The first time around Sphero was a fun idea with not much meat on the bone. With Sphero 2.0 there is so much fun and even more potential it's a killer idea for Christmas.
A toy robotic ball could go either way on the spectrum of awful to amazing.
The first version of Sphero sat somewhere in the middle. It was clever and showed promise, but in the end there was not much to scratch beneath its surface. Sphero 2.0 on the other hand runs so deep and so smart it sits firmly at the top end of the amazement scale.
It is still a fun toy just like its predecessor. You hook it up wirelessly to your smartphone or tablet (iOS and Android) over Bluetooth and you can drive it around your floor and have a perfectly pleasant time doing so. It's twice as fast as before and at two metres per second it really takes off across the floor. Keep your eyes peeled or you could lose it under a couch or cupboard. But then come the augmented reality, interface and programming options that turn Sphero the toy into Sphero the platform.
The augmented reality side of Sphero 2.0 means you can interact with your Sphero through your iPhone or iPad camera as if it was something else. From cute characters like Sharkey the Beaver to virtual zombie combat games where the Sphero becomes your hero. Even an augmented reality golf game where you knock the Sphero around to virtual 'holes' around the room.
The interface option is where some very smart new thinking has come to the Sphero. If the ball is full of orientation sensors, why not use the ball itself as a control device? So it is that some new games let you hold the Sphero and, by twisting, turning and tilting the ball in your hand, you can control arcade-style games and experiences.
Then there's programming. Sphero 2.0 supports macro scripting tools so you can send it instructions and watch it carry them out around your floor. This makes Sphero another fun trojan horse for teaching your kids to code.
Along with all these angles of attack, Sphero 2.0 comes with ramps in the box as well as the option to buy a 'nubby' cover that makes it work very nicely even in outdoor environments. Even without the nubby cover the Sphero 2.0 can slowly swim through water. With the nubby cover that slow crawl becomes a miniature steam boat.
There's 30 apps now available for Sphero 2.0 so there is a lot of fun to explore. With so many angles of attack we'll bet this is a toy that will be played with a lot longer than the few days after Christmas.
If we're betting on who the Sphero 2.0 would suit best, we'd suggest kids in the tween range would love a Sphero the most and with an enthusiastic parent involved they'll learn a lot along the way. If you're just a gadget loving adult in search of another fun toy to show off the magic of the modern world of smartphones, tablets and apps, this might also be worth putting on your list.
Sphero 2.0 is available for AU$179.95 from Harvey Norman, Myer, iWorld and Tech2Go with a special 'Sphero 2.0 Revealed' edition with clear sectioning, to see the inner workings, available exclusively from the Apple Store.
You can see a few of the official Sphero 2.0 YouTube videos below that show off many of the interactions and options available for this clever robotic ball.