Sphero Bolt hands on review

Doris Richards
September 13, 2018

Sphero's Bolt is a new version of the company's popular robot ball that adds a 8x8 LED matrix display on top.

The Sphero Bolt is built in with an 8 x 8 LED screen, which displays data and words in real-time. It also has an ambient light sensor for programming based on room brightness, a two-hour battery and an infrared module that allows two Bolts to communicate with one another. Budding programmers can use Sphero's Edu app for iOS, Android, Mac, and PC to learn how to code the diminutive ball. Want to see the robot spin wildly if you put it under a spotlight?

Just like Sprk+, the Bolt can be remote-controlled from a smartphone or tablet.

Beyond just driving the Sphero around, you also get three games to play, which will be mostly familiar from previous Sphero devices.

The Sphero Bolt goes on sale from September 10, priced at £149.99 in the United Kingdom, $149.99 in the USA, and AU$249.99 in Australia.

Sphero has revamped its software for the launch of the Bolt, with an updated Sphero Edu app and the new Sphero Play app, both created to work with the Bolt along with the Sphero Mini and the SPRK+. Rolling around the floor, you can use the Bolt's app on your mobile device to control it with a virtual joystick, tilt controls, a slighshot-style method or the novel "scream drive", which lets the Sphero Bolt speed up depending on how loud you are being. Coupled with the Sphero EDU app, it can also be used as a tool to teach the fundamentals of programming to kids.

The games are fun enough - and make some use of the new LED matrix to display animations or changing colours as you go - but realistically they won't keep you around for long.

For a peek at Bolt in action, check out the video below. As well as new features, you'll find a gyroscope, accelerometer and compass plus a pair of multicolour LEDs front and aft you can control, in addition to the robot's motors. It has a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that promises to offer more than two hours of juice per 6-hour charge.

The most influential time for a human to start learning how to program is arguably in the developmental years - try teaching a four-year-old a new language.

As a cool toy with an educational bent there's nothing that quite matches a Sphero and the Bolt is the best of this unique range of robotic educational assistants. While they may be more instantly recognisable in terms of children's characters, neither offer the flexibility or depth of the Sphero Bolt. Cozmo can be more easily enjoyed as a traditional toy as well as offering coding instruction, but lacks the durability and deeper coding options of the Bolt.

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