What is it?
The Sphero Mini is the world's smallest app-controlled robotic ball (well, probably anyway). The ping pong-sized toy claims to do a lot. And it's definitely packed with a lot of tiny tech - which is no surprise considering this is the same company that brought the miniature Star Wars BB-8 rolling droid to homes everywhere. And - at £50 - it's significantly cheaper than the tennis ball sized, £130 Sphero 2.0.
The Sphero Mini comes in this fancy little box, with charger and accessories included
What's it like?
The Mini can do more than it appears. Aside from being a fun little robot ball to play with - the device can also be used as a controller and to teach basic coding. There are various different driving methods - you can use a standard virtual joystick, the tilt control or even with your lovely face. The latter uses the front-facing camera on your mobile phone, with expressions and head tilts corresponding to different directions.
However, when it comes down to it, the ball mostly just rolls around in one place or zooms off in a random direction whenever the required scowl, shock face or sad expression is made.
But Face Drive isn't the Mini's weirdest driving method. The newly added feature, Scream Drive, lets you scream at the ball to get it rolling. Whisper to slow it down and shout to speed it up. It's bizarre, but stangely addictive.
We tested Face Drive, but it didn't go too well...
You can play a multitude of games with the Sphero itself, including a rocket ship shooting game - Exile II - that's reminiscent of Atari's well known game from the 80s, Asteroids. You can move the ball to control the rocket ship, basically using it as a joystick - which adds an extra element of fun considering rolling the Sphero Mini around gets a little bit boring after 10 or 15 minutes.
The Mini only has a range of about 10 metres as well, so it can be quite fiddly to control. We often rolled it to the end of our barn sized office, only to find we had to go collect it from under a desk because we couldn't summon it back.
The shell separates into two halves, like a Kinder Surprise egg, which means you can buy separate shells if you want to change colours. This plastic outer layer also withstood some serious crashes into table legs as we got acquainted with using it.
There's a micro USB port inside the ball and it takes an hour to charge fully. Once charged, the ball lasts about 45 minutes, which isn't bad considering you probably won't be entertained enough to want to use it for more than that at any one time.
You get some tiny traffic cones and bowling pins thrown in the nicely-packaged box as well. However, the pins are pretty lightweight. So, unless you have the steady hands of a neurosurgeon - you're likely to spend more time faffing about trying to stand them up than playing with the Mini.
Tilting and twisting the ball to control the car in a Mario Kart-esque game
The Sphero Mini also, unintentionally, kept my toy poodle entertained for a solid 15 minutes - and this is a dog that rarely gets off the sofa unless he smells chicken. However, he now finds his almost identically-sized, unrobotic miniature tennis balls a bit lacklustre in comparison.