Boulder's Sphero releases new robotic ball

Tania González  CNET

The company's toys have always been regarded as some of the best educational and STEM toys out there - they are easily accessible and a great foundation for anyone interested in coding. The Bolt is unique over its predecessors in that it features an 8×8 LED matrix that animates and displays real-time data.

As educational as the toy is, you can also use it just to play around and it can be easily maneuvered via the Sphero Play app. Want to see the robot spin wildly if you put it under a spotlight? It also works with the Sphero Play iOS and Android app, which offers fun driving modes and games. Sphero BOLT is priced at US$149.99 and is available at the Sphere website. Like previous Sphero products, the Bolt is water resistant and reasonably robust, so it can take a fair bit of abuse as it veers around the floor. Who won? Now try it again, this time using Sphero's programmable Bolt robo-ball.

The Sphero Bolt, much like its sibling the SPRK+, is much more than simply a remote control toy, though.

The app doesn't leave kids entirely on their own to craft games, however, as it can also be used to download community-created activities.

My favourite is a simple program, used to transform Sphero into the subject of a physical game of Pong, where you bat Bolt back and forth between two players but there are loads of other clever examples to work your way through as well. However, the Play app doesn't allow you to take full advantage of Bolt's new features. It is also arrayed with a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that promises users with more than two hours of juice for a six-hour charge.


Likewise, the Sphero Bolt is girded with a magnetometer, which makes it quicker for the users to control the device manually.

The Bolt's closest rival in terms of functionality would be the Anki Cozmo, which is slightly more expensive. The SPRK+ offers most of the same features (minus the screen, light and infrared sensors) but retails for a cheaper price of £115. Sphero is shifting from cute toys that weren't selling well to education, where its machines are proving useful.

Changing focus to products for the classroom is what Adam Wilson, founder and chief software architect at Sphero, calls a "swing in the pendulum".

As with the SPRK+, the Bolt is built to last, and should survive plenty of bumps and bruises without any damage - except a charming animation when it unexpectedly rams into a wall. Cozmo can be more easily enjoyed as a traditional toy as well as offering coding instruction, but lacks the durability and deeper coding options of the Bolt.

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