Sphero Launches New Sphero Mini Activity Kit and Mini Soccer

Sphero today announced the launch of two new versions of its popular Sphero Mini robotic ball, debuting a new soccer-themed Sphero Mini along with an activity kit.

The Sphero Mini Activity Kit combines a clear Sphero Mini robotic ball along with several accessories. The Sphero Mini itself is equipped with a gyroscope, accelerometer, LED lights, and a rechargeable battery, and it can be used with the Sphero Play and Sphero Edu apps to play mini games, access drive modes, and more. The kit offers buildable mazes and tunnels, pins and cones, plus 15 Activity Cards to work with.


There are guided activities included on Activity Cards that can be used with the Sphero Play app, and the app is also gaining a new Block Drive mode. Block Drive mode offers an introduction to basic coding. Movement blocks instruct the Sphero Mini where to go, while Light Blocks add LED effects.


For more advanced users, there's the Sphero Edu app for programming the Mini to learn additional coding skills.

Sphero is also introducing the Mini Soccer, which is a Sphero Mini with a custom black and white shell that looks like a soccer ball. It comes with eight cones for creative challenges and it can be used with the Sphero Play and Sphero Edu apps.


The Sphero Mini Activity Kit will be priced at $80 and it is set to launch on October 2, while the Mini Soccer will be priced at $50 and will launch on September 16. The new Sphero devices will be available from the Sphero website and through other retailers.

Tag: Sphero

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MacRumors Giveaway: Win Sphero’s Specdrums and Turn Colors Into Music

For this week's giveaway, we've teamed up with Sphero to offer MacRumors readers a chance to win Specdrums, a finger-worn ring that's designed to turn colors into sounds and music.

Specdrums, priced at $65, fit on your index finger and have an optical sensor built into the front that can recognize colors and translate them into sound using the accompanying Specdrums app.


A simple tap makes a sound, and the sound sets can be customized in the Specdrums app with dozens of options available. For maximum creativity, you can also record your own sounds, and then put them together using finger taps on different colors. Red is one sound, orange is another, yellow is a third sound, and so on.


The app has hundreds of built-in sounds, from drums and other simple musical instruments to rainforest sounds, pop music, hip hop, house music, retro mixes, video game sounds, and dozens of other options.


Specdrums come with a color mat that you can use to make music, but as long as you have the app on an iPhone or an iPad, you can tap the Specdrums against anything colored - rugs, clothing, walls, drawings, and more - to play sounds.


Songs can be recorded in the Specdrums app, so the music you're making can be shared and imported into other apps and software. Specdrums are also designed to work with Bluetooth MIDI apps on your iPhone, iPad, or Mac.


Specdrums have a two hour battery life before needing to be recharged using a standard micro-USB cable, and if you want to make music with friends, more than one ring can be used together. As we said in our review, Specdrums are the perfect music making device for creative kids, but adults will enjoy the Specdrums too.


If you want to buy Specdrums, you can get them from Sphero or from the Apple Store, and we also have seven Specdrums to give away to MacRumors readers. To enter to win our giveaway, use the Gleam.io widget below and enter an email address. Email addresses will be used solely for contact purposes to reach the winners and send the prizes. You can earn additional entries by subscribing to our weekly newsletter, subscribing to our YouTube channel, following us on Twitter, following us on Instagram, or visiting the MacRumors Facebook page.

Due to the complexities of international laws regarding giveaways, only U.S. residents who are 18 years or older and Canadian residents (excluding Quebec) who have reached the age of majority in their province or territory are eligible to enter. To offer feedback or get more information on the giveaway restrictions, please refer to our Site Feedback section, as that is where discussion of the rules will be redirected.

Sphero Specdrums
The contest will run from today (April 26) at 11:00 a.m. Pacific Time through 11:00 a.m. Pacific Time on May 3. The winners will be chosen randomly on May 3 and will be contacted by email. The winners will have 48 hours to respond and provide a shipping address before new winners are chosen.


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Review: Sphero’s Specdrums That Turn Colors Into Sounds Are Great for Kids

Sphero last summer acquired a company called Specdrums, which made finger-worn rings that are designed to turn colors into music. Specdrums are now being sold under the Sphero brand, and are now available in Apple retail stores.

Specdrums fit on an index finger and are meant to allow kids and adults alike to play a musical note when tapping one of the rings against a specific color, creating music by using different colored notes. We tested out the Specdrums ahead of their Apple Store release to see if they're worth the $65 asking price.


Design


Specdrums are small, silicone rings that have optical sensors embedded into the front. The silicone is stretchy, so it can fit a small finger or a larger finger without issue.

I have relatively small fingers and the Specdrums fit comfortably and snugly, and it was not a problem to wear it for a long period of music making. There's a slit at the bottom that allows the ring to expand if necessary.


Specdrums are meant to be worn on an index finger with the optical sensor in the front facing downwards so that you can tap it on various colored surfaces to make sounds.


On the side of the Specdrums, there's a micro-USB port that's used for charging through the included micro-USB cable that comes with it. At the top of the silicone ring, there's a Sphero logo, and at the bottom, the Sphero name.


The optical sensor built into the Specdrums will light up when tapped against a surface, and the rectangular front of the sensor takes up most of the ring. It's comfortable to tap on things and was very responsive, easily recognizing different colors.
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Sphero Launches Kickstarter for New Programmable Robot ‘RVR’

Sphero today debuted a Kickstarter for its latest robot, the RVR, a fully programmable and customizable RC car that the company says has "endless coding possibilities." The RVR Kickstarter begins its pledge levels at $199 and will have a final MSRP of $249, and marks Sphero's first ever Kickstarter project. The final goal for the project is $150,000.


Sphero says that initial shipments will start in September/October 2019, but as with all Kickstarters you should remember that sometimes things are delayed for longer than initially promised. Still, Sphero is a well-known company, and a representative told us that RVR will ship in the designated time frame regardless of the Kickstarter.
“RVR is the kind of robot I wish I had growing up,” said Adam Wilson, Sphero co-founder and chief creative officer. “For makers, developers and anyone who loves to build things, RVR’s advanced capabilities bring to life everything that makes coding exciting. That creative experience is at the core of why we first started Sphero.”
The company says that RVR is drivable out of the box and is usable for coders of all levels, but it has a few advanced features geared toward those looking for a more complex coding experience. RVR can be customized through a universal expansion port, full suite of on-board sensors, and an advanced control system.


Sphero says the robot has a fine-tuned, high-resolution motor encoder that allows for extreme agility and accuracy when controlling it. RVR's universal expansion port has the ability to connect to third-party hardware like Raspberry Pi, Micro:Bit, and Arduino.

Onboard sensors include a color sensor, light sensor, IR, magnetometer, accelerometer, and gyroscope, as well as a roll cage and clear protective plate that can be removed. RVR has an ambient light sensor and 9-axis IMU that can send and receive signals to interact with other Sphero robots.


RVR will connect to the Sphero EDU app, like the company's other robots, allowing users to view tips, ask questions, take on challenges, share their creations, and more. Similar to previous Sphero products, RVR is focused on STEAM learning and the company intends the robot to be used in classes to teach coding lessons.

Sphero also partnered with SparkFun Electronics and its "Get a Bot, Give a Bot" initiative, which will match the first 50 RVR's purchased on Kickstarter with a donation of 50 RVRs to schools.

RVR is available to pre-order on Kickstarter starting today.

Tag: Sphero

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CES 2019: Sphero Debuts iPhone-Connected ‘Specdrums’ Rings, Turning Color Into Musical Sound

Sphero, the company behind the now-discountinued Star Wars droid toys, has launched a device called "Specdrums," a wearable ring that plays different music based on the color you tap it against. The Colorado-based startup Specdrums had previously debuted the music-enabled rings a few years ago, but the rings will now be sold under the Sphero brand following an acquisition by Sphero last summer.


The rings work by connecting to an iOS or Android app, and when the user taps Specdrums against a certain color, the app will play a musical note. The company says that this will empower kids of all ages and skill levels to play music on nearly any surface in the world around them.
“Sphero recognizes Specdrums as an opportunity to engage kids at the intersection of arts, math, science and technology, building a parallel framework between coding and music composition,” said Paul Berberian, CEO, Sphero.

“By seeing the world around them as a canvas, kids are able to use Specdrums to create their own songs using coding, which is really exciting for them, their parents and their teachers. Meanwhile, the creative pattern-making of loops and sounds strengthens their math and problem-solving skills.”
The Specdrums Mix app includes customizable sounds so that users can explore musical instruments like drums, a keyboard, and over 100 other instruments. The rings themselves are made from silicon and include motion and light sensors to turn surrounding colors into sound.

Specdrums also come with a multi-color playpad to tap the rings on, but the company encourages users to simply use anything in their vicinity to get started with Specdrums. Specdrums will cost $64.99 for one ring and $99.99 for two rings, and is available to purchase starting today. The first devices will begin shipping the week of January 15, and select retail stores will begin selling the rings in the spring.


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Sphero Discontinues Disney Products Including BB-8 and R2-D2

Sphero, known for its popular BB-8, BB-9E, and R2-D2 iPhone-controlled droids, today confirmed that it is discontinuing all licensed products.

In a statement provided to The Verge, Sphero CEO Paul Berberian confirmed that Sphero is cleaning out its remaining licensed inventory and has no plans to produce more.


Sphero will no longer make BB-8, BB-9E, R2-D2, Lightning McQueen cars, or talking Spider-Man toys. None of the products are available from the Sphero website anymore, with Sphero instead selling its own Bolt, Mini, and SPRK+ products.

The licensed products are now "legacy products" no longer in production, though App Support is set to continue for at least two years.

Berberian said that Sphero is discontinuing its Disney partnership because the licensed toy business "required more resources" than it was worth, with sales waning over time after a movie was released.
"When you launch a toy, your first year's your biggest," he says. "Your second year's way smaller, and your third year gets really tiny." The opposite is true of the company's non-licensed educational robots, he says, which become more popular year after year.
With its licensed partnerships at an end, Sphero will now focus on expanding its educational ecosystem with the goal of getting more products into schools.

Tags: Disney, Sphero

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Sphero Debuts Education-Focused ‘Bolt’ Robotic Ball With Programmable LED Matrix

Sphero today announced the "Bolt" robotic ball, which is aimed at teaching kids basic programming with its advanced sensors, LED matrix, and infrared communication that lets it interact with other Bolt devices (via Gizmodo).

The Bolt is the same size as previous Sphero balls, but has an increased runtime of two full hours thanks to a bigger battery. The device connects to the Sphero Edu app, allowing users to discover community-created activities, build their own program, analyze sensor data, and more.


One of the device's biggest updates is an 8x8 LED matrix that can be seen through the Bolt's translucent shell. This matrix displays helpful prompts like a lightning bolt when Bolt is charging on its inductive cradle, but users can fully program the matrix to display a wide variety of icons connected to certain actions, like a smiley face when a program is completed.

Infrared sensors allow the Bolt to detect other nearby Bolts, and users can program specific interactions if they have multiple devices. According to Sphero, this means that the Bolts can join up and create a swarm of robotic balls, or avoid one another. Gizmodo gives an example: "So imagine a real-life version of Pac-Man where you're controlling one Bolt and escape other Bolts programmed as ghosts perpetually giving chase."


The connected Sphero Edu app includes the ability for users to learn to code by drawing on an iOS device's screen, using Scratch blocks, or writing JavaScript text programs. Written programs can affect the Bolt's speed, acceleration, and direction. If users simply want to play with Bolt, the robot can also connect to the Sphero Play app.

The Sphero Bolt is available to purchase today for $149.99 on the company's website.

Tag: Sphero

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Gamevice’s iOS Gaming Controller Now Supports Sphero SPRK+ and DJI Spark

Gamevice, a company that makes a Made for iPhone gaming controller for iOS devices, today announced that it has partnered with Sphero and DJI to allow the Gamevice peripheral to control the Sphero SPRK+ robot and the DJI Spark drone.

When the Gamevice for iPhone or iPad is used with the DJI Spark app, the Spark drone can be controlled using the physical buttons of the Gamevice, which the company says offers improved precision, control, and ergonomics.


DJI does offer its own Spark remote controller, but it is not included in the purchase price and costs an additional $119. At $100, the Gamevice controller is more affordable and it also works with a wide range of iOS games.
"We designed Spark to be the easiest DJI drone to fly, whether using simple hand gestures, a smartphone or the dedicated remote control," said Paul Pan, Senior Product Manager at DJI. "Gamevice gives Spark pilots another simple, highly intuitive way to control their drone, letting them fly, capture and share life's moments while on the go."
As for the SPRK+, it's normally controlled via an on-screen joystick using the Sphero app with no physical control option, so the Gamevice is a great addition for those who would rather have access to controller-style input methods.

Gamevice offers several different controller options for a wide range of iOS devices on its website. Prices for iOS devices start at $99.95.


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Review: If You’re a Star Wars Superfan, You Need Sphero’s BB-9E and R2-D2

Robotics company Sphero skyrocketed to popularity in 2015 with the release of BB-8, a miniature iPhone-controlled toy droid modeled after the BB-8 character in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

As the release of the The Last Jedi approaches this December, Sphero has introduced two new Star Wars-themed robotic toys, BB-9E and R2-D2.


R2-D2 is a well-known classic droid that's starred in Star Wars movies since the original trilogy in the 1970s, while BB-9E, an Astromech droid that serves in the First Order (aka evil BB-8), is a newcomer that will appear in The Last Jedi.


Like BB-8, both of Sphero's new droids are exquisitely accurate in design compared to the movie versions, and they come to life when paired with the Sphero app.

Design


BB-9E shares a design with BB-8, and BB-8 was based on Sphero's original robotic ball technology. BB-9E's body is a plastic sphere that houses a motor, a gyroscope that keeps BB-9E upright, counterweights for balance, internal wheels, magnets, and other electronic components.


BB-9E's head attaches to the ball-shaped body using magnets, and a set of wheels underneath the head to allow it to move in around in stay in place on the body while BB-9E is in motion. Instead of a round head like BB-8, BB-9E has a flatter head that fits in better with the First Order aesthetic.


Size wise, BB-9E fits in the palm of a hand, and if you own BB-8, BB-9E is the same size. In contrast to BB-8's white and orange design, BB-9E is black with gray accents and red and blue lights (on the head) when in operation. BB-9E is made from a durable plastic that holds up to rough use -- even when the droid is slammed into walls or other obstacles, it comes away unscathed.
Continue reading "Review: If You’re a Star Wars Superfan, You Need Sphero’s BB-9E and R2-D2"

Sphero Launches New R2-Q5 iPhone-Controlled Star Wars Droid

Following the launch of BB-8 in 2015, and R2-D2 and BB-9E last month, Sphero has introduced an all-new iPhone-controlled droid ahead of New York Comic-Con, which begins today. This one is R2-Q5 and is the Imperial counterpart to R2-D2, with a glossy black finish and matte gold trimmings. R2-Q5 first appeared in Return of the Jedi.


Similar to Sphero's R2-D2 droid, R2-Q5 has functional lights, a rotating dome, retractable third foot, on-board speakers, and can be piloted manually via the same Sphero app that controls the other Star Wars droids, or patrol on its own. The app has augmented reality features that place R2-Q5 in settings within the Star Wars universe, including the Death Star. You can watch Star Wars movies with the droid and have it react to certain moments within the film as well.
R2-Q5™ is an Imperial astromech droid from a galaxy far, far away.... Control it with your smart device or keep this nefarious Droid in top shape with augmented reality training. R2-Q5’s signature front and rear LED lights are fully functional, and an integrated speaker means all sounds come right from the droid itself. Watch R2-Q5 interact with other Star Wars™ App-enabled Droids by Sphero, and view films from the Star Wars saga with R2-Q5 reacting by your side. This special droid has been brought to life thanks to Sphero technology.
Sphero is planning R2-Q5 as a much more exclusive model than its previous droids, with only 100 on sale at the company's New York Comic-Con booth today. After that, the droid will debut on Best Buy's site and in stores on November 5 for $199.99. Pre-orders are available now, and the "limited edition" droid is expected to see limited availability throughout the holidays, so once they disappear from Best Buy they'll be gone for good.


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