie" (Press release). Orbotix. Retrieved April 20, 2014. 
  13. ^ Evan Ackerman (January 8, 2014). "CES 2014: Sphero 2B Robot Is Fast, Funky, and Fun". IEEE Spectrum. 
  14. ^ Andy Robertson (March 3, 2014). "New 'Sphero 2B' Robot Will Outrun You". Forbes. Forbes, LLC. 
  15. ^ "The Story (And Tech) Behind That Awesome Star Wars BB-8 Toy". Wired. Conde Nest. Retrieved 5 September 2015. 
  16. ^ "Disney's support for start-ups led to one new company winning a dream Star Wars contract". TheNational.ae. Retrieved 5 September 2015. 
  17. ^ a b c d Chelsea Stark (August 30, 2012). "Robotic Ball Sphero Rolls Gaming to a Whole New Level". Mashable. 
  18. ^ Eric Savitz (January 9, 2013). "CES: Hey, Sphero! Shall We Play A Game?". Forbes. 
  19. ^ Susie Ochs (August 21, 2013). "Review: Sphero 2.0 is a brighter, faster, smartphone-controlled ball of fun". Macworld. 
  20. ^ "Sphero | Unlocking the true potential of play". Sphero. Retrieved October 7, 2017. 
  21. ^ a b "Orbotix Sphero". The Verge. Vox Media. Retrieved February 7, 2014. 
  22. ^ "Tech Specs" (Press release). Orbotix. Retrieved February 7, 2014. 
  23. ^ "Sphero App Update Based On Your Feedback" (Press release). Orbotix. Retrieved February 7, 2014. 
  24. ^ Russell Holly (May 10, 2011). "Orbotix releases the Sphero SDK at Google I/O". Geek.com. 
  25. ^ Evan Ackerman (August 14, 2013). "Orbotix Rolls Out Speedy Next-Gen Sphero". IEEE Spectrum. 
  26. ^ "Sphero Developer Center". Orbotix. Retrieved February 5, 2014. 
  27. ^ Rik Sharma (November 26, 2013). "Gadget of the week: Orbotix Sphero 2.0". Daily Mail. 
  28. ^ "Orbotix Sphero Review & Rating". PCMag. March 29, 2013. 
  29. ^ Berdugo, Philippe (2015-12-01). "Wellbots top 25 smart products of 2015". wellbots.com. Retrieved 2015-12-01. 
  30. ^ Mike Schramm (January 7, 2013). "CES Unveiled: Sphero reveals new apps to roll around in". TUAW. 
  31. ^ Amar Toor (December 9, 2011). "Sphero shipments delayed due to high demand, won't be here-o until January". Engadget. 
  32. ^ Brad McCarty (December 19, 2011). "TNW reviews the Sphero – Does the robotic ball live up to the hype?". The Next Web. 
  33. ^ Lev-Ram, Michal (April 17, 2015). "The company behind Star Wars' new BB-8 droid". Fortune. Time Inc. Retrieved June 27, 2017. 
  34. ^ Lisanti, Tony (May 1, 2017). "Disney's Vision for the Future". License! Global. Retrieved June 27, 2017. 
  35. ^ Ha, Anthony (June 15, 2017). "Sphero's new toy is a chatty Spider-Man". TechCrunch. Oath Inc. Retrieved June 27, 2017. 
  36. ^ https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20170620005575/en/Sphero-Announces-Misty-Robotics-Spin-out-Company-Focused

External links[edit]