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How Sphero Works

Back that app up, Sphero.

To get Sphero to do anything remotely cool, with or without your cat's involvement, you gotta have apps. Right out of the box, Sphero comes with an app that lets you control it and at least get some basic cat-freaking-out responses from it.

Sphero's makers at Orbotix aren't really into making the apps themselves. They want to go further with the robotic stuff, so they're leaving the control of Sphero up to you. There are already games like Sphero Golf, Sphero Chromo, Last Fish and Sphero Macrolab, with new apps being developed all the time. The folks at Orbotix didn't even know about Shapesynth, which creates sounds based on Sphero's movements, until it came out.

Not only does Orbotix put all the information an app developer would need on its Web site, but it also puts on a bunch of hackathons across the country. It was during the Boulder, Colo., hackathon that President Obama's path crossed with Sphero's.

"It's all free," Bernstein said. "Anybody who wants to come, beginners to experienced programmers and artists, can come hang out and build some apps over the weekend. We have a small prize at the end of the weekend, and then we give them four weeks to polish their apps before we give the big prizes away."

How big are those prizes? How big do you think $13,000 in cash is? Because that's what Orbotix gives away at each hackathon.

The Boulder event has so far brought two apps to the app store: One is an Etch-a-Sketch app where you tilt Sphero to draw and shake Sphero to clear the screen; the other is Monster Bash, where your Sphero and another player's Sphero don virtual monster suits and chase each other around until one bashes into the other. "It's basically dog fighting," said Bernstein. There's no limit on the number of Spheros that can play.

Want to create your own cat-harassment game for Sphero? Hit up You can see what the hackathon people have already come up with and find a Sphero-shaped hole for your own app-developing heart to fill.