Toy robotics company Sphero is building its business around connected play, or the idea of toys that theoretically never age because they’re frequent refreshed by software updates. We’ve seen this idea realized in the company’s BB-8 and Lightning McQueen toys, both of which were designed to accompany Disney movies. Now, Sphero is releasing yet another toy — a talking Spider-Man — that continues to expand its connected toy line.
The interactive device looks different from anything else Sphero has created, in that it’s stationary and made of a rubber material — all the company’s other toys are designed to move. Kids also control Spider-Man with voice commands, which is the first time we’ve seen Sphero include that technology.
The toy itself is unique because it guides kids through comic book storylines, as if Spider-Man were a camp counselor at a bonfire. It talks through the story and gives kids an opportunity to choose what to do next, like a Choose Your Own Adventure book. The toy remembers where kids left off, too, so they can immediately come back to their story wherever they left it. Spider-Man has more than 400 pages-worth of content stored onboard and 100 storylines, which Sphero expects will take months to go through. Again, though, the idea is that Sphero will continuously add stories to Spider-Man’s arsenal.
The Spider-Man toy pairs with phones over Bluetooth, although you don’t need a device to control it. The app lets you manually select a mode, but you can also trigger storytelling or conversation with phrases like, “tell me a story,” or “make me laugh.” Sphero says Spider-Man neither sends information over the web nor stores data in the app. It’s only looking for its wake-up phrases at which point it’ll respond. This, they say, makes it compliant with COPPA, which protects children’s privacy online.
Generally, Spider-Man doesn’t look or act as impressive robotics-wise as Sphero’s prior releases, but it still pushes the toy market forward with voice controls and a more interactive experience. I just wish it could fly across the room. The device is out today for $149.