Sphero 2.0: we see some potential

June 17th, 2014

Here at blugri we are always keen on testing new high tech toys. This weekend I finally tested the Sphero 2.0. Sphero is a robotic ball that is controlled by a tablet or smartphone.

My first impression: easy to get started, the main Sphero App works very well, the multicolor LEDs are nice too and it looks like the ball can entertain me for more than 5 minutes. The first app I tested was the official controller for iPad. (Unfortunately I did not manage to get the ball rolling with the Windows Phone controller.)

Rolling around this smart ball easily kept me occupied for the first hour. Unfortunately after one hour, the battery needs recharging. After the first recharge, I decided to give the specially developed apps a go.

At that point some disappointment kicked in. About 20-games are available for iOS and Android devices (almost none for Windows Phone but that is not really a surprise). I kept using the iPad as a controller.

Some of the games feature augmented reality, a nice gimmick but not ideal. Furniture and walls of a room limit the ease of playing. A simple example: in “Rolling Dead” you use Sphero to roll over holographic zombies , the devices’ camera is enabled and the zombies show up on your screen. But problems arise when a zombie is located on the exact spot of a table leg… of course, playing in a big and empty space solves this issue.

You can not only use this magic ball as a toy, but also as a controller. Unfortunately there are some shortcomings with this as. In “Exile” (a space shooter) it is impossible to make 360° turns as it puts your hand in an impossible position, and shaking the Sphero to cause a “nuke” in “Space Party” upsets the calibration. A more natural and practical way of controlling should be possible.

I had the feeling that the games are mainly a proof of concept of the features of Sphero, and are not solid enough to exist on their own.

However, I believe in the potential of Sphero as an alternate method of control in casual games. The next few months we will investigate the possibilities of integrating Sphero in our games, I will keep you posted!

One last side note: it was Interesting to see how our two office cats would react. Funny how it triggers their curiosity, but at the same time both are a bit afraid of the smart ball. I tried letting Sphero “disappear” behind a corner, leaving the cats totally confused (where did that strange object go to?). Anyway, I must add that the Sphero is somewhat too expensive to use it only as a cat toy.

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