The Ozobot robotic game piece is the latest in a growing range of products looking to occupy the middle ground between virtual and real world gaming. The pocket-sized device can be programmed to play a role in various multiplayer games and aims to inject a dose of education into the equation alongside good old fashioned gaming fun.
Measuring just over an inch (2.5 cm) in diameter, the Ozobot uses "Smart Codes" to recognize more than 1,000 commands. This is based on a color code language, which the company says enables it to respond to different colors and precisely follow lines drawn on a screen or real paper. This doubles as a learning tool, whereby children (or adults) can gain an insight into robot programming by drawing a path and observing how Ozobot reacts as it encounters the different colors in its path.
Currently, there are four games available for use with the Ozobot. OzoPath involves using tiles to navigate the piece through a maze, while OzoDraw sees the robot follow a user-drawn pattern, either on-screen or paper. For the more adventurous, users can pit their Ozobots head-to-head in OzoRace, which merges physical and virtual racetracks, or take their chances in OzoLuck through a series of mazes with customizable exits.
The company behind Ozobot feels that these games are just a sample of the kind of antics the pint-sized robot could get up to, with plans to roll out more apps every few month and a Software Development Kit (SDK) on the way for third party developers.
The Ozobot comes in black or white and provides feedback to the user through a built-in multicolor LED light. It runs on a LiPo battery which is charged through Micro USB. iOS and Android compatible, the device comes accompanied by a protective carry pod, a separate "OzoSkin" exterior and MiniTrack cards.
With functioning prototypes already in action, the team behind Ozobot has turned to Kickstarter to get the project into commercial production. Early bird pledges of US$45 are available with shipping estimated for June 2014 if it all goes to plan.
You can see the Ozobot in action in the video below.