Sphero hits Kickstarter with new RVR robotics platform

Last year, Sphero stepped away from the flashiness of Disney IP, opting instead to focus on education. It was a pragmatic business decision, above all. The draw of licensing brands like Star Wars, Marvel and Pixar was clear, but the grind ultimately proved too much for the Colorado startup.

Besides, products like the Bolt and SPRK have provided low-key hits for the company, as it has made serious inroads into the education market. The newly announced RVR marks a continuation along that path, while helping the company offer a stepping stone to those users looking to graduate to something a bit more serious. 

Launched today via Sphero’s first-ever Kickstarter campaign, RVR bucks the company’s longstanding ball design for a more traditional four-wheel robot. As it notes in the accompanying press material, the ‘bot is “drivable right out of the box” using an iOS or Android app. Like the company’s ball robots, navigation is a bit tricky at first, using the same kind of orientation method.

But that’s not really the point. RVR’s more than just a phone-controlled car, thankfully. There are plenty enough of those already. The device is intended to be an early step into the world of robotics coding and development. In a meeting with TechCrunch ahead of launch, co-founder Adam Wilson positioned the product as kind of a middle point between Sphero’s current educational tools and more advanced products like the kind being produced by spin-off, Misty Robotics. 

In other words, the robot can be used to teach coding in languages like Python and JavaScript and to iterate simple consumer robotic development. As for the move from ball to four wheels, that can be simply explained as a way to create what is quite literally a development platform. The top of the robot is designed for familiar dev boards like Raspberry Pi and Arduino, along with plug and play components from fellow Boulder startup Sparkfun.

RVR retails for $249, but early-bird pledgers can pick one up now for $199. The product will start shipping to backers in September.