13 October 2018

REVIEW: Sphero Bolt

Nuts and Bolt

It doesn't seem like five minutes since we last reviewed one of Sphero's robotic ball offerings in the shape of the cute BB-9E. However, we're happy to once again revisit familiar ground, as Sphero's latest spherical bot does a whole lot more than simply roll around. We check out the Sphero Bolt.

Just as with previous versions of the Sphero, the Bolt is a fully-enclosed hard plastic ball filled with remote-controlled gadgetry. Link it to your smartphone via Bluetooth and by way of the Sphero app (more on that later) you can drive the ball around your living room, much to the bemusement of pets and babies. We've been reviewing Spheros for five years now, and always find them fun.

However, the Bolt is about more than a being a simple novelty. But, first of all, the name. Bolt actually refers to the fact that this is the fastest robotic ball that Sphero have ever made, and they certainly aren't joking. This thing is nippy as hell and very easy to drive about. The Sphero Edu app uses the same interface as previous versions, letting you drag your finger across the screen to send the ball in that desired direction. Even toddlers can master that.

The Bolt looks a bit different, too. For a start, the case is transparent, letting users get a good look at the fascinating internals. That clear case also allows for an LED matrix on top, with an 8x8 grid of programmable lights. You can either choose a colour in the driving controls, or...

Get coding. Yep, the major thinking behind the Sphero Bolt's design is to get kids into coding. Here's where the product differs hugely from previous models, especially the Star Wars tie-in BB-9E. Using the Edu app users can programme the actions of the Bolt using scratch blocks or by writing Javascript text. Movements can be pre-written to have the Bolt roll around exactly where you want it to, without having to drive it, and the LED matrix can be set to show different data.

Uniquely, the Bolt is the first Sphero to possess a compass, so it can understand its own orientation. This also means it can auto-aim; finding the control phone itself to know what direction to roll in. Watching the internal workings twist and turn with the magnet image glowing on the matrix is great fun.

So the Bolt is a wonderful STEM toy, kick-starting an interest in coding for kids, and letting adults get a handle of the discipline in an enjoyable way. As with other Spheros there's lots you can do with the Bolt, from using it as a game controller on many other mobile games (download the Sphero Play app and see), to teaching kids about speed, velocity, and direction. There's a lot going here and we love it.


Available from www.amazon.co.uk

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