App-Controlled Robot Is Your New Toy

Ollie is not the first app-controlled robotic toy, but it might be the cutest. It comes from GoSphero, who brought us Sphero, the app-controlled ball.

Since Ollie is available for pre-order for $100 and ships on September 15th, Gizmodo’s Mario Aguilar decided to give the toy a test run.

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The little bot is about the size of a big soup can. It has two smooth wheels, which can be swapped for knobby tires, and each one spins independently.

At launch time, four apps will be available for iOS or Android, but Gizmodo only had the “Tricks Mode” for its review.

After downloading the app and opening it, touch the phone to the toy to connect the two via a Bluetooth wireless signal. It continuously searches for Ollie and can find and control him up to 30 meters away.

A touchscreen on the phone, which resembles the old iPod click-wheel, controls the robot. Aguilar was a bit disgruntled saying, “I have to admit that using the touchscreen to manipulate a real world object is a bit of a challenge. In part, that’s because Ollie is round and so it’s not always obvious whether it’s facing forwards or backwards, especially just after it’s slammed into a wall or done a bunch of flips…”

The app allows you to adjust several settings, including where you plan to play. Indoors or out? Hard surface or soft? You can also adjust speed, acceleration and handling.

At a top speed of 14 miles per hour, Ollie is able to traverse the ground fairly quickly and it’s capable of climbing ramps, catching air and smashing into walls without getting damaging. They should make phones out of this stuff.

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But according to Aguilar, there is a big learning curve with Ollie and it takes a few hours to master. It can be difficult to perform even the simplest maneuver.

In a way that might be good, though. Anyone likely interested in this toy probably has a short attention span and the fact that Ollie requires some attention and practice could mean that those who master it will be more revered.

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