Hands-on with Sphero at the CES 2011

Sphero is this year's AR.Drone here in Las Vegas. Last year, the Parrot AR.Drone turned heads with an iPhone-controlled quadricopter, and this year, Sphero is creating a little buzz as an iPhone-controlled, well, ball. That's right -- the Sphero is a ball that both glows colors and rolls around at your iPhone or iPad's command. A company named Orbotix is working on releasing the ball sometime this year for no more than $100, and earlier this week at CES' ShowStoppers event, we got a chance to roll and control the ball ourselves.

What's the verdict? It's a little tough to control, but then again the AR.Drone was as well, and that sold all right when it was released late last year. Setting up the free, not-yet-released iPhone (or iPad, or Android) app for Sphero is simple, and once it's up and running, you just need to face the ball in the right direction by dragging a little icon around a round area on screen. When the ball's aligned in the direction you want it facing, you just press the screen, and the ball moves the way you drag it -- forward, backwards, left or right. You can also adjust the ball's speed and the screen's sensitivity, and you can dive into another menu that allows you to change the (completely cosmetic) color of the LED inside with a few RGB sliders.

It's fun, though, since it's still a prototype, it's tough to make the ball do exactly what you want, and most of the time, you just have to settle for what it does anyway. The dev told us that they're opening the platform up to anyone to make games or create applications, and the team has been working with ideas like turning the ball into a car with augmented reality. Our suggestion: let a cat play with this thing. They'd love it.