Add robotic ball to holiday tech wish list

If you want a tech toy to give as a Christmas present, consider the robotic ball developed by Orbotix called the Sphero.
by Lillie-Beth Brinkman Modified: November 27, 2012 at 12:13 pm •  Published: November 27, 2012
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Last week, Orbotix introduced its first augmented reality app called “Sharky the Beaver” on the iTunes store. On screen in the app, which uses the user's device's camera, users will see a cartoon beaver named Sharky depicted traveling around in the same space the ball is traveling. (If the ball is on your kitchen floor, you'll see Sharky on screen on the same kitchen floor.) In another twist, you can turn it into a game by turning the phone vertically and flinging cupcakes into Sharky's mouth.

In augmented reality, the Sphero serves as the orientation point known in tech imaging circles as the “fiduciary marker” for tracking Sharky's movements. In most augmented reality, this marker is fixed by the points around it; with Sharky, the Sphero is designed as a movable marker, an effort that required a lot of “math and patented software,” Lepley said.

Other apps include the main Sphero app for driving the ball; Sphero Golf; Sphero Macrolab, which lets users program their own actions for the ball; Sphero ColorGrab, a party game for multiple people; Sphero Exile, a spaceship game that uses the Sphero as a joystick; Sphero Chromo, Sphero Pet, Sphero Tag (if you have more than one ball); and others.

Most of the apps are free and work as long as you have the Sphero. Sphero is available under the name Sphero Robotic Ball Gaming System at retailers like Brookstone, Barnes and Noble and Target or at the website, www.gosphero.com.

Released last year just in time for Christmas, the tech toy initially appealed to developers and early-adopter tech enthusiasts, Lepley said. This Christmas, Orbotix is seeing the market for Sphero shift to kids, teens and families.

“There really is something for everyone, and anyone that sees it driving around instantly gets a smile on their face,” Lepley said in an email.

Your turn

For a video of the Sphero as well as more discussion about individual apps, go online to blog.NewsOK.com/get-appy. Email app ideas to lbrinkman@opubco.com.

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by Lillie-Beth Brinkman
Lillie-Beth Brinkman is a Content Marketing Manager for the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce. She was previously an assistant editor of The Oklahoman
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