It started at the Big Android BBQ in October 2011 in Austin, Texas. HTC’s Bruce Jones was watching an on-site demonstration of a new Android-controlled robot ball from Orbotix called “Sphero.” Attendees laughed, as they waited their turn to test-drive the colorful LED lit robot ball, watching as it weaved in and out among bystanders.
Later, pondering a creative mash-up using HTC Scribe, HTC’s digital pen technology, Bruce approached the Orbotix team with a proposal. “You know what would be cool?” he asked. “Imagine being able to control Sphero with the Scribe using HTC tablets. You could draw a path on a tablet and Sphero would follow it. You could have it trace any shape, or even your signature!” After a short pause, the Orbotix team founder and Chief Software Architect, Adam Wilson, announced, “that’s actually a really good idea”.
After returning from Austin, the HTCdev team sent HTC tablets to Orbotix to begin the development process. HTC’s OpenSense SDK and Pen API would allow Sphero developers to seamlessly integrate HTC Scribe into a brand new app called “Scribe ‘N Drive”, which allows HTC tablet owners to use Scribe to trace paths for their Sphero ball. Brandon Dorris, software engineer at Orbotix, led the development effort. “I was pleased to find that the SDK was so easy to use and very well thought out,” said Brandon. “Further, the only thing better than the OpenSense SDK itself was the responsiveness and accuracy of the developer support, which our team found very useful.”
Founded in 2010, Boulder, Colorado based Orbotix has grown to 23 employees. Over the last year, the team has worked diligently to launch their flagship product. This commitment to deliver paid off greatly when pre-orders, which opened a couple months before Sphero’s general release, easily exceeded Orbotix projections. In December 2011, the first Sphero shipment was sent out to new owners. Since its launch, the Orbotix team has been conducting Sphero demonstrations to enthusiastic audiences at events around the country, including the Sprint Open Solutions Conference, AT&T Developer Summit and most recently the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. The Sphero demo booth, which included a full Sphero race track for attendees to test drive the robot ball, was quite a scene and drew huge crowds at CES.
With the successful launch of Sphero, the HTC partnership to build Scribe ‘N Drive has been a fun and exciting project for both sides. After all, what’s more fun than Android controlled robots? “Working with HTC is awesome.” said Adam. “We look forward to building a long-term relationship with HTC and seeing what we come up with next!”