Saturday, 24 August, 2019

Sphero Bolt hands on review

Courtesy of Sphero Courtesy of Sphero
Cecil Davis | 13 September, 2018, 17:46

The ball can be programmed either via Scratch's block-based programming or Javascript, either to move about on a predetermined path or to respond to movements and inputs from its various sensors via the display or LED lights. Rolling around the floor, you can use the Bolt's app on your mobile device to control it with a virtual joystick, tilt controls, a slighshot-style method or the novel "scream drive", which lets the Sphero Bolt speed up depending on how loud you are being.

The Sphero Bolt costs $150 (around) from the company's website (around R2300), which is the small price to pay to ensure your kids become the Skynet founders of the future.

With the BOLT, the focus is back on education, as this new little robot is all about STEAM learning.

The Bolt's closest rival in terms of functionality would be the Anki Cozmo, which is slightly more expensive. It's pricey, but if you haven't quite got the funds for the Bolt, the SPRK+ offers a similar range of features for less. Using the Bolt's onboard sensors to control onscreen elements of the Sphero apps, there are a handful of arcade-style games included that take advantage of the unique capabilities of the Bolt. Both of the classroom packs include 15 robots and accessories.

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Sphero, known as the maker of the BB-8 droid and other "Star Wars" toys, has pivoted in recent months from building robotic toys to building educational products and content. Make that at least 2 hours of fun, because that is how long the Sphero Bolt is meant to last before needing a recharge.

The most influential time for a human to start learning how to program is arguably in the developmental years - try teaching a four-year-old a new language. There's a top-down spaceship shooter, an obstacle-based runner, and one where you have to spin barriers to keep a ball bouncing between them. They were complaining about Sprk+'s battery life as they wanted the devices to last all day rather than just a couple of classes. It also marked the first time for Sphero to come up with a gadget that lets multiple robots to interact. There's also a cheaper 15-pack for £1949.99/$1949.99 which drops the charging case.

Getting back to the core of what the Edu app is, it's created to teach coding - either block-based through Scratch, or with JavaScript - letting you program animations, actions, and even games that use the Sphero Bolt. We've not seen a Power Pack in person yet, but it sounds like a great idea.

"We obtained a amount of feedback from educators", Wilson said. We're looking forward to seeing just how ambitious we can get with the Sphero Bolt, as we put it through its paces for a full review in the coming days and weeks.