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Sphero, the robot ball, adds a dash of augmented reality

The team behind the playful robotic ball showed off Sphero in forthcoming augmented reality games.

Sphero, as part of an iPad game Paul Sloan/CNET

LAS VEGAS--Sphero is an oddly playful robotic ball that you control from a smartphone or tablet. It seems packed with personality, which makes it hard not to like. It made a minor splash at CES a couple of years ago, and you can check out CNET's piece about it.

And now the team behind Sphero, from the Boulder, Co.-based startup Orbotix, are upping the ante on how people can play with this $129 ball (which, incidentally, is strong enough to withstand a gunshot). At the Digital Experience show tonight at CES 2013, they showed off some new games that are coming out for Sperho, including a couple of augmented reality games that are simple and a lot of fun.

Take the Rolling Dead. It's a basic zombie game in which the zombies attack Sphero, which is rolling around the carpet while you play from your handheld (in this case on an iPad). The iPad's camera tracks the Sphero's position and orientation, letting you control it within a 50-foot range. There's a game called Sharky the Beaver, shown in the photo above, where the Shark also goes after Sphero.

All told, there are now more than 20 iOS and Android games that work with this robotic ball, most of which were built by independent developers who competed in hackathons Orbotix held across the country over the last year. "Developers just keep coming up with new games," says Adam Wilson, a co-founder and chief software architect. And to hear Wilson talk, Sperho is just getting started: "Our end game is not about the ball," he said. "Our end game is about controlling all the stuff around us with our phones."