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Tech & Gadgets
Sphero Mini: Tiny Ball, Big Fun
by Seth L.
THE BALL IS A ROBOT IS A BALL

Over the years, Sphero is pretty well known for coming up with cool branded robots, ranging from pint-sized Star Wars droids to interactive Marvel heroes and zippy Pixar themed cars. So it’s only natural for them to go back to their spherical roots with this newest bot of theirs. If you are familiar with the earlier Spheros, the new Sphero Mini looks similar to that but shrunk down to a more pocket-portable and wallet-friendly package.

The Sphero Mini is one tiny ballsy robot that you can zoom across the floor without a care. Roughly the size of a ping pong ball, this little wonderbot is packed to the brim with high tech bits and bobs like a little gyroscope, accelerometer, bluetooth chip, LED lights and a battery. The shell of the Sphero Mini can also be removed, allowing you to personalise your own bot with a choice of bright, fluorescent colored shells: all-white, pink, green, blue and orange.

For charging, you will need to pull the Sphero Mini apart as the micro usb port is hidden within the shell. Fully charging the bot takes around 1 hour, with around the same amount of play time, mileage may vary.

Sphero also mentioned that the Sphero Mini is the world’s smallest app-enabled robotic ball (to date) that you can drive around, play games with and also learn how to program on, How cool is that!

DRIVE IT, GAME IT, CODE IT

Like its other spherical siblings, the Mini pairs with a Sphero Mini app for your device, both iOS and Android enabled. Pairing is quick and can be done easily, and once thats out of the way, the fun can start!

There's a few different driving modes to choose from: Joystick, Tilt, Slingshot and Face Drive. Joystick is the most straightforward way to control the Sphero Mini via the app, zooming away in the direction you twiddle the on-screen blob towards. Tilt is also pretty much self explanatory, letting you control the where the Sphero Mini will go via directional tilting of your device. Slingshot is one of the more interesting and fun driving modes, allowing you to interactively pull back and fling the Sphero Mini across the room through the on-screen blob.

And finally there's Face Drive. Smile, frown or gasp towards the face tracker in the app and watch as your Sphero Mini zooms this way and that. It's a weird way to control the bot for sure, but a very interesting way to fit in an interactive 5-minutes facial workout in your daily routine.

You can also use the Sphero Mini as a gaming control for a handful of games that comes with the Sphero app. Pilot a fighter craft, dodging bullets and shooting at enemies or drive a car through a tunnel swerving around random obstacles and pitfalls, the games are simplistic at most but it does provide some alternative ways to have fun with the bot.

If you are interested in coding, you'll be glad to know that the Sphero Mini has coding support through the Sphero Edu app. The app is simple to navigate and use, even for someone that has no knowledge of coding as the instructions are easy to follow. You start with basic logic like drawing a path on-screen for the bot to follow and move on to building instructions with coding blocks for more advance logic programming.

Coding blocks comes easily understandable with labels like set moves, set speeds, light hues, light sequences, loop actions etc. When you are more comfortable, you can start using Javascript to program the Sphero Mini to execute more complicated tasks and moves.

VERDICT

Sphero has clearly put their experience with their other robotic products into making the Sphero Mini a fun-filled ping-pong ball sized bot that you can tinker with for hours. With a variety of different controlling modes, interactive games, and the educational coding push, we think the Sphero Mini should be on your Christmas list this year for someone special, if not for yourself.

The Sphero Mini comes in at an affordable RM280+-, purchasable at their local retail partners listed below.

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