Of all the products on display at CES 2011 in Las Vegas, one that drew a particularly large number of spectators was ... a ball. Not just any ball, mind you. Developed by Colorado-based tech firm Orbotix, Sphero is a self-propelled rolling ball that users remotely control via Bluetooth, using an app on their smartphone. While it was still in the prototype stage when we last saw it, Sphero has now been redesigned for the retail market, and is available for preorder.
The ball now has a translucent white polycarbonate shell, in place of the prototype's clear one. Internal LED lights glow through that shell, and can be user-adjusted to take on any one of thousands of possible colors. It juices up by sitting in an included induction charger, and works with both iOS and Android devices.
Besides the standard tilt, tap and touch-based directional controls, it also includes an on-screen "boost" button, that gives it a burst of power to climb over things such as carpet edges. The ball will come with the main Sphero app, along with games such as Sphero Drive and Sphero Golf. In the latter game, the smartphone can be swung Wii-style, with the ball responding to the nature of the swing. Other games are planned, including some utilizing augmented reality, and Orbotix has made the API available to developers who wish to develop games of their own.
Sphero can be preordered now, but should be available in stores and through the company website by late 2011. It will sell for US$129.99.
The video below shows how the ball moves.