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Tuesday, May 6, 2014

My Ex-SPHERO-ence with Sphero 2.0 (And Ellipsis 7)

Recently I had the pleasure of testing out Orbotix Sphero 2.0, a somewhat self-aware robotic orb that responds to commands given via an application downloaded to Android or iOS devices. I was able to test out this device using the the Verizon Ellipsis 7 Tablet. The Tablet itself, I feel is also worth mentioning, but as this article is mainly about Sphero, I will save that for post script. 

The device itself is pretty self explanatory. A semi-lightweight ball with a weighted motor inside and the ability to light up different colors. The device comes with a charging station, a quick start guide, and two ramps with which to perform jumps once you ca get Sphero up to high speeds. The orb is also built to withstand impact on hard surfaces. I was very pleased with the design and stability of the device. It was clearly built to withstand abuse. 

Setting up the device is simple enough. After downloading the main app for Sphero (there are a lot of different apps for Sphero, each one being a different game, but not all are by Orbotix) you simply activate bluetooth on your device and wake up Sphero by double tapping him, then Sphero and the device communicate with each other, and if done right, you should see your Sphero's name pop up on the device screen (mine was SPHERO-BOB). 

Once connected, the fun begins. From this point you are given the options of free play or leveling up. Free play lets you just freely drive Sphero around, holding the tablet sideways and using a plethora of touch controls. There's a directional pad that controls much like a joystick, a direction calibrator for when Sphero doesn't want to move in the right direction, a speed control, boost, and different tricks Sphero can do, such as dance, jump, and strobe.

In level up mode, you take Sphero through different missions to earn points and ultimately, level him up. These points can be redeemed for new tricks, increased speed, abilities, etc. that can be carried over to free play mode. The missions vary in type and difficult and consist of things like driving Sphero around at a certain speed for one minute, purposely running Sphero into things so he can get a feel for his environment, and searching for imaginary drop points so Sphero can pick up supplies. Some of these games were surprisingly difficult while others were overly simplistic. More often than not, however, there was a fair balance and nothing was so extreme one way or the other that it diluted any fun I had with the device. 

Overall I was pretty happy with my Sphero experience. The setup was easy and the controls were easy to learn, however a bit clunky at times. Often times Sphero would not go the direction I wanted him to, even after re-calibration. My nephew discovered that you can change the controls from touch to tilt. Meaning you can use the Tablet's built-in gyroscope to control Sphero simply by tilting the tablet in the corresponding direction. I found this to actually be easier than using the touch screen.

In conclusion, I had fun with Sphero. It's a nice little device, with a few minor hiccups, that you can spend hours driving around and playing mini-games. I will definitely be picking one of these up in the future. Perhaps I will even purchase two so I can have head-to-head battles with my friends. Oh yeah, it does that too.

p.s. The Ellipsis 7 tablet is one of the best I have ever used. It is fast and sleek. The picture quality is amazing, and the 4G speed was flawless and worked everywhere. The only downside was that the tablet had a designated section of memory reserved for apps, and that space was not sufficient. However, a firmware update added the option to move so much of the data from certain apps to the tablet space, thus freeing up storage space in the app section. Overall, amazing little tablet. It's petite size and lightweight stature makes it optimal for travel and storage without degrading the HD quality of  video programming. This is a great tablet for those on a budget.                


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