Orbotix, the company that brought you the Sphero “smartball”, has now released the Ollie - a can on wheels. Well it’s more than that; it’s a Bluetooth smarttoy that does tricks, zips everywhere and all-around bashes into things. Playing with the Ollie reminded me of playing with my old radio control race cars but a hell of a lot better and more responsive and If BLE keeps going it could replace the old RF cars.
Visually you can divide the Ollie into 3 parts: two removable wheels, hubcaps and a center compartment. This center compartment is a solid plastic case that houses all the hardware, motors, gears, charging port, and LEDs with company logo. I haven’t been able to find it on a tech sheet but I assume there is a counter weight that keeps the device balanced and grounded. I was sent a black Ollie kit that comes with black slicks and off road tires and 2 sets of hubcaps. Sphero makes a variety of treads and hub cap designs so no matter the terrain or color style they have a match for you.
Connecting the Ollie is fairly simple only requiring a smartphone (Android or iOS) with Bluetooth (BLE) and the Ollie app. Waking doesn’t require the micro USB but since it doesn’t have any buttons it’s the easiest way to do it; the other way is just tapping your phone against it and rolling the wheels for a cold start but that hasn’t consistently worked for me. I was able to turn it on twice by just slapping the phone on the Ollie and it did a cold start connection. Once you physically place the phone on the Ollie with the app then it will connect, show you a digital roller and from there you can move your Ollie up down and all around. Hold it vertical and you have a normal Digital Joystick where you can drive the Ollie around and annoy your friends, family and coworkers. Turn your phone on its side and you initiate trick mode; the digital joystick is accompanied by a Trick board and this is where all the fun comes in. Depending of which direction you hold or tap the trick pad, it will jump, roll or spin.
The Ollie also works great outdoors; put on the heavy tread tires plus you can make adjustments in the app from regulating the drive surface from soft to hard and selecting a Drive Area of a Room or Open. These settings help the Ollie stay balanced and responsive no matter what surface. There are only 4 settings that you can play with under the Custom screen:
- Speed – slow to fast, I put everything to the max and then found out I can’t drive at fast speed with a lot of furniture around so adjusting this is actually great if you’re indoors with furniture.
- Handling – drift tight, it’s either one or the other no in-between.
- Acceleration – slow to quick even though you might ask why go slow if you’re on soft terrain; you can’t accelerate as fast as you like so keep this one in mind.
I would like to mention the help screen – it’s perfect for those who don’t want to read. It has all types of visual aids so those lazy people and small children won’t be intimidated by its controls.
I love the Ollie for two reasons - my son can play with it at a beginner’s level and I can use it at a far advanced level, without breaking into the device… for now. My particular learning curve with the Ollie was terrible for about the first hour or three of play; I smashed the Ollie who is now named “Roadkill Rodney” into every piece of furniture it could find. I found it to be a bit clumsy and I thought it was the device but as it turns out it was me. My son moves this thing around like he was born with it. This Bluetooth smarttoy is hard as a rock and can take almost whatever is thrown at it. It has gone down stairs and hit by an opening door and so far has rolled around as normal. The Ollie does best in Open areas since the BLE has a range of 30 Meters with direct line of sight. And given the room, you’ll be able to do some pretty fun stuff. It has a top speed of 14 Mph so in about 6+ seconds going straight you might find yourself out of range.
I’m still trying to figure out some of Ollie’s tricks I’ve picked up at GoSphero.com but like I said I have a slow learning curve, while my son can do a whole lot better; either way, playing with Ollie has been a blast and I look forward to having more adventures with this amazing smarttoy. And out of TOV 5 stars, I give the Ollie a 5.