Robot toy March 3, 2013 9:13 am

Review of the Sphero robotics ball : a toy for big kids & geeks!

0 comment

shpero robotique ball

Sphero, developed by Orbotix, is the first robotic ball game. This gadget works with a robot inside ball controlled entirely via Bluetooth operated with your smartphone or digital tablet. Many applications for IOS and Android system are regularly developed to play with Sphero.

It is delivery will feature an operations manual and a charger for the device :


I opened the package and found the quick start option for my Sphero. The steps were incredibly simple: Connect the charger to the ball, wait 5 seconds, remove and shake. It is then that the Sphero began to excite and illuminate blue, green and red.

Connection the Sphero

Step 6 of the instruction indicates to me that it must be synchronized with an iPhone. As I didnt own one (yes, I am a pro Blackberry, shame on me), I decided to use the single Apple product in the house: The Ipad. It was simple enough: go to the settings menu, enable bluetooth and there, Sphero is “recognized” without problem and then “Connected”. It was then that my girlfriend arrived and asked me what “it is a little geeky”? OFFENDED, I retorted in steering wheel Iphone (yes, she is pro-Apple device) in an attempt to synchronize the Sphero but the phone does not recognize the trackball! In effect, I was upset to learn later that Sphero can only connect to one wireless device.

As indicated on the manual, I downloaded the application (free on the Apple Store) and it is a party! A tutorial shows step-by-step how to start the navigation of the ball.

It must be shaken up for the turn and then the place to the ground. That is when it begins to move revealing a blue dot on the surface. This blue point allows you to calibrate the navigation of Sphero: It must be faced toward you to indicate where your position is. Then serious fun may begin… see in this video:

Sphero Control

Sphero may be controlled in two ways: via the joystick of the application (which is by far the most practical way) or using the device as a handlebar (good luck).

Firstly, avoid playing with Sphero if you are in the apartment unless you are on the ground level… My neighbor a floor below confirmed that the toy is relatively noisy when in use. Secondly, have patience when you begin to handle the beast because it is hard to master the accelerations and the braking to get the navigation smooth. Small demonstration with the slalom (spleen) :

With the application, you can also control the speed of the ball. The maximum level is truly impressive and even allows you to help your craft to climb obstacles (slopes, small ridges such as the thick carpets or the thresholds of door…) so that the minimum speed will be useful to perform around courses; but much less dramatic, let s face it… The tricks allow the ball to perform pre-defined courses (in a circle, square, zigzag).

By registering, you can get statistics from your ball: number of miles travelled, collisions or calibration performed. The kind of stats that geeks love to share, the more so as data points are the next challenges predefined (challenges of distance, of collision, calibration etc… ). This makes using the ball highly addicted and make me want to take it around everywhere.

I do really mean everywhere, because the ball is almost indestructible. Made with a strong polycarbonate, the Sphero is absolutely an all-terrain, on land, on turf, on tiles and also… in the water device. A true bath toy therefore (on condition that the iPad doesn’t go for a swim as well). I took the risk to walk on it and to put all my weight and everything seems to still work wonderfully…

Around of Sphero

The Sphero would be nothing without the “Spherosphere”, the forum for the large community devoted to this small spacecraft. While most of the Apps are free (or for less than one euro), the applications interact the ball and are displaced in an augmented reality for the community of avid Spheros.

tablette ipad et sphero

There are a few App Games for the Sphero that are not really interesting, such as;

Zombie Rollers: You are a ball that needs to roll over Zombies

Kitschissime: You are an astronaut cat who must destroy his enemies with bacon

Theres is also an app to allow you to create drawings on your iPad to map out a course for the Sphero, This is relatively fun for a few minutes yet became tiresome.

The most interesting Apps are the multi-player ones; more fun, more accessible and also more “casual” to laugh between mates. The application “Color Grab” tested the reflexes of the players in posing a challenge to attach receptors to the ball at times when the ball glows a certain color. Or even “Pass Sphero” which revisits the ancestral set of the bomb or the players pass the ball before the fatal count…

Other applications build upon a greater interactivity with the reality: other games that should be noted include the unnecessary but so funny “Sphero Golf” which offers you to install a cup to the ground and you offer to the screen a simulated golf club. Or even the impressive ‘Sharky’, who with the help of good effects, the camera of your tablet or smartphone is integrated to the screen of a beaver, in place of your robot. Small demonstration in video:

In short, Sphero remains a “toy” reserved for amateur robotic fans and the big kids that will exploit the infinite possibilities of use of the ball and will have the patience to master the movements of the robot. The other barriers may be on its price high enough; about a hundred euros… a beautiful gift for geeks.


Now that you know a little more about the robots we test and review, stay posted for many more to come!

Post comment