With the launch of the original Sphero, Orbotix gave the humble ball a technological upgrade. It was a smartphone-controllable robotic toy which could be driven around like an RC car via Bluetooth, or even used to play augmented reality games. Now the Sphero 2.0 has been revealed, which is capable of rolling faster, shining brighter, and is generally said to be much smarter.
While Sphero 2.0 looks identical to its predecessor (well, it's always going to look like a ball), its makers say it has been completely re-configured under that polycarbonate shell. Working with iOS and Android devices, it features a more efficient transmission and a low center of gravity which means it can now roll along at an impressive 7 ft (2 m) per second. That's twice the speed of the original, and fast enough to mean you might break a sweat keeping up with it at full pelt.
New multicolor LEDs also mean the Sphero 2.0 is three times as bright and can glow in more colors than the human eye can detect. But potentially the biggest change is a new user interface which means the robotic ball isn't capable of its full potential out of the box. Instead it gains speed and access to more LED lighting effects the more it's used, and the better it is controlled. Users can level-up either in the main Sphero app, or by playing other games.
Suggesting that the Sphero 2.0 is targeted more at kids than the original, it will ship bundled with two small jump ramps for catching air and pulling stunts. Orbotix is also promoting the educational value of the device, pointing out that by programming the Sphero to perform tasks like rolling in a square shape on the ground, youngsters learn about things like angles, velocity and percentages.
While the original Sphero was already an impressive piece of kit, it was somewhat let down by a lack of app support, something Orbotix addressed by releasing the Sphero API and SDK. As a result there are now more than 25 compatible games on iTunes and Google Play. These include augmented reality games, programing and educational titles, multiplayer offerings and handheld games where the Sphero is used as a controller.
The fully-waterproof Sphero 2.0 comes with an induction charger, and is said to be good for one hour of playing on a three-hour charge. An optional knobby protective cover called Nubby is available and gives the Sphero more grip on off-road surfaces or in the water.
The Sphero 2.0 is available for pre-order now and will be in stores from the end of the month at a price of US$130. A "Sphero 2.0 Revealed" version, which features transparent sections on the cover to display the inner workings, will be available exclusively from the Apple Store for the same price.
Here's a video showing the Sphero 2.0 in all its glory … and jumping through the odd flaming hoop.