Sphere: A Robotic Ball for Play and Learning

I love Sphero, but I had no clue that they were developing ways to use it to help kids learn to program. Two new apps allow kids of all ages to program their ball to roll and react!

Sphero Macrolab App

Orb Basic App

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Beam Remote Presence Bot

If I saw this online, I would have thought it was such a needless toy. But this device actually made me feel like I was talking to a human — much more than a FaceTime call on a handheld device. There is a strong benefit in having a life-size life-height display to see the other person, and the agility of their movement and UI was simply enjoyable.


The Maker Mentality


We call kids constructivist constructors. They learn best by tinkering, creating and exploring. Makers embrace some of the most exciting products of the season: robotics, action toys, construction set, and creative tool kits. The opportunities to blend traditional kids play with the maker mentality are astounding.

Ayah Bdeir, CEO 


David Merrill, President

Michael Colombo, Online Editor
Maker Media

Paul Hoover, Design Director

Stuart Gannes, Founder and CEO

Vikas Gupta, Founder and CEO

Maker Faire Creator – Moderator

Little Bits – making the product gender neutral – elevate the abilities, not dumb them down for kids, encourage higher level discussions

ArtefactGroup.com – focused on interaction between tech and education – bringing up the next generation of makers

  • Fiber optic repeater for top of iPad so that the face shows thru the toy – physical output for digital input
  • Class that all draws characters that he puts into a game – each kid does a level

Sifteo Cubes – Understand their relationship with each other and are physical interactive screens

  • Game system inspired by the most timeless play thing – blocks!
  • Emerged from the maker community, arduino, sparkfun, etc.
  • SDK & Game developer tool to create games without programming

Play-i – Desire to have children program at a young age

  • Robot toy that kids can design
  • All skills of the robot are editable and controllable by a child

Hopscotch – Kids programming software like scratch – but on an iPad!

  • Use “blocks” of software to build games and applications
  • Consumer devices are closed box so the software needs to open it
  • Helping kids realize that these devices are something they could make

Open vs Closed Source

The things that kids can make are actually quite comparable with products that you can buy off the shelf.

There is a notion of a “platform” that the users complete

Makers have been around forever but the fact that they can connect and share their creations so easily and share their resources makes all the difference.

These products have successfully bridged the gab between hardware and configurability.

Makers are independent activists

What you need may not be big enough for a market, so you have to make it yourself.

So the maker movement is really a revolution

“It’s great to be here at CES where everything is so closed, and we’re here to be open.”

Maker / Constructivism / The child constructing their own knowledge is more valuable than any


LittleBits – Cost – Electronics is still a pricing game

Little Bits wasn’t originally conceived for kids – Child safety? Parts are low voltage, etc. but the regulations needed for a kids product was a big challenge. For example, lead-free solder is required but doesn’t exist but they don’t check for things that may cause fire.

Play-i – Software – how will it scale? What should be closed and open? Modularity (each piece can stand alone or become a part of a system of others) means each piece becomes expensive. So cost is an issue here too.