The Sphero Sprk+ is a ball. But it's not just any ball. Just when you thought the tech wizards of the world couldn't find anything else around your home to make smarter, they've created a smart ball. Much like its cylindrical cousin, the Sphero Ollie, the Sprk+ will roll around your house under the control of a smartphone app. And while this might not sound like much, you haven't seen what the Sprk+ can do. Or what it can teach your kids to do.
That's right: The Sprk+ is an educational toy cleverly disguised as a fun way for your rambunctious young ones to scare the family cats. The Sprk+ is programmable from the iOS and Android Lightning Lab app, which you can use to set the ball's heading, speed and other more esoteric parameters, and boy can it do tricks. You can teach it to swim, to paint, even hook it up to a toy chariot and have it play the role of the horse. It can run race courses in predefined patterns. You can have it pull boats around your swimming pool. And it has full programmability, with a set of drag-and-drop instructions that can be assembled into a full-blown computer program just by swiping on the screen of the app.
If your budding young Bill Gates isn't quite ready for programming yet, the app includes some pre-packaged routines that the Sprk+ can perform out of the box, like a toss and return game, with scads more programs available from Sphero's website, many of them written by users. These have evocative names like "Mars Rover" and "Full Body Massage." (Yes, parents, the Sprk+ can give you a massage.) The Sprk+ has an inductive charging cradle and a USB charging connector for those times when the cradle isn't around. It connects to the app via Bluetooth, so if it decides to run away, you'll lose control at about 30 meters.
For a similarly educational toy that will also teach your children to program, look at the Makeblock Codeybot, which might make an interesting companion for Sprk+, especially if the neighbors' kids want to get into a multiplayer robot free-for-all.
The app continues to improve functionality and add features that make it a better tool for teachers as well.
It is very disappointing when you have to adjust the orientation of the Sprk+ after every corner.
It’s relatively easy and logical. You can set speeds, angles and other values either by inputting the numbers, or by using intuitive, tap-and-drag controls.