Ozobot, a little robot toy that reads colored stripes on paper, was already fun; my 10-year-old daughter has been playing with it all summer. Now it's getting a major upgrade to make it brighter, smarter, and more social. She and I got some time with the $99 Ozobot Evo, on pre-sale today.
Like the original Ozobot, the Evo is a little cylindrical robot the size of a strawberry. You can program it by drawing colored stripes on paper, by creating actual programs in the Ozoblockly programming language on a PC (think of a combination between Scratch and Logo), or, now, by using a companion iPhone or Android app to remote-control the robot.
Ozobot wanted to give its robots more personality, make them much more gamified and more social, Ozobot CEO Nader Hamda said. So the new model comes with a playfield that will work with daily training games in the app. The 'bots also now have sensors that help them tell if another object is ahead of, behind or around them, not just below them. You can scoot an Ozobot along by moving your hand behind it. The little 'bots now also make a range of sounds, from happy to frustrated, and they can easily be enhanced with more sounds and behaviors, Hamda said.
In a possible future feature, Ozobot may essentially geocache software Easter eggs, unlocking new sounds and patterns if users are willing to go to a physical location. That will get Ozobotters out of the house more, Hamda said.
The app will let Ozobot users make "friends" between their robots. Once friended, robots linked to Internet-connected phones will be able to send programs to each other, chat via text, or create "ozomoji" patterns of action to represent emotions.
There's a lot going on here, and we look forward to puzzling it all out between now and the actual retail launch later this month. At the moment, the app isn't in its final form (it will be at launch, Ozobot promised us), so we're going to spend some quality family time with the little robots before we write a full review.