Ollie by Sphero – An App Controlled Robot {Review & Giveaway}

Pamela Chan, Contributor

If you’re looking for a review about an app controlled robot that utilizes high tech components – like the Ollie by Sphero – there is no end of options to consider. Some of the reviews can get quite detailed – which is all well and good.

But if you’re like me and you’re not sure if you’re up for this ride down uncharted technical territory, you might be considering more basic issues.

When presented with the opportunity to try out the Ollie by Sphero my first reaction was that it wasn’t going to work out.

Then I thought to myself, “I want to make this work?

Why can’t I?

Surely the designers have made this product usable for a broader range of people?”.

With these thoughts in mind, here are the goals that I set for myself and my family. This is what I wanted to find out:

Can the Ollie operate on a tablet platform?

For budgetary – and quasi “off the grid” reasons – my husband and I do not operate phones that are “very smart”. Our phones are not the sexiest or latest and greatest, and they are not connected to Internet plans. We do, however, own two tablets that can be operated with WiFi and connect with apps in an Android capacity.

Will it be easy to set up the Ollie? Will it be a tricky affair to get the Ollie connected with my device and started?

I’m pretty resourceful when it comes to trying out new technology. But I also know that I’m not using the latest technology and applications that go with them at a fast and furious rate these days. I wondered if it might be fussy to get Ollie up and running. I also wondered if the technology I had at home would be sufficient to use Ollie.

Will it be hard to use the Ollie? My children are in junior elementary school. They love getting their hands on technology and giving it a whirl. Theoretically I thought that they should be able to use the Ollie but I wanted to find out.

Of course it’s easy enough for an older youth or adult to use Ollie if they’re inclined to use this type of app controlled robot. But could a younger child take over the controls and make it work without too much instruction or supervision?

Will the Ollie appeal to people of different ages?

There is a gap of a few decades between the oldest and youngest users available to try out the Ollie in our extended family. I was interested to see if it would appeal – across the board – with everyone.

What can the Ollie do and is it a one trick horse?

Based on the trailer video, it certainly seemed that Ollie can do many things. I wanted to see what was possible.

What you Receive

The Ollie arrives in a solid box, embedded inside a molded, plastic form. The blue extra tread tires and end caps are included separately and need to be snapped on to the Ollie. A USB cord to attach the Ollie to a source of power (eg a desktop) is included.

Making Ollie Operational

The first task at hand was to snap the Ollie together (end caps and tread wheels). We decided to put all of the pieces together. Since young children were going to be using Ollie, a bit of tread never hurts.

Connecting Ollie

Once you have snapped the Ollie together and charged it up, download the Ollie app to your phone or tablet and place the Ollie next to your device. This should activate the Ollie – wake it up – and put you in a position to start using the device.

If your start up efforts stall at this point something is wrong.

Perhaps your Ollie isn’t sufficiently charged?

However this information should show up on your app as a “charge your Ollie” diagram appears.

Perhaps your device isn’t configured correctly to connect with the Ollie? If you don’t know how to go into WiFi settings to check this out, contact the support people at Ollie.

The process of connecting Ollie to the device – once the app is in place and it’s charged – should be a quick and easy process.

This is where we encountered a stumbling block. I spoke with customer service and contacted them over e-mail as well. Even though Ollie appeared to be charging, we couldn’t activate it using the app. It was very frustrating. I was certain that there must be a problem at our end and spent way too much time trying and retrying to get it to work. Ultimately we received a new Ollie to try. We put it together, charged it up, cranked up the app and “Bingo!” It was off and running in no time at all.

I don’t know what was wrong with the initial Ollie we received but I can confirm that if you have done the main tasks that you need to do and your Ollie is not working, you should consider exchanging it.

How to Use Ollie

There are many videos online in which you can see how Ollie is used. The Sphero company has made some that can show you Ollie’s potential. You can also scroll to the settings area on Ollie where there is a “cheat sheet” of sorts showing you the basic movies and trick moves that you can use. There are quite a few. The best way to learn these different moves is to practice one at a time and get to know that move well. Ollie isn’t a one trick pony – but it will take some practice to learn how to do all the potential maneuvers.

It was interesting to watch how my children used the Ollie. They watched videos. They looked at the reminders on the app. But they also experimented. They know there are basic and tricks modes for Ollie and they would simply try out different ways and experiment. In the video embedded below you will see two usage sessions: first with my son and then with my daughter. Keep in mind that these are young children using the device. This speaks to how easy it is for anyone to try the device out

What We Thought

The Ollie we had was used by junior elementary, elementary, preteen, older and younger teenage youth and adults. Everybody responded enthusiastically to the device and wanted to use it repeatedly. Ollie held their attention for long periods of time. Users were inspired to set up obstacle courses and think about how they wanted to use the robot. My children also enjoyed simply using it in a contained area and making it do tricks and spins.

As you can see from the official video, which my children LOVE watching, there is a lot of potential to use Ollie in different ways and at a respectable speed. You can use it outside but I would be careful about exposing it to damp conditions, thick dirt or large drop offs. (Although as you can see in the official video, an Ollie went over a large drop off and survived.) We are waiting until spring to give our Ollie a whirl outdoors. There is an underused bike park nearby which will be a perfect setting to try and recreate the Ollie trailer video.

The Ollie would make an excellent personal purchase for yourself or someone else and a great gift. It is also a device that anyone can enjoy using. So if you’re an adult thinking about getting an Ollie, it’s a good option for some personal robot fun time.

Our Video Review

Related

Ollie website

You can buy different accessories for the Ollie including hubs and tires.

Ollie Driving an Drifting tips video from the Sphero company.

THE GIVEAWAY

Win it: One very lucky Canadian reader will win an Ollie from Sphero ($99.99 value). Enter to win via Rafflecopter below. Good Luck!

Disclosure: I received a sample of a product to facilitate my review. No other compensation was provided and all views and opinions stated on this post are 100% my own.

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77 responses to “Ollie by Sphero – An App Controlled Robot {Review & Giveaway}”

  1. Andrea Workman — February 16, 2015 @ 10:55 am (#)

    I would actually be giving Ollie to my wonderful future brother-in-law. He gets married to my equally amazing sister in April, and I feel I haven’t quite been able to find the right gift for him yet, and he is quite techy. I adore him!

  2. Stephanie LaPlante — February 16, 2015 @ 11:00 am (#)

    I would love to win one for my little cousins to play outside!

  3. Barb W — February 16, 2015 @ 11:11 am (#)

    My son would get such a kick out of this!

  4. angela m — February 16, 2015 @ 12:14 pm (#)

    I would love this for both my kids and my husband ,it is something they could do together and enjoy it.

  5. nicolthepickle — February 16, 2015 @ 12:16 pm (#)

    My husband would use it with my kids. It’s good to hear it worked for you the second time around.

  6. andrea amy — February 16, 2015 @ 1:02 pm (#)

    I would give this to my son. He got a sphero for Christmas and very badly wants an Ollie to go with it.

  7. Sherry K — February 16, 2015 @ 1:18 pm (#)

    I would give it to my son. He would have a lot of fun with Ollie

  8. Maegan Morin — February 16, 2015 @ 1:24 pm (#)

    It looks like it would be a lot of fun. I like the idea of being able to control it from my phone. I would give it to my husband and my kids.

  9. Dayna Wilson — February 16, 2015 @ 2:29 pm (#)

    It looks like it would be a ton of fun.I’d give it to my son.

  10. Victoria Ess — February 16, 2015 @ 2:30 pm (#)

    I’d keep it to play with it for a bit at least!

  11. Judy Cowan — February 16, 2015 @ 2:32 pm (#)

    I would love to try one because it looks like something the entire family would have fun playing with so we would definitely keep it.

  12. Holly OGorman — February 16, 2015 @ 2:45 pm (#)

    I would give it to my daughter.

  13. Brandee H — February 16, 2015 @ 2:46 pm (#)

    My son has a Sphero and has bedn dreaming about Ollie. He’d love to take him to the skatepark!

  14. Brandi Elam — February 16, 2015 @ 3:10 pm (#)

    My kids have been begging for a robot since Christmas. I’d let the 4 of them share it.

  15. Dawn rader — February 16, 2015 @ 3:35 pm (#)

    My sons birthday is coming up and he would love this!!

  16. Doris Calvert — February 16, 2015 @ 3:46 pm (#)

    My nephew has wanted one since they came out before Christmas and I would love to surprise him for his birthday in June!

  17. Victoria K — February 16, 2015 @ 4:08 pm (#)

    I think this would be very entertaining for my girls. We would keep it for family use.

  18. Heather Howard — February 16, 2015 @ 4:14 pm (#)

    I think I would use it the most. But I would share the joy of it with beach goers all summer long!

  19. Diane Schira — February 16, 2015 @ 4:42 pm (#)

    I’d love to win this for my grandson. I’m sure he would love it.

  20. Jeannie — February 16, 2015 @ 5:00 pm (#)

    I would love to win this for my boys and my husband! I think they would have a hoot interacting with the Ollie and having a blast together.

  21. Angela Bulbeck — February 16, 2015 @ 5:00 pm (#)

    This would be for my daughter. And her iPad.

  22. Silvia D — February 16, 2015 @ 5:37 pm (#)

    I think my daughter would really like an Ollie! She has talked about them for some time!

  23. Josh S — February 16, 2015 @ 6:35 pm (#)

    My daughter would be so thrilled with an Ollie. She would find it so entertaining.

  24. jen s. — February 16, 2015 @ 6:36 pm (#)

    This looks like a blast to play around with. I’d give it to my nephews – I think they’d really enjoy experimenting with it and would have lots of fun.

  25. Florence C — February 16, 2015 @ 6:37 pm (#)

    I would gift it to my son and grandson. They would love this to have fun with.

  26. James R — February 16, 2015 @ 7:24 pm (#)

    My fave feature is the dazzling lights! I would gift this to my niece and I would ask her to let me give it a try!

  27. Elizabeth Matthiesen — February 16, 2015 @ 7:32 pm (#)

    Well I have to admit that I might just have a little play with this myself before handing it over to my son (B’Day coming up), he loves this sort of thing. 🙂

  28. michelle — February 16, 2015 @ 7:49 pm (#)

    This looks like so much fun, ny husband gets super excited when we see one atr the store. So I know he would like this.

  29. jay nelson — February 16, 2015 @ 8:13 pm (#)

    Ollie would be a fun family learning adventure which all of us would enjoy.

  30. Lisa H — February 17, 2015 @ 3:29 am (#)

    I’d love to win an Ollie for my son because it looks like a fun and interesting toy. My son’s birthday is coming up and he would think it’s really great as he’s keen on remote toys and robots.

  31. Tiffany Rotulo — February 17, 2015 @ 4:00 am (#)

    I would love to give Ollie to my son. He would love it. I like that it can be controlled by your smart phone. I would give it a try to. It looks pretty cool.

  32. Juliee Fitze — February 17, 2015 @ 4:37 am (#)

    I would like to win one for my grandkids they would love playing with it.

  33. Brenda Lacourciere — February 17, 2015 @ 6:02 am (#)

    I would give this to my grandson. He would love it.

  34. Jonnie — February 17, 2015 @ 6:42 am (#)

    I would love to try Ollie because it looks like something the whole family could enjoy

  35. leanne — February 17, 2015 @ 7:30 am (#)

    My twin sons would absolutely love this.

  36. kathy downey — February 17, 2015 @ 7:33 am (#)

    I would give it to my son

  37. Jody D — February 17, 2015 @ 9:46 am (#)

    The nephews would love this for sure!

  38. ivy pluchinsky — February 17, 2015 @ 12:57 pm (#)

    i would love to win this for my niece

  39. lori b — February 17, 2015 @ 1:48 pm (#)

    i have a feeling that my hubby would want this lol

  40. Brenda Penton — February 17, 2015 @ 3:58 pm (#)

    I’d love to try it with my kids because I think it would be a lot of fun

  41. heidi c. — February 17, 2015 @ 6:29 pm (#)

    My kids and hubby would enjoy this!

  42. Tina L. — February 17, 2015 @ 8:41 pm (#)

    This would to play with the kids. It’s something else can play and it looks like it’s really fun.

  43. Carol McCann — February 17, 2015 @ 9:28 pm (#)

    wow my hubby and grandson would go crazy with this

  44. Carol Denny — February 18, 2015 @ 5:02 am (#)

    My grandchildren would have a blast with it!

  45. Margaret MacKenzie — February 18, 2015 @ 9:36 am (#)

    If I were to win this, I would keep it for our household. My 2 1/2 year old son would love it but then again, so would my 8 feline furbabies.

  46. TJ Turnbull — February 18, 2015 @ 11:17 am (#)

    love to try with my daughter she would love this

  47. Chris Stockford — February 18, 2015 @ 11:20 am (#)

    Make a Great Gift

  48. Jennifer L. — February 18, 2015 @ 12:27 pm (#)

    I think this would be a lot of fun for my son.

  49. Jodi Mitrovic — February 18, 2015 @ 3:41 pm (#)

    I’d love to have Ollie for my Nephew. He’s 11 going on 30 and very tekkie. I think this would be right up his alley. I’d love to see what he could do with it! Thanks for an awesome review and giveaway!

  50. MrDisco — February 18, 2015 @ 7:39 pm (#)

    i would use it myself

  51. Zoey Jiru — February 18, 2015 @ 8:22 pm (#)

    I would love to try one because I saw someone with one as a gift and I’d love to have fun with one of my own as well.

  52. Jennifer P. — February 18, 2015 @ 11:01 pm (#)

    I would like to try the Ollie because it looks fun and new technology is always cool, but I would gift this to my nieces because they would love it. And hopefully let me try it with them. 😉

  53. Tammy Dalley — February 19, 2015 @ 10:53 am (#)

    I would love Ollie for my boys they have been wanting one for a long time

  54. jasna malobabic — February 19, 2015 @ 9:50 pm (#)

    I would give it to my daughter

  55. Debbie White Beattie — February 20, 2015 @ 1:22 am (#)

    I want it for my niece because she likes gadgets

  56. Elizabeth Vlug — February 20, 2015 @ 10:15 am (#)

    If I won I would gift it to my young nephew who is 10. He loves tech stuff and this would make me one cool auntie. Thanks for the review and giveaway.

  57. Clair P — February 21, 2015 @ 7:47 am (#)

    I would love to try it out myself, but I would end up giving it to my oldest

  58. Taylor Hawkins — February 21, 2015 @ 3:18 pm (#)

    My kids would love it! It looks like a lot more fun that an RC car 🙂

  59. Tanis — February 22, 2015 @ 11:10 am (#)

    What a creative gadget! My son (and husband) would love to try this out!

  60. Sarah Stickney — February 22, 2015 @ 4:39 pm (#)

    my son would love to have this

  61. Carolsue — February 23, 2015 @ 12:51 am (#)

    I would give this to my son. He is crazy about these kinds of toys! He and his friends would have a ball with this.

  62. LILLIAN BROWN — February 23, 2015 @ 11:58 am (#)

    This would be perfect for entertaining the grandchildren-maybe they would visit more often if I won this

  63. Betty S — February 24, 2015 @ 2:50 am (#)

    I would give it to my son, he has a birthday coming up

  64. Gord — February 24, 2015 @ 11:15 am (#)

    I would love to give Ollie a good workout to see how it performs for myself. I may end up giving it to someone but not right away…LOL!

  65. SamanthaD — February 25, 2015 @ 11:22 am (#)

    I like that it is programmable and the whole family, including my two daughters, would love to play with it!

  66. Rick F — February 26, 2015 @ 9:15 am (#)

    This looks so cool. I would keep it for myself.

  67. Shemp DeYoung (@ShempGames) — February 26, 2015 @ 2:59 pm (#)

    My daughter would love it!

  68. anna key — February 27, 2015 @ 2:28 pm (#)

    My brother really loves gadgets, I’m sure he would love this so I would gift it to him!

  69. SueSueper — February 27, 2015 @ 2:54 pm (#)

    I love that you can control it using a device already in the home. This would go to my cousin.

  70. Maryanne — February 27, 2015 @ 9:53 pm (#)

    My husband would love this!

  71. jan — March 2, 2015 @ 12:53 pm (#)

    it would be a toss up who in our house would enjoy this more – me or my son!

  72. tammy ta — March 3, 2015 @ 10:18 am (#)

    My two sons would love to try this

  73. KJ Landreo — March 9, 2015 @ 1:58 pm (#)

    I had never heard of these, but look super cool!

  74. Viv Sluys — March 11, 2015 @ 10:50 am (#)

    I would love to use this to teach my kids about robotics. My brother is taking robotics in university right now so I think he would enjoy playing with this with my kids.

  75. Amber Y — March 14, 2015 @ 2:34 am (#)

    I’d love to try it out because it looks and sounds like a lot of fun. I’d gift it to my boyfriend because i think he’ll like it most, but that means i’ll get to use it too!!

  76. Maria — March 14, 2015 @ 1:57 pm (#)

    I would share it with my kids ! This would be so much fun !

  77. Rachel — March 16, 2015 @ 9:26 pm (#)

    I’d give it to my niece

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