Sphero Ollie is a little robot that can be controlled to do tricks or programmed from a tablet. It's a combination of cool tech toy and educational robot. It can be a bit tricky to work out exactly what Ollie is and what it does so in this review I'll take you through the features and capabilities so that you can work out if it's the right robot for your family and is it worth the A$159.95 for a little tech toy? Let’s find out below!
This little robot is a combination of cool tech toy and educational robot. It encourages active play and gets kids solving engineering challenges without realizing how hard they're working. And there's plenty of scope for coding. Sphero Ollie can go as fast as 14 MPH - that’s like faster than you can run. Ollie features a 30 - metre range, over an hour of drive-time on a single charge powered by Bluetooth Smart app which gives you the power to control the speed, acceleration, turns radius and glowing LED colours.
It’s easy to set up Ollie and starts playing it straight away. Firstly, you assemble Ollie, charge with the included micro USB cord (full charge time is around 1-hour), download the Ollie app from Apple's App Store and Google Play (it’s free), follow the Ollie app's on-screen tutorial for more details on how to use the Ollie app. And that's it. Simple, right? Well, almost because there’s still that learning curve that’s a bit confusing.
The Learning Curve
The Ollie app that I used is hard to understand. There are two separate control setups on the screen, so it will take a few minutes to figure out. Even if you already know how the app works, you’ll still need a lot of practice before you feel comfortable steering the Ollie. I can go up a ramp that the Sphero team provided, making Ollie spiral in place, and that's it, that’s all I can do right now as it's difficult for me to move backward, forward, spin around, and hop.
The Ollie App
There's a very basic tutorial and then you use the joystick and trickpad. The app has a documentation that tells you about the tricks and detects when you perform tricks and tells you about them. I think there's much more potential for much more here. It would be great to see games where you score points for doing tricks and a more interesting story based tutorial would really be nice.
Tricks and Courses
My daughter loves building courses for Ollie and getting it to climb ramps and knock things over. One of her first projects was an 'Ollie Trap' where she sent Ollie up a ramp a box. Ollie can be used outdoors too although you'll need to keep it dry as it’s not waterproof and it's also fantastic in the dark with Ollie's lights.
Power and Connectivity
Ollie turns on automatically when a Bluetooth connection is made since there's no on button Ollie. It’s rechargeable via a micro USB cable. I just found that I've had to restart an app to get it to detect Ollie, and on one occasion I had to restart the tablet. Anyway, it’s pretty normal for Bluetooth devices in our experience.
Ollie is fast, fun, robust. It’s easy to control but hard to master, and only lasts 60 minutes on a charge.
You need a smartphone to operate which could be the fragile bit to give kids a smartphone or tablet to control it, so it’s best to cover your mobile phone in a bulletproof case. Ollie often became disoriented which means I had to use the Ollie app to calibrate. Calibration means that I had to rotate Ollie until its glowing logo faced me, and I had to do this every 10 minutes. One more thing is that I wish Ollie was waterproof and had more apps at launch.
- iOS & Android compatible
- Top speed of 14 mph (6m/s)
- Durable polycarbonate body
- LED glow with customizable color settings
- Bluetooth SMART instant connection (100 foot range)
- USB charging (over 1 hour of drive time on a full charge)
- Driving apps: Ollie, Draw N' Drive
- Programming apps: MacroLab, OrbBasic
- Hackable and programmable internal robot
- App updates that introduce new features and gameplay
- Automatic firmware updates
- Height: 4.7 inches / Length: 3.2 inches / Weight 8.5 ounces
You get a lot of tech for your money and the variety of programming apps that support Ollie. Children and teens can use Ollie as they get older. Ollie isn't a robot that you just control from the sofa. Kids will be up and down setting up challenges and tweaking courses. It's great for developing engineering skills too.
If you use Ollie at home, you'll need a lot of space especially if your kids are still learning how to use the controls because it's easy for Ollie to crash into furniture. You can adjust the settings in the app to get the best behaviour to drive through hard floors and carpets both work.
The Sphero Ollie is unfortunately not waterproof, but anyway, Ollie can go twice as fast as the Sphero, do more tricks which I think is worth the price. I was expecting Ollie to be waterproof because my kids like to play it in the park and by using the mobile phone for a remote control for the Ollie would be a bit fragile to bring around.