If I were 8 years old making my Christmas list, I’d wish for a toy that was a robot, a car, a camera, a weird flashlight, and a video game all in one. Amazingly, such a thing exists: It’s called Sphero, and it looks like little more than a translucent white ball with a cartoon ghost stenciled onto it. But turn it on and connect it to your smartphone via Bluetooth, and it transforms into the most versatile sci-fi toy ever.
The makers of Sphero told Fast Company back in January that they intended their product as a "platform," not just a toy—and it looks like they’ve made good on that promise. You can download and install apps on your phone that interface with Sphero in all kinds of awesome ways: from a drawing app that makes the ball magically follow a line you sketch on-screen, to a Wii-like golfing game that uses your phone as a digital putting iron, to a spy-cam app that will undoubtedly generate a whole new genre of YouTube cat videos. It has an internal LED whose color you can select, emitting an ethereal glow for nighttime play (or for distinguishing multiple Spheros in group games). The thing is even waterproof, so you can steer it right into a puddle or pool without missing a beat.
Orbotix, the company behind Sphero, is promising an API that will let third-party developers dream up all kinds of new ways to play—an essential move, since at $130, this is not a toy you ever want to get bored with. Here’s an example: an augmented-reality Sphero version of Pong, played in real life:
You can pre-order the Sphero now (shipping in December), which is compatible with iOS and Android devices—so no stocking will be left out.