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CES 2014: Sphero 2B Robot Is Fast, Funky, and Fun

Orbotix breaks its own spherical mold with the Sphero 2B, a faster, cheaper, and more customizable robotic toy

2 min read
CES 2014: Sphero 2B Robot Is Fast, Funky, and Fun
Photo: Orbotix

We know and love Orbotix for their magical Sphero robotic balls, which can roll themselves around without any external moving parts. It seems like just a few months ago (barely five months) that we met the second generation of their round robot, so we were more than a little bit surprised that when at CES this week, Orbotix decided to introduce a completely new, and completely different, rolling robotic toy: the Sphero 2B.

The big change on the Sphero 2B is the most obvious one: the thing's got wheels. Whereas the original Spheros use drive systems completely contained inside their sealed shells, the 2B is more like a traditional remote-controlled car. This makes it less waterproof, but a heck of a lot faster: controlled with your iOS or Android device over Bluetooth low energy, the 2B can drive at over 5 meters per second (have fun trying to keep up with it), which is quick enough to get about a meter of air if you launch it off of a jump. And the more traditional steering system makes it a bit easier to drive than a round Sphero, ensuring that when you do go off of a jump, it's intentional.

What might be most interesting to us about the 2B is the fact that it's been designed from the ground up to be modular and customizable. The shell, wheels, treads, and wheel hubs can all be swapped out, so you can give the robot knobbly off-road tires for traction, or slick tires for speed. We're expecting to see a bunch of different options show up from Orbotix, and even more options to show up from users who want to take a crack at making their robots better.

The other new piece of hardware in the Sphero 2B is an infrared cannon of sorts, along with infrared sensors, contained in the body of the robot. The first application for these is going to be for robot battles, where you can chase another Sphero 2B around, "shooting" at it with infrared light (which looks similar to the battle mode in the robotic car racing game Anki Drive). You'll also be able to pick up a set of infrared beacons, allowing you to create invisible light fences that you can program your 2B to stay within.

Like the original Spheros, the 2B is open and programmable, and we're looking forward to what new kinds of programmability (and even autonomy) users might be able to leverage with the infrared beacons. You can expect to see the Sphero 2B up for sale by fall of 2014, for significantly less money than its brethren at under $100.

[ Orbotix ]

For more from CES, check out our complete coverage.

The Conversation (0)

The Bionic-Hand Arms Race

The prosthetics industry is too focused on high-tech limbs that are complicated, costly, and often impractical

12 min read
A photograph of a young woman with brown eyes and neck length hair dyed rose gold sits at a white table. In one hand she holds a carbon fiber robotic arm and hand. Her other arm ends near her elbow. Her short sleeve shirt has a pattern on it of illustrated hands.

The author, Britt Young, holding her Ottobock bebionic bionic arm.

Gabriela Hasbun. Makeup: Maria Nguyen for MAC cosmetics; Hair: Joan Laqui for Living Proof

In Jules Verne’s 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon, members of the fictitious Baltimore Gun Club, all disabled Civil War veterans, restlessly search for a new enemy to conquer. They had spent the war innovating new, deadlier weaponry. By the war’s end, with “not quite one arm between four persons, and exactly two legs between six,” these self-taught amputee-weaponsmiths decide to repurpose their skills toward a new projectile: a rocket ship.

The story of the Baltimore Gun Club propelling themselves to the moon is about the extraordinary masculine power of the veteran, who doesn’t simply “overcome” his disability; he derives power and ambition from it. Their “crutches, wooden legs, artificial arms, steel hooks, caoutchouc [rubber] jaws, silver craniums [and] platinum noses” don’t play leading roles in their personalities—they are merely tools on their bodies. These piecemeal men are unlikely crusaders of invention with an even more unlikely mission. And yet who better to design the next great leap in technology than men remade by technology themselves?

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