What do you get when you cross your favorite remote control toy with a smartphone, them inject a healthy dose of speed and attitude? Darkside Ollie, the newest addition to the popular line of app-controlled robotic toys from Orbotix. And wow, is it fun!
Darkside is billed as a “naughty” version of the original Ollie robot, which debuted last year. With speeds of up to 14 m.p.h. and extremely responsive controls via the iOS and Android Ollie app, this little robot rolls, bounces, crashes, spins, jumps, and tears through just about anything you can throw at it. Leave it sitting alone for about 20 seconds, and Ollie will become impatient and begin pulling of a series of its own tricks.
Out of the box, Darkside is both easy to use and a challenge to master, all the while remaining highly entertaining. Ollie’s speed, acceleration, and handling are adjustable and controlled via the app, as is the driving surface (carpet versus hardwood floors) and driving area (a small indoor space or the great outdoors). For those who love to tinker and experiment, Ollie’s attitude can be adjusted and personalized in a number of ways. All of the LED’s inside Ollie — and there are many — can be changed to suit the user’s preferences using the app. You can even give the robot a name. But that doesn’t seem to have any real effect on Ollie’s performance.
Built with a strong polycarbonate shell, Ollie is impressively resistant to collisions. It’s also able to handle a wide variety of surfaces due to both its design and swappable tires that come included in the package. In addition to the standard wheels, the basic Darkside package contains a set of nubby wheel hubs for rougher terrain.
Over the several hours I spent with Ollie, I definitely noticed a difference in the way the robot handled when the tires were changed. I highly recommend that you use the knobby, thicker set of tires when taking Ollie outside. For a real challenge, try Ollie without tires on a smooth floor or carpet!
While certainly fun indoors, Ollie seems to be better suited for open spaces or even the outdoors where pavement, cement, or even short grass do not stop the little beast from doing its thing.
On a three-hour charge, Darkside gives you about an hour of reckless, fast-paced play. The simple-to-use controls in the app all but guarantee you’ll spend at least that long with Ollie. Once you start trying to pull tricks — both easy and difficult — things start to get really interesting.
One suggestion I would pitch to the folks over at Orbotix would be to add the ability to create and save paths for Ollie. That feature would add a new layer of enjoyment.
But even without that feature, Darkside Ollie is fun, fast, and furious. It’s available for $129.99 at sphero.com and major online retailers.