Between Android and iOS there are now over four million apps available for mobile devices, so there’s no denying that more and more, programming is becoming a useful skill. You don’t need to head back to school to learn to code, though, because a programmable remote control ball makes the process so much more enjoyable.
Originally released in August of last year, Sphero’s SPRK, and its accompanying Lightning Lab mobile app, allowed aspiring developers to write their own programs to control a Bluetooth-connected ball. But it wasn’t as simple as just telling it to drive forward, backwards, left, or right. Complex programs could be created through the app, allowing the ball to navigate mazes, autonomously explore a room, or even serve as a fortune-telling Magic 8-Ball.
The SPRK was made available to anyone wanting to learn how to code, but was primarily designed as a learning tool for schools, giving kids a more tangible way to see the results of their programming — what worked like it should have, and what didn’t.
To make it an even better tool for the classroom, today Sphero is introducing a new version of the learning toy simply called the SPRK+.
Like the original version, the SPRK+ features a see-through plastic housing revealing the inner workings of the self-rolling ball. But it now has an additional plastic coating making the exterior more scratch-resistant and able to withstand the wear and tear of being used by countless students.
The SPRK+ also features an improved tap-to-connect feature which means that teachers don’t have to help every student connect the device through a complicated Bluetooth settings menu. Kids just need to hold the SPRK+ near a tablet or smartphone and the two will pair.
Sphero has improved the SPRK+’s Lightning Lab as well. It now provides more access to the sensors and other hardware inside the ball, like its gyroscope, accelerometer, and now speaker. There’s also a new look for programs when assembling them graphically, 150 new activities that demonstrate various coding techniques and approaches, and a news feed that highlights especially interesting programs that users in the community have submitted.
Like with previous versions, the upgraded Lightning Lab app is free, and will still work with Sphero’s other products like BB-8 and the two-wheeled Ollie, if you already own them. But if the see-through and reinforced design of the SPRK+ appeals to you, it’s available starting today for $129. That's £88 in the Queen's money – with £34 delivery required on top. That's obviously quite steep, so UK buyers might want to wait for closer-to-home retailer to stock the SPRK+, which they will, as Sphero's products are well established here. [Sphero SPRK+]