OLLIE: A Smartphone Controlled Robot

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With Christmas just around the corner, your kids or grandchildren are going to love you for this gift. Orbotix, the futuristic gizmo maker is launching its second remote controlled robot that you can control with an iOS or Android app.  This one is called Ollie.  Spinning around like a turbocharged roll of toilet paper, it can hit a maximum speed of 14 mpg and drift around corners.   Its predecessor was called Sphero.

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Ollie’s name comes from the tricks that can be done on a skateboard or snowboard where yo jump into the air without ramping off something. The bot can pull off ollies, do a quick spin in place, speed boost, jump around like a hot potato, pull off wheelies, or rocket across the room and turn at lightning speed off in a new direction.   Ollie comes with attachable wheel covers to help it dig into rough terrains like dirt, a plastic ramp, which is available separately can launch Ollie more than six feet into the air.  During a demonstration Orbotix CTO Ian Bernstein said that the bot was stress tested from drops that are a few feet higher, so feel free to slam it into stuff.  Its polycarbonate outer shell was designed for durability.

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All you have to do is plug Ollie into a USB outlet to charge, and its built-in battery take about three hours to fill while returning an hour of playtime. It’s a piece of cake to turn on or off, just tap your mobile device against the toy and it connects, illuminating Ollie’s LED lights.  You turn it off by closing the app.  Once you buy Ollie there is minor assemble required.  It is a bit tough to control it sometimes since you’re only guiding it using a circle on your mobile device.  The company plans on selling upgrades for the robot at $10 each.  The bot is pretty much kid proof unless your child plans on flushing it down the toilet.

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The great part about Ollie is that you will be able to program it to light up, or follow choreography. There are a few drawbacks, since you have to control is with your phone or tablet, its maximum coverage range is 100 feet which is not enough for Ollie to walk the dog around the block. There has been some speculation as to kids getting frustrated and bored and sticking it in the back of the closet. It’s a fun toy though and in the right set of curious hands it will provide hours of entertainment.  It will launch on September 15 with pre-orders priced at $99.