Orbotix Debuts Sphero, an iDevice Controlled Robotic Ball

There are a lot groundbreaking, useful products being introduced at CES this week, but Orbotix’s Sphero only falls into one of those categories. It’s exciting, it’s novel, and it’s unique, but it’s definitely can’t be considered useful, at least, not yet.

Sphero is essentially a high-priced toy, but it sure is fun to watch. This robotic ball receives wireless instructions from an iPhone, an iPad, or an Android device, and then it moves and changes color on command.

You can control the Sphero with tilt motion or on-screen controls, sending it zooming and turning with a single wrist flick. It rolls on any flat surface, and thanks to incredibly precise accelerometer controls, it winds around people and obstacles with no problem.

There are a couple of apps that come with the Sphero. A drawing app allows you to draw a pattern with your finger, which the ball will then follow, and a golfing app allows you to simulate golf strokes.

A ball that rolls accurately based on user input and can change every color of the rainbow (with an internal LED) is great, but of limited use and interest at the moment. The SDK for Sphero is available for developer use, so we may see this ball incorporated as a controller in some games and it would be perfect for augmented reality apps. This could be one awesome iOS companion accessory. I’m a sucker for anything that lights up and changes to any color, so I’m already lusting after my very own Sphero.

Sphero costs $129.99, so there’s no picking this one up on a whim. Still, it’s a fun little device, and imagine how much fun your dog or cat could have with this wily ball. Sphero is currently being shipped out to those who pre-ordered, but you can get yourself on the list at the Orbotix website.

About Juli: Contact me via Twitter: @julipuli