The new Sphero 2B looks like a lot of fun, and then some

Here’s my first personal highlight of CES 2014: Orbotix, the maker of the Sphero, introduced a new version of its fast little robot Sunday. And unlike the previous two versions, the Sphero 2B isn’t actually a ball — instead, it looks a bit like a stylish soda can that someone outfitted with two big, rubberized tires. Check out a photo of a prototype of the new device as shown off at CES Unveiled below:

sphero 2b shot

The Sphero 2B runs twice as fast as the previous two generations of the robotic device, and it’s also capable of doing little jumps. Ian Bernstein, founder and CTO of Sphero maker Orbotix, told me that the device can run as fast as the average human, and jump up to three feet high. The Sphero 2B will be available in early fall, and while Orbotix hasn’t finalized pricing, Bernstein told me that the company is aiming to sell it for less than $100.

Orbotix is also showing off seven new apps at CES, and one of them sounds particularly interesting to me: Sphero Studio will allow Sphero owners to film movies featuring the robotic device — only, on film, it will be replaced with an animated character. Bernstein told me that one of Orbotix’s employees made a movie of his cat chasing a gremlin around his living room, which sounds like a lot of fun.

But Bernstein also said that Sphero isn’t just about fun and games. The company has been partnering with middle schools, visiting campuses and letting kids play with the Sphero ball — only to then challenge them to develop scripts to control the ball, teaching them about programming and physics at the same time.

I actually do own a first-generation Sphero myself, and have to admit that with a few exceptions, it has been collecting dust. The novelty factor of driving it around wanes quickly, and even the company’s first Augmented Reality games don’t keep me busy for long. But with educational aspects and the ability to add gremlins to my own home movies, I may just take another look at Sphero.