There’s no induction charging like you’ll find in some of Sphero’s fancier bots. Instead, you crack open the plastic shell and plug the Micro USB cable directly into the robotic guts of the Mini. One hour of charge gets you about 45 minutes of play time. The LED light can be set to shine in millions of colors, adding a bit of pizazz to proceedings as well.
All of that technology opens up a range of things to do with the robotic ball. Like all Sphero robots, you can drive the Mini around using the iOS or Android app, with the default setting being a virtual joystick. There’s a few other driving modes to try as well. Slingshot, for example, has you flicking the joystick like a pinball launcher to send the bot careening in the opposite direction, while Tilt mode drives by tilting the phone itself.
Those modes are pretty stock standard for Sphero bots, but there’s a strange new one in the ranks called Face Drive. With this, users steer the ball by pulling faces into their selfie camera. A smile moves it forwards, a frown brings it back, and angling your head left or right turns it. At least that’s what it’s supposed to do. In our experience, the app has a hard time recognizing facial expressions.
Sphero Mini also goes the other way, as in you can use the ball as a controller for three games on the smartphone app. Round Trip is a Breakout-style game where you turn the physical Sphero to rotate a hexagon, destroying bricks by bouncing a ball against them. Lightspeed Drifter has you turning a tunnel around a speeding car to give boosts, avoid obstacles and collect power-ups. And in Exile II, turning the Sphero Mini steers a spaceship as you shoot and avoid asteroids.
Instead, the appeal of Sphero Mini seems to be that it’s up to you to make your own fun with it. There’s a set of bowling pins and traffic cones included in the box – maybe set up an obstacle course and see if you can navigate through it using just your face. Or try racing a few of them against each other. And we can’t help but wonder if it could be used to play remote-controlled billiards.
Sphero Mini review: Big tech squeezed into a tiny robot ball [New Atlas]