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Ozobot: Tiny autonomous gaming robots for tablets and beyond

The Ozobot robots are looking to cross the bridge between digital and physical gaming worlds, all while adding a charming bit of randomness to the occasion.

Ozobot in action
The Ozobot navigates a tablet maze.
Amanda Kooser/CNET

LAS VEGAS -- The Ozobot is a little, vaguely spherical robot who just wants to know if you can come out and play. Looking a bit like a miniature R2D2 head, it roams across tablet tops or even offline board games. It's one little gadget for both the digital world and the physical world.

At its most basic, the Ozobot follows lines. There are five sensors on the underside that help it stay on tracks, whether those tracks are digital games on a tablet screen or marker lines on a piece of paper. It doesn't stop there. The Ozobot also sees color and reads flashes, so various combinations of those give it specific behavioral instructions. It may goose it into turbo speed mode, or spin it around, or slow it down. There are untold potential combinations.

The Ozobots currently have four game apps that go with them, ranging from a digital version of drawing straws to a game that challenges players to create a path to a finish point before the opponent gets there first. Things get even more intriguing when you start to consider how the Ozobot can roam off a tablet screen and head onto a table top. All it takes is a line and some imagination.

While Ozobot is getting its unveiling at CES, it will be launching on Kickstarter within a week or so, with a funding goal of $100,000. There are still some minor kinks to be worked out when it comes to the brightness of tablet screens, but the demo of the initial models goes surprisingly well for a company at this stage of production.

I can't take my eyes off the little round creatures and I imagine letting them loose to follow lines all over the floor of my house and annoy my CNET test cats. That alone would be worth it.

Ozobots racing
Two Ozobots race for the finish. Amanda Kooser/CNET