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Orbotix’s Sphero 2B robotic ball doubles speed, gets add-ons

Sphero 2B
Sphero 2B

Orbotix’s new Sphero 2B toy is a bit like an "S" model of an iPhone. The smartphone-controlled toy, which ships this fall, still lets you whip around your living room with reckless abandon. But as a new trick it goes twice as fast as the last model. It also adds a system of interchangeable parts that take it beyond its base design. Some of the initial parts shown off here at CES are colorful, alternate silicon wrappers that give extra traction on rougher terrain, as well as drift wheels that let you fly around tight corners. There's also a Pac-Man-like version of the rubberized skins that wrap around the Sphero 2.0, something that can help it stick to hardwood floors and carpets.

Twice as fast as the last model

Orbotix says the 2B is rated to hit 14 miles per hour, which is twice that of the Sphero 2.0, but with the same one hour battery life. It’s also waterproof up to a few meters, uses Bluetooth LE to work up to 30 meters away from your phone or tablet, and will have one new driving game when it ships. The 2B comes in both white and black colors, and will cost less than $100. Other customizable add-ons will be announced later this year.

In our brief time with a prototype at the Unveiled event at CES, the 2B noticeably faster than the existing Sphero 2.0. You can adjust the speed in Orbotrix's app, which has a meter with a turtle and a rabbit. At the latter end of that scale, the 2B is almost unwieldy, but we got the hang of it after just a few minutes on the iPod Touch it was connected to. There is definitely a different feel from the older ball models though, which seemed to require a shorter turning radius because of their ball shape.

Sphero 2B is one of several remote-controlled toys here. Parrot, the makers of the smartphone-controlled drones, has a new device with two wheels called the Jumping Sumo that — as the name suggests — can jump up into the air. It also adds a camera, letting the operator see where they're going, even when the device is out of sight.