Sphero, the Colorado-based connected toy company, has enjoyed growing success in manufacturing robot-shaped sphere-shaped robots. But for his next launch, Sphero takes a different path to retail: a Kickstarter campaign.
Adam Wilson, co-founder and creative director, tells The edge his company opted for crowdfunding of his new robot, RVR, to "gather feedback and make sure we build what people want." RVR is designed for children and adults. Unlike previous robots, this one can accept device accessories via its universal extension port, which makes it possible to use peripherals such as a Raspberry Pi, a webcam, Arduino microcontrollers, an external battery or whatever users want to connect, for coding projects.
Otherwise, the RVR already incorporates many sensors, including a color sensor, an accelerometer, an ambient light sensor, an infrared sensor, a magnetometer and a gyroscope. It also has 10 individually addressable LEDs. The 4000 mAh battery is exchangeable. Therefore, users can exchange them for several hours, even if it should last about six hours. This feature is especially useful for teachers who offer a Sphero device to their students. Batteries charge via USB-C.
The RVR can drive on most things, even though it struggled to overcome a bulky book during my demo. Sphero adjusted the book so that the RVR faces the spine instead of the pages, then is placed over the stack. Sphero says that he should also be able to handle "steep angles" and "rough surfaces".
Users can program in different languages, including Java and Python, or via Sphero's own Edu application. The device starts at $ 199 on Kickstarter and will eventually cost $ 249. It should be delivered in September of this year.
While it's a little surprising to see a successful company engaging in crowdfunding for its next product, it's not unprecedented. Several big names in consumer electronics use participatory products, such as Anker, Bose and ZTE, primarily to create hype and measure demand. Sphero will probably reach his goal, but very rarely, Wilson tells me they plan to do the RVR anyway.