BB-8 was a major hit for Sphero-makers Orbotix and helped propel the company on to Christmas lists the world over. Ollie Darkside is the follow up to that device and sees the company capitalise on the Star Wars magic by breathing it into an established favourite. The Ollie is a much more manageable toy than the original Sphero ball because it’s easier to control, rolls over more obstacles and is faster.
So far I’ve failed to illustrate how much the Ollie Darkside differs from its white and blue cousin; so let’s get to it. It’s black, for one. It glows red. And it’s dis-obedient. Actually that’s a bit harsh; I found it to always obey my every command. The only exception was when I was attending to one of my children and left the app open with the phone on, which is when Ollie started doing its own thing. It’s a nice touch and really endears the “robot” to its owner, almost like the BB-8 scout mode.
The inner workings of the Ollie are still basic Sphero mechanics with the Segway type self-balancing motor. Just instead of the Segway device being inside a ball, the entire device is a miniature Segway. That means it’s every bit as fast as I said earlier. This toy can kick it at a top speed of 22 km/h, which isn’t near enough to evade my puppy, but the dog hasn’t managed to end the review process prematurely, so the thing is tough.
Ollie is designed to do tricks and survive minor drops and impacts because nominative determinism, I guess. I didn’t manage to go through its full repertoire though, but I’m certain the list is limited only by imagination.
Sphero Ollie Darkside vital information:
Battery: 1 hour use from a full charge
Price: R2 600, myistore.co.za
Hats off to Orbotix for expanding the Sphero range to something that’s even more fun than the original ball, but waterproofing would’ve been nice.
This article was originally published in the June 2016 issue of Popular Mechanics magazine.