The folks at Orbotix have made quite the name for themselves in the smartphone controlled toy world. Their first creation, Sphero, offers a uniquely entertaining experience with a technically impressive robot that has developed a fascinating third party software library. To follow up the curious little robot ball, Orbotix released Ollie. This robot is a little more like an RC car in how you drive it around, but with only a pair of treads and a contained pill shape it's still got a unique look to it. To make things more interesting, Orbotix has released a special edition "Darkside" version of Ollie, and after rolling this little guy around CES for a few days, and so far there's a lot to like.
Where the classic white Ollie is sold as a single kit that you can just pull out of the box and start racing, Darkside Ollie starts you off with a few choices. The "tires" on the edges of Ollie are removable, and Orbotix has made several tread types that you can buy in a variety of colors in order to customize your bot. On top of this, the hubs on the outside edge of the tires is also interchangeable, and this special edition Ollie comes with an extra set to play with as well so you can get a little personal out of the box. It's still going to look like a little black pill regardless of what you snap on from this kit, but the ability to switch out of the box between the indoor and outdoor treads is a nice touch.
As for what separates Ollie from Sphero, the two big things to look out for are performance and ease of use. Ollie is capable of up to 14mph in ideal conditions, and the Ollie app is designed to make connecting to the robot quick and racing dead simple. Sphero, on the other hand, is a little more complex and a lot more feature complete when you look at all the third party apps for the platform. At $150 the Darkside Ollie is not exactly an impulse buy for most, especially since the regular version of Ollie and Sphero are $50 less, but when you factor in the added treads and hubs it's really not a big price stretch. If you've been considering one of the Orbotix robots for your collection and you really want to chase you cat down the hallway, you'll find this little robot gets the job done.