Tablets are usually used for activities like reading, games, and watching movies, but they're also good for keeping your pet robot exercised. And that includes the Ozobot, a ping pong ball sized robot which I saw at CES Unveiled last night.
The Ozobot was one of the more interesting tablet accessories of CES 2014, but I never expected to see it again after its Kickstarter campaign fell through in the first half of last year. So when I saw it at CES Unveiled last night I was thrilled that this nifty little toy had not only thrived, but also that it had shipped a few months ago.
In its simplest form (once you pull off the optional shells), the Ozobot is a tiny robot with a couple motors driving the wheels, a few LED lights on top, and 5 color sensors on the underside.
It's a pretty simply robot and really the only thing it can do (out of the box) is follow a line, as you can see in this video (from October):
But even though it is simple that doesn't mean it's useless. The Ozobot shares an attribute with many simple gadgets: it's only as good as the person using it.
Half the fun is in drawing new lines for it to follow either on paper or on a tablet's screen), and the other half is in finding ways to triggering a pre-programmed behavior in response to the simple sensors.
In addition to simply plunking down the Ozobot and leading it with a marker on paper (or your finger drawing in a paint program on a tablet), you can also download one of the several apps which have been developed for the Ozobot:
The Ozobot's developers have also found a way to program in responses to the simple light sensors, and they've used that to develop a robotics curriculum.
They're also going to expand on the programming aspects with the next version of the Ozobot, which is due out later this year. You'll be able to use Blockly, Google’s visual programming language, to write programs for the Ozobot.