Last year I was wowed by Sphero, the small robotic ball that is driven using an Android or IOS smartphone. It was crazily fun to drive, and drove both my greyhounds bonkers.
Not satisfied with Sphero, Orbotix launched the Ollie, which was both faster and easier to control. Equally impressive is the large body of third party apps that have also grown up around Ollie. The Ollie robot is a lot like the radio controlled cars of my childhood. Instead of four wheels, the pill shaped Ollie has just two treads and goes like a bat out of hell. Upping the craziness another notch, Orbotix released a special edition of Ollie that they've branded "Darkside Ollie". It is stronger, faster and looks like the sort of toy Darth Vader would give particularly rebellious kids for Xmas.
Where the original Ollie sold as is, requiring you buy extra tires and rims to improve its performance outdoors, the Dark Side Ollie comes with several tire and rim options out of the box. Dark Side Ollie may still look like a smallish oblong pill-shaped robot toy, but its black on black (with customisable RGB LED accents) means it also looks pretty mean in a very cool sort of Darth Vaderish sort of way.
While I didn’t have a radar gun to test it out, Sith (that’s the name I’ve given my Dark side Ollie) is fast. The specs say 22 kph in ideal conditions, but in use it feels a helluva lot faster.
Thankfully Sith is crafted out of the same polycarbonate as his light side sibling, which handily meant he could crash into furniture, doors, walls, people (even when going full tilt) and would simply bounce off them.
This is definitely a good thing as my Ollie driving skills were initially abysmal (further complicating things, Sith didn’t come bundled with "L" plates).
Thankfully things improved over time and I've also picked up a heap of nifty tricks (Making Sith flip, jump or spin also whips my hounds into a complete frenzy).
As with the original, getting set up was a doddle. After downloading the Ollie app, connecting to Sith was quick and hassle free process. All told, Ollie is about as much fun as you can have with your clothes on. Retailing for a few dollars shy of $200, Ollie's dark sided cousin is definitely worth checking out.