If you’ve been in our office recently, you’ve seen me fiddling around with one of my newest toys – Ultimate Lightning McQueen by Sphero. It’s now available for the world.
Based on what I know about robotic toys, I believe it’s the most advanced robotic toy ever made. Owen Wilson is even included in it (well – his voice – as LMQ …).
It started shipping yesterday so it’ll probably sell out quickly as Sphero ramps production. If you are into RC cars, amazing robots, or you have children who like the movie Cars (even grown up children like me), you can buy it online from Sphero or Amazon.
Today, Orbotix, the maker of Sphero, has raised a new round of $15.5 million, led by Shea Ventures and including new investor Grishin Robotics. We were the original investors in Orbotix and I joined their board in the fall of 2010 after they went through the Techstars Boulder program.
The first post I wrote about Orbotix included an aspirational phrase for what they were working on.
Orbotix is creating a new game platform that combines common physical objects, smart phones, and a software marketplace. Their first product will “reinvent the ball” through the creation of a robotic ball controlled by a smart phone.
They shipped Sphero 1.0 just before the end of 2011 so their first real year in the market was in 2012. Sphero 2.0 shipped in the fall of 2013 and was praised in reviews like the one in TechCrunch which gushed Sphero 2.0 Is Twice As Fast, Agile, And Awesome.
And then came Ollie, which will join its older brother Sphero when it ships this fall.
Connected play is a new category that I’m completely obsessed about. When the iPhone and iTouch came out, there was an incredible shift to mobile devices for games. Suddenly, the toy that kids were playing with was a virtual one – something that was occurring on a sheet of glass they held in their hands. For a kid like me who grew up with video games on an Apple ][, this was pretty awesome. But it felt limiting, especially as I watched kids (and adults) react to Sphero.
As someone who has seen behind the curtain at Orbotix, littleBits, and Modular Robotics, it is amazing what you can do, and where you can go, when you connect physical objects with a smartphone. As an investor in these three companies, I’m psyched to be part of inventing a new category we are calling connected play.