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Here's where you'll find all the latest news about technology for children. We love to follow cool new inventions on Kickstarter and we hunt out all the latest announcements about tech toys and gadgets for the coming Christmas holidays. You'll also get our take on children's technology stories in the media.

REVIEWS$show=/search/label/review

Our kids technology product reviews are intended to help you work out whether a toy, gadget or kit is a good fit for your child or family. There's lots of cool stuff available, but is it the right choice for the child or teenager that you are buying for? We'll help you make the right choices and get the best value for money.

GIFT GUIDES$show=/search/label/gift%20guide

Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and friends assemble. We create gift lists to help you make good choices for kids technology which helps them develop the right skills for the future. We research the best in Coding Toys and Games, Making / Craft Tools and Kits, STEM/STEAM related gifts, Programmable Robots, Electronics Kits and Gadgets for Tech Age Kids and Teens.

PROJECTS$show=/search/label/project

Get crafty with technology. Here we'll post all our ideas and projects using technology to get creative and making with kids. You'll find anything from making a lemon battery to a glow-in-the-dark Minecraft sword. Our projects are tried and tested on our own kids or at events we run, so we are sure you can have a go at home with your kids. Some of our projects use specific tech gadgets which we provide links for you to purchase.

STEM$show=/search/label/stem

STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. In recent years there is an increased focus in these areas of study. We like to include Art and Design too, so we often talk about STEAM (A stands for Art). At Tech Age Kids we believe Coding is a new literacy and children need to understand how technology works, practice making skills and grow in their curiosity to make a better future for us all.

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We think it's really important for kids to get hands-on with electronics and learn how to make circuits and write code to control hardware. Younger kids can start with conductive playdough. For kids who like to combine craft and tech, littleBits are fab. And we love SAM Labs wireless electronics components for making it easy for kids to make Internet of Things inventions. Lots of electronics kits for kids have support for the Arduino microprocessor environment. The DuinoKit Jr is one of our favourites. Arduino is a fab skill for older kids and teens to develop.

ROBOTICS$show=/search/label/robotics

We love robots at Tech Age Kids, especially programmable ones. We've got lots of them and write reviews and projects that use them. Our programmable robots for kids buying guide is a good place to start if you're not sure what's available. Roby the mBot Meccano robot dog is one of our popular projects and has been with us to lots of events. Our Ozobot LEGO trailer is fab for kids who love LEGO and robots.

MAKING AND CRAFT$show=/search/label/making

We're advocates of the creative use of technology, but this needs to be balanced with developing physical skills such as papercraft, woodwork, clay modelling, technical drawing and soldering. If children don't develop these skills as they grow up then physical making projects can become frustrating rather than fun. The Maker Community uses the term 'making' as a broad term to include all sorts of artisan skills or craft activities. Being able to make things can lead to life-long hobbies or even careers. It's a great feeling to be able to take a project from an idea in your head to a real object that does something. We're particularly interested to explore products that combine maker skills with tech skills such as electronics but others focus purely on the physical making skills that are still important to modern making.

Sphero vs Ollie: Which Robot Should You Pick?



We've had a Sphero ball robot for a while and my son got a Sphero Ollie robot for Christmas. They're both great bits of technology which are lots of fun and educational too. But which one should you pick?

In this comparison, we'll look at the fun features, practical aspects and educational factors that differentiate between these robot siblings.

Note that we've previously provided a comparison between Sphero, Sphero SPRK and Sphero BB-8 which covers the differences between the ball-based robots. And we have also reviewed Sphero Ollie.


See also: Programmable Robot Buying Guide for Kids

Fun Features

Both Sphero and Ollie can be controlled by apps and can light up in loads of different colours. They both have ramp accessories that they can use to do tricks.

Both robots have neat tricks that they can perform. Ollie, as it's name suggests, has a skateboarding style. Sphero's shape lends itself to different tricks some of which are more subtle than Ollie's all out adrenaline moves. 


Sphero
Ollie
Sphero is waterproof and floats. That will be a really important feature for some families.

Sphero can learn new tricks as you progress through the app. Bonus tricks are sometimes offered through the app.

Sphero can be used with specific apps as a games controller.

You can get a LEGO compatible trailer for Sphero to pull along. For LEGO fanatics this will be an important feature.
Ollie is very very fast. Ollie can spin up on one end and jumps higher than Sphero.

Ollie can do tricks triggered by touch gestures on a phone or tablet. This is great fun.


Ollie has skateboarding street cred.

Ollie is quite a bit bigger than Sphero which can make it look more impressive.



Power

Sphero
Ollie
Sphero has very neat inductive charging. You just pop it on its base and it charges automatically.

You tap Sphero to turn it on. 
Ollie charges via a USB cable so you do need to plug in the cable manually after play.

Ollie turns on automatically when a device makes a connection. 




Connectivity

Sphero
Ollie
Sphero uses an older Bluetooth standard which means it will work with older devices. But it also means you need to manually pair Sphero in device settings.

We sometimes forget which device Sphero is paired with and have to find out to unpair it. 
Ollie uses the newer Bluetooth Low Energy standard. Apps pair with Ollie automatically when in close proximity, no need to pair in settings.

Ollie seems to cope with pairing with which ever device we put close to it. 



With both devices we've sometimes had to quit apps and restart them to detect a robot.

Apps

Sphero
Ollie
The main Sphero teaches the control of the robot through a series of Missions that must be completed.

The Sphero app is available for Amazon Fire.

Sphero has a variety of apps including games where you use Sphero as a controller.

Sphero apps include:
  • Draw & Drive
  • Color Grab (group game)
  • Exile (space shooter)
  • Rolling Dead (augmented reality zombie shooter)
The main Ollie controller has a joystick and a trickpad. The tricks are very cool and the app detects when they are performed and gives feedback. But there's no game to progress though.

Some Sphero apps also work with Ollie such as Draw & Drive but most don't. 

Note that there's an open SDK for Sphero and Ollie so third parties can develop apps.

Accessories

Both robots have accessories that can be bought as optional extras.

Note that Ollie comes with a set of tires whereas Sphero does not include a cover.

Sphero
Ollie
Sphero has different nubby covers for protection, looks and different surfaces.

Sphero has a terrain park with small ramps.

Sphero has a chariot which is can pull along. It's LEGO compatible so minifigures and small models can be taken for a ride. 
Ollie has a variety of tires for different looks and different surfaces.

Ollie has a big pair of spine ramps.


Ollie's hubcaps are also replaceable. 

Coding

Sphero
Ollie
The SPRK Lightning Lab educational app allows kids to program Sphero with a graphical drag and drop blocks language. There are sample projects that demonstrate what can be done.

The third party Tickle and Tynker apps also support graphical programming with Sphero.

For text based programming there's the Sphero Orbbasic app. 
Ollie also works with the SPRK Lightning Lab app. The projects are designed for Sphero so it's not quite as good a fit but it works and you can write your own projects to control Ollie.

The third party Tickle and Tynker apps also support graphical programming with Ollie.

Sphero Orbbasic also works with Ollie. 



For developers there's a beta SDK which supports Sphero and Ollie.

Conclusion

Sphero and Ollie are both great robots. In our house Ollie's key feature is the skate-boarding coolness which encourages my kids to build courses for it to complete. Sphero's key feature is the LEGO-compatible chariot because my kids are LEGO crazy.

In terms of scope for coding, both robots offer lots of options. The SPRK Lightning Labs examples are designed for Sphero foremost, and Sphero's ball shape does lend itself better to exploring the sensors.

For educational use I'd say Ollie's cool factor and speed may actually be a distraction and kids are more likely to focus if they are using a Sphero. Schools will also appreciate just being able to pop Sphero's on their inductive bases to charge without having to connect USB cables. 

Ollie and Sphero are both very durable for robots. Sphero has all the electronics sealed inside which makes it waterproof and means there's nothing external to get damaged. 

Sphero is more expensive that Ollie - for the extra cost you get the inductive charging capability, waterproofing and a lot more apps. Ollie packs a lot of tech for its lower price and is extremely cool.

Name

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Tech Age Kids | Technology for Children: Sphero vs Ollie: Which Robot Should You Pick?
Sphero vs Ollie: Which Robot Should You Pick?
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