Connected-toy company Sphero has a new robust little robot that can zip across the floor at 14mph, hit ramps and do tricks, all controlled with a smartphone.
Ollie is the follow up to the company’s Sphero robotic ball and focuses on the core “driving” experience while adding precision gyroscopic control for Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater-style mid-air tricks, taking the play from the screen into the physical world.
It can spin, flip, drift and jump, rewarding players with points on the smartphone app based on the difficulty and execution of the trick, just like a skateboarding game.
“When we looked at the overall stats for Sphero, we saw lots of people just simply wanted to drive it,” explained Ian Bernstein, the co-inventor of Sphero, to the Guardian. “While driving of the features they used a lot was the main boost button, because they wanted to go even faster, which is where the idea of Ollie came from.”
Ollie takes the idea of Sphero, a highly manoeuverable robotic ball that’s controlled via a Bluetooth smartphone, and gives it wheels for more directional travel and grip while maintaining the precise but easy to use control via a smartphone app.
Reinvention of the remote-controlled car
The little wheeled robot is a reinvention of the classic remote controlled car that has just two wheels and can drive at up to 14mph (6 metres a second) up to a range of 30m from the smartphone.
It has several different tyre options that change the handling of the robot providing more grip or allowing it to power slide, and lasts about an hour’s continuous racing on a two-to-three-hour charge.
Ollie went from prototype to product in a little under a year, with the first created from Sphero cast-off parts.
“We pulled out the motors and rubber wheels from a Sphero and put them in-line,” explained Bernstein. “Then we 3D printed some bigger wheels and a frame and in an afternoon we had the first prototype for Ollie.”
The product was then refined to be as robust as possible, surviving 100 drops of 1.5m onto concrete, while being built for speed. With a small ramp of around 10cm Ollie can jump at least 1.5m in the air.
Ollie uses a Bluetooth low-energy wireless connection to the smartphone, but it can also enable the little robot to talk to its surroundings. The company is currently planning an intelligent ramp that has its own leaderboard, tracking player points as Ollie hits the ramp, as well as some race-track style gates for competitive racing.
As with Sphero, Ollie is more than a simple remote control robot and can be hacked on a software and hardware level. Players can use Sphero’s coding apps to programme moves, dances, routes and anything else they fancy, or 3D print accessories to fit onto the outside of the robot like camera mounts, jousting sticks or mohawks.
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