Sphero, creator of the new Star Wars droid that will be your kid’s favorite toy in about three months, rolled out a new version of its eponymous robot ball this week. The Sphero SPRK Edition aims to tug on your back-to-school budget by promising to teach your kid how to code.
SPRK — which stands for Schools, Parents, Robots, Kids — does all the app-controlled spinning, jumping, and R2D2 attitude-flipping that the original Sphero does, but ups the ante in 2 significant ways. First, it lets kids start coding without any prior experience simply by dragging and dropping visual blocks in an app (iOS, Android) that controls elements like speed, heading, and spin. Tapping “Code View” reveals those visual blocks in “OVAL,” which is Sphero’s proprietary low-level coding language that gives them a rudimentary view of what the Matrix looks like. Second, SPRK features a transparent shell, so they can literally see how their programs translate to the ball’s robotics.
Kids don’t even have to create their own programs from scratch if they don’t want to. The app comes with 12 sample programs covering all basic functions, which can be used as jumping-off points. SPRK is also compatible with all the original Sphero games and apps, so simply switching it to drive mode and terrorizing the cat is a-okay. Learning should be fun, after all.