Recently Sphero went back to their roots with the release of their own design for their latest robotic ball, the Sphero Mini.
This device builds upon what Sphero already did with Sphero 2.0 and what they have learned from their previous devices, which include everything from the Star Wars-themed BB-8 to their Lightning McQueen toy.
However, its very different from all of those devices, not only is it Sphero’s own IP but it is also the smallest robot toy that Sphero have ever made, in fact, Sphero says that it might be the smallest in the world at the size that is similar to that of a ping-pong ball.
But don’t be fooled by its design, the Sphero Mini can definitely perform well alongside the rest with easy-to-use controls and a range of driving modes to try out.
Of course, the design is the first thing that you might notice and it’s pretty interesting to see.
Sphero Mini is basically a robot that is encased in a plastic shroud that protects the internals and covers up some of the inner workings with one of five colours, which are green, pink, blue, orange, and white. As you might be able to guess, since these are completely removable you can easily swap one colour to another if you want, however, you do only get one in the package.
And thanks to the LEDs that are built inside of the Mini, you can light up the robotic toy with pretty much any colour you want, right from inside of the app.
One problem with having this plastic design is that it isn’t going to be as sturdy as some of Sphero’s other devices and we could definitely imagine it breaking from being trodden on, I was also pretty worried about the dog eating my review sample during my week with the Mini. Of course, we didn’t test out its durability, so we can’t be sure how true or untrue that might be or not be.
Another thing about its size is that it can quite easily find itself a lost. The Mini can quite easily roll under furniture and you might find that it gets stuck in corners every now and again. That said, the bright LEDs do help with the process of finding it again.
One thing that I was quite surprised with when I first setup up my review unit was the app.
Mini uses its own companion application on Android and iOS and because of that, I figured that this might be an equally mini version of the original Sphero app, but I can definitely say that in most ways I was wrong.
The app is pretty simple in terms of it’s design (it’s just white with some accent colours for the controls and buttons within) and you won’t find any of the dance moves of emotes that the Sphero 2.0 comes with, however, the Mini app does come with some pretty cool things to do.
There are a number of new driving modes that have been borrowed from the original Sphero, along with a brand new driving mode from Sphero called Face Drive.
Face Drive is a pretty interesting idea because it allows you to control and drive your Sphero Mini by pulling faces at it. For example, one of the controls might be to smile in order to move forward, while another might get you to wink in order to speed off into the corner.
Of course, you don’t have to do that if you don’t want to.
There are another couple of driving modes in the app that includes Joystick, Tilt, and Slingshot.
Joystick is the one that most people will probably use because it is a simple directional control that a lot of people might be used to. If you fancy something a little different, Tilt allows you to control the Mini with your phone’s gyroscope, while Slingshot does what it says on the tin, firing your Mini off link a Slingshot.
And we’re still not done. The Mini app also comes with a number of games that turn the Mini into a controller for that game. With this, you use the Mini’s gyroscope to navigate the space or to keep a car out of the way of some blocks.
While these might not seem extremely interesting, these are actually pretty fun to play with and it’s not something that we have really experienced before.
Sphero also included a number of accessories that include 3 tiny cones, 2 green bowling pins, 2 blue bowling pins, and 2 pink bowling pins, all of which you can use for your own little mini-games. And you can use some of those trick sets from the Sphero 2.0 too, however, they will seem a little oversized next to the Sphero Mini.
Once the Sphero Mini has grown tired you will need to charge it back up. The process of doing this is a little different from some of Sphero’s other devices and instead of popping the device on a wireless charging block, you will need to plug in a micro-USB cable into the MIni by removing the Mini’s exoskeleton and popping it into the side of the actual device.
In our tests, we found that the Mini definitely keeps up to Sphero’s claims of 45 minutes of play from an hour’s charge. Of course, this will be slightly different depending on how much you play with the Mini and how far you push it, however, we found that it generally met this claim or at least got close to it.
One thing that I did notice is that the Mini will lose quite a bit of charge while it is off, this is because it is always looking for a connection thanks to Sphero’s easier connecting and installation process, which doesn’t require you to do any fiddly stuff in the settings, simply load up the app on your phone next to the Mini and it will pick up the toy pretty quickly, of course, this ease-of-use does mean that you are going to miss out on some battery life during downtime.
That said, you should have no problem with playing with this device until its final drop of juice.
All in all, this is a pretty great toy, it shows just how far Sphero has come as a company with the development of the smallest robotic ball around. And don’t just think that it’s for kids, it would definitely make a great present for any child that has a smart device to accompany it, however, we could definitely recommend this for any adult that is looking for a little bit of fun, I certainly had a good time with it during my review.
Plus it is available from Sphero’s website for just under £50, you can also pick up extra accessories from them, along with some new shells, should you need them.
Disclosure: Sphero sent us a sample of the Sphero Mini for the purpose of this review.