CES: How men from NASA decided balls were more fun

Half the employees at Orbotix used to work at NASA. Now they make little balls you can control with your iPhone. The balls allegedly glow blue when you get a Facebook message.

LAS VEGAS--It's not that I stagger around CES looking for indicators of man's doom. It's that they accost me with the precision of a pastry chef.

"Hi," said a very charming man (for an engineer), as I stood entirely mesmerized by a little ball rolling between a couple of cones.

Adam Wilson is one of the founders of Orbotix. He told me that half of the folks at Orbotix used to work at NASA. Now they make Sphero, a little ball that rolls between a couple of cones.

Oh, did I mention that the fun of these balls is that you can control them on your iPhone? Yes. And that's not all of the fun. The little ball glows blue when you get a Facebook message.

"Adam," I said, looking him benignly in the eye. "The world is doomed, isn't it?"

He didn't disagree. "Look," he said, "we're trying the help the 99 percent of people who are bored out of their minds all day."

"You mean like at NASA?" I asked.

He smiled. "This is just more fun," he said. "You couldn't do this five years ago. It's not like remote controlling a car in a straight line. Look! These balls roll in all directions."

Wilson explained to me that they have several ways to resuscitate numb minds. "We have office golf," he said.

His enthusiasm utterly boundless, he then told me about cat's balls. Yes, Orbotix' Sphero balls can now be played with by cats, while you make the ball move on your iPhone. At least that's what I think he meant. Or perhaps the cats just put their paw on your iPhone and do it themselves.

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