A GearBox That Moves The Ball With Your Phone

Atoms and bits are coming together in interesting ways. A slew of geo apps like Foursquare, Gowalla, and Loopt let you leave digital markings in the real world whenever you check into a location. Stickybits lets you put barcodes on physical objects which invokes a message, photo, or video which can be passed around with the object. And now we are beginning to see startups figuring out ways to control real-world objects with people’s phones and computers.

Of course there is AnyBot, the $15,000 remote-controlled robot. But even that is too complicated and expensive for the masses. Yesterday, one of the 11 TechStars companies that launched called GearBox showed an early version of an iPhone app that can control a robotic ball (see video below). GearBox wants to wants to help developers build games which involve players controlling a real robotic ball with their phones.

In a post for us, Don Dodge wrote:

GearBox is a smart toy company that has created a robotic ball which is controlled via a smartphone. Applications can be built on the smartphone via a simple API which requires minimal coding. Early applications include “Sumo,” where two people attempt to knock each other off of a table, “Golf,” where you swipe the phone to shoot the ball at the hole, and “Kittens,” in which users can earn points by playing with their cat and causing certain interactions.

GearBox is starting with Android, and will also support iPhone apps. The video below is just a very early prototype. The ball is way too slow for any reflex-type games. “It’s not fast enough, yet,” says founder Ian Bernstein, “but we are in the process of greatly increasing the speed (~5x) and vastly improving the accuracy of the control system so a reflex type game will be possible.”

His plan is to get a few hundred of these faster prototype balls into the hands of developers within the next few months, then quickly move into a larger pilot of “tens of thousands” of balls distributed from its Website starting in 3 to 5 months. He wants developers to make create different games and GearBox will sell the balls. After a year of feedback, Bernstein thinks GearBox will be ready for the masses by Christmas 2011.

I’m not sure I can wait that long. I want one right now.