When it comes to toys there is none more basic than the humble ball. Depictions of ball games have been found on ancient Egyptian monuments, while ball games were also popular among the ancient Greeks and Romans. This enduring popularity has seen ball games remain popular the world over to the present day. We’ve seen a number of products that have brought modern technology to balls, such as the sOccket and Speedsensor. The latest to join the list is Sphero – a ball that can be controlled with a smartphone via Bluetooth.

Sphero, which was first unveiled as a prototype by Orbotix back in June, measures 74 mm (2.9 in) in diameter and is charged using an inductive charger. Once paired to an iOS or Android smartphone, it can be controlled by tilting your phone in the direction you want it to roll and opening up the ball to a whole new variety of interactive games.

Orbotrix has devised a number of games that can be played with Sphero, including navigating a maze laid out on the floor and a Sumo game, which is the first app developed for the ball. With it, two users can throw their balls on a table and try to knock each other off. The app also includes an onscreen component with online stats, profiles, damage and powerups. This provides the possibility for customized games where balls might sustain “damage” and roll slower, or a powerup could reverse the opponent’s controls for a few seconds.

Aside from the games Orbotrix plans to produce, it is also opening up the APIs for the ball to allow app developers with no hardware knowledge to build their own games or applications. Suggestions include a golf game where a swipe on the phone’s touchscreen acts as a hit to send the ball rolling around a course mapped out around the house or office, and a curling game where the player physically rolls the ball and then brushes the touchscreen to try and hit a target.

Orbotrix will be displaying the Sphero at CES 2011, so we’ll be sure take a closer look.

Via Oh Gizmo!