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Orbotix Showcases Robotic Ball at CES

The Consumer Electronics Show currently on in Las Vegas promises to display lots of strange gadgets besides the usual phones, TVs and tablets. One such invention of interest will be the tiny robotic ball developed by Orbotix, a division of Boulder, Colo.

The company’s single invention named Sphero is similar to a remote-control car, but looks more like a baseball and can be controlled using an iPhone or an Android device. According to Paul Berberian, CEO of the company, the ball needs more advanced controls because it has no actual up or down like cars. Thankfully, sensors now are smaller and cheaper, and smart phones possess the requisite processing power. The Sphero communicates with bluetooth in cell phones, which can use the internet connection in the phone. The company also envisages reality games that will convert the rolling ball into things such as a race car, and can be customized to suit a child’s age.

However, the ball is still in its prototype stage, and it is expected to reach markets later this year. Having been launched at a regional trade show, the company now has received funding from the Foundry Group. An iPhone-controlled helicopter, which was showcased at an earlier show, is now on the market; so it should not be long before this ball too hits the marketplace. The ball is actually a tiny rolling robotic platform that has an open programming interface, which will enable developers to design games using Sphero.

Among various options for this sphere is a sumo wrestling idea which has two players, each having a Sphero. Each player tries to force the opposing ball out of the confined ring. Another variant is a tug-of-war between players who respond to queries in a bid to control the movement of the ball to meet opposite goals. The company plans to display about 12 variants of the ball at the show.

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