Whenever you attend technology trade shows such as CES, you will always find some new technology that you can just tell will become something of a sensation. In the case of CES 2014 (two years ago this January), I had my first encounter with the Ozobot. This cute little semispherical device was a tiny domed robot that moved around the table in a pre-programmed line. Back then, I could tell that what was once a Kickstarter project was going to become a marvel, and this is what it has become.
According to The Geek Church, the Ozobot movies through two micro-motors for some serious maneuverability. The Ozobot Bit is also one of those STEM toys. For those that don't know, STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, and there are a lot of STEM toys out there that I reviewed before like the Makeblock mBot. Similar to that toy is the LEGO MINDSTORMS series of toys which exchange traditional forms of the bricks for beams, axles, gears, and levers, along with motors so the users can program the toys to do specific things.
Like LEGO MINDSTORMS, the Ozobot Bit is one of those toys that you can code, because everyone knows that kids like to code. Okay, I might sound a little sarcastic there, but kids that are raised doing coding are definitely more ready for adulthood programming. Not only that, kids are growing up with computers and want to know how to program them. This is what makes LEGO MINDSTORMS, the challenge to the user is to not only build but code the creation to do what you want it to do.
Fortunately, the Ozobot Bit is already pre-constructed. In the case of Ozobot code, it uses Google's Blockly to create OzoBlockly which is a very simplified visual programming language similar to others like Scratch, Hopscotch, App Inventor, Tynker, and Tickle Apps.
So, you might think that you have to program this using some kind of cable or Bluetooth to program this. That is not the case, as you can load commands into the robot with flashing lights. You can teach it to follow paths along the table that you can make with magic marker, and it will follow whatever colors that you program it with. Then you can program it to do all kinds of things, and part of the fun is finding out what else can be done with it.
What is interesting is that the Ozobot communicates back with blinking lights as well. It is possible to download free apps as well as build some custom maps, and play some games with people.
What is interesting is how much the Ozobot bears a strong resemblance to BB-8. If you haven't heard of BB-8, then you probably aren't a big a fan of Star Wars, and haven't seen the quick shot of him on the trailer for Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens. BB-8 is a droid with a domed head like R2-D2, but a ball of a body for maneuverability, and he is winning the hearts of Star Wars fans in droves. BB-8 is already being sold in multitudes as a toy from Sphero for last week's Force Friday, but Ozobot should get some credit for putting this idea out in reality first.