Here's what you can do with Sphero the robot
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Hey, that sounds neat. Tell me more.
At the surface, Sphero is an absurdly fun toy to play with; a remote control device that can be manually driven. But get to know it a little better and you quickly realize that it's so much more than that. A Sphero owner can quickly write macros to control the robot without having any knowledge or experience with programming. (A free mobile app called MacroLab, available for both iOS and Android, lets you easily create these macros.)
And it's not just for beginners. Those seeking more advanced control can check out apps like orbBasic, which allows you to program Sphero using an actual programming language similar to the BASIC programming language. Macros don't allow for conditional statements or looping like the orbBasic language, so more complicated tricks require an actual programming language. Enterprising students and software developers with some mobile application development experience can even create their Sphero mobile app for their device.
OK, can it do anything else?
You bet. Besides simply moving around, Sphero can change colors. It also has internal sensors that can plot its position from a certain point. There's a code example where Sphero will change color when it moves roughly 10-inches from its original starting point. Sphero can also become a remote control for certain titles like Exile, which adds a fun twist to an already interesting game.
And, then, of course, there's the educational aspect. This robot presents an ideal platform for learning about engineering and programming because it's able to entertain its audience. Think about it: Having a robot to play with is far more engaging than watching another whiteboard lecture.
Changing the robot's color is a good example of how students can tackle real world problems with Sphero. To change the color, you must configure a percentage value for the RGB values and mix the colors, which require number system conversions. This is a real world problem with a very tangible outcome. A student might not even realize they're doing these conversions when they're so focused on turning the robot a different color. In a nutshell, Sphero engages in the student and makes learning fun; everybody wins.
Fun fact: Even the President of the United States likes Sphero! There's actually a YouTube video of him playing with one. Don't believe it? Check out the video below.
Sphero sounds like fun. But is it a smart purchase?
Well, it really depends on how much you like robots (and if you're still reading this, the answer is yes, you should probably just go buy one). If you're on the fence, consider the affordable cost of Sphero compared to other robots and robot kits, which are often costly and complex. And, as mentioned, it's an especially smart purchase if you have kids interested in tech (or if you're trying to get them interested in it). Sphero currently retails for $129.99 directly from Orbotix.
Plenty of apps – both for fun and learning – are available for Sphero. This list includes free apps, but you can also purchase other types over at iTunes and Google Play.
Sphero Tippsy: You guessed it, this one's a robot-inspired drinking game. Available for Android.
Where can I learn more?
You're in the right place. You can find out everything you need to know about Sphero and the fundamentals of programming in my course, Learn to Program With the Sphero Robot.