Sphero branches out beyond robots with Specdrums acquisition

The company will release new colorful drum rings next year.

When Sphero dismissed 45 employees in January and refocused on education, it was in uncharted waters. It didn't mark a complete divergence from Sphero's robotic roots, but it empowered the company to create things it could "actually own" instead of manufacturing Disney-licensed products. And it seems Sphero has already exercised its new-found freedom by acquiring Specdrums, a Boulder-based start-up that found Kickstarter success with music-centric wearable rings of the same name.

From the outside, 'Specdrums' might look like a colorful toy, but they're actually one-size-fits-all music making devices. Thanks to the technology embedded within the rings, whenever you tap against anything with color -- your shoes, your clothes, and even sheets of paper -- Specdrums turns it into a sound or pitch. They aren't just an indulgent form of melodic frolicking, they also help kids associate musical pitches with different colors. Sphero's CEO Paul Berberian believes "play is a powerful teacher", and indeed, the tiny tech rings could be a great new way to learn music.

Specdrums also let you record and share 'sloops' or audio snippets with friends, connect with other music making apps (they function like a Bluetooth MIDI device), and support open source development. But Sphero's educational beeline is clear; the combination of his company's infrastructure and Specdrums' legwork will "continue to inspire curiosity in classrooms and beyond".

The first wave of Specdrums are already sold out, however, Sphero's planning to release a newer version of the rings by 2019 at the latest.