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How Sphero Works


Will Sphero make my cat obsolete?
Orbotix intends to use Sphero to change the way humans interact with games.
Orbotix intends to use Sphero to change the way humans interact with games.
Courtesy of Orbotix

So if regular geeks across the country are creating the apps that make Sphero do cool stuff, then what are the guys at Orbotix doing? Sitting around in their white molded-plastic chairs with their feet propped up on glass-topped desks while robot butlers bring them virgin martinis? Hanging out with Jay-Z and Beyoncé on a yacht in the Mediterranean? Spending all their time chasing cats with their Spheros?

They may do at least some of these things (definitely the cat one), but they're also looking to use Sphero to change the way humans interact with games. They call the new technology "mixed reality."

Imagine you've got a Sphero on the floor and an iPad in your hands. You use the camera in your iPad to look at Sphero rolling around down there, so you can see Sphero on the screen. Easy peasy. But Orbotix can track where Sphero is in real time and overlay virtual 3-D objects on top of the physical ball.

Now, what you see on the screen isn't a white plastic ball; it's a 3-D dragon. You use the app to pilot Sphero in the real world, but you watch the dragon on the screen. When Sphero runs into a real, actual wall, stars circle the stunned dragon's head and he gets mad. As Bernstein points out, "That's something that's not really possible without a physical device." No Wii controller, no Kinect, cares if you bounce off a wall, as some of us found out right before our trips to the emergency room.

This technology would work most easily and obviously with a virtual pet. Sphero could start out as an egg that you roll around and feed with your app controls. It hatches, it gets bigger, and then you have virtual objects that you can touch on your iPad to interact with Sphero.

Maybe the question shouldn't be, can my cat destroy Sphero, but rather, will Sphero make my cat obsolete?


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