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I once ran across a really old Popular Mechanics “How to” that described making a robotic “rat” where a roller skate added circuitry and a motor for driving itself across the floor while reading a line drawn on the floor. Looks like the 21st Century finally caught up, because Ozobot picks up where that lets off and doesn’t soak you either — it costs just $49.99.
As befits a modern design, Ozobot is small, circular and an attractively clean silver white-like orb. With wheels beneath its skirts, obviously since it can move on its own. But first a micro-USB slot has to give its battery a boost or it’ll just stare at you. But powered up the “head” can light up and the motor has more than enough “oomph” to move it at a steady pace. Not that it decides on its own what to do.
Ozobot is a “physical” toy that DOES things — it expects real-world integration, courtesy of paper, colors, game boards, or pretty much anything that can be drawn on and which it can sit on and move about on. Basically it will follow along a line once it’s put on one — but that’s just the start. You use colors to create codes of colors (i.e., a marker) which inform Ozobot’s “brain” to react — so yes it’s a form of high level programming that anyone can easily do; as an example, draw a blue-yellow-blue marker and Ozobot, which has been sedately cruising along the track (i.e., the name for the lines drawn), gives a Turbo kick and picks up speed.
Ozobot also works with apps and can move about on a tablet (9” large as a 7” too small). It has to be calibrated to the surface first (as is the case with real-life use), The app opens up different types of games and activities while helping you become familiar with the color codes. It’s less messy than the “real world” too, especially if you’re the one corralled into cleaning up the markers and tracks afterwards. Also I’ll admit that I’m looking forward to the OZOGROOVE music and dance app to see just how Ozobot will perform choreographed dance routines. Should be fun watching the little guy gyrating around.
But I wish I had had another Ozobot so that I could have tried working them in tandem. Still, one’s enough to prove the point: analogue beats digital all hollow when it comes to the tactile sensation of having a robot performing in real-life, right before your eyes. Just remember it’ll need a recharge after about 60 minutes of play.