Sphero is known best for making coding robots, like the Boltand BB-8, but now it's turning its attention to music creation.
Called Specdrums, it comprises an app-enabled ring that users can tap against a brightly colourful mat or other coloured surfaces to make music on an attached iOSor Android device.
The fabric mat is just that, there's no tech incorporated, it's the ring that works the magic. It includes an accelerometer, light sensor, LEDs and Bluetooth Low Energy connectivity.
It enables kids (of all ages) to create their own masterpieces on a corresponding Specdrums Mix app, which includes hundreds of instruments, loops and sounds. Each sound is assigned a colour so you can tap on an item in the home and it will play the instrument associated with its colour.
Not only can it offer a fun experience in the home, Sphero also hopes teachers will embrace the tech in school. That's something that has proved elusive with the company’s range of mainly ball shaped robots.
According to Sphero, research has shown that students who have access to the arts in school have better attendance and improved academic outcomes.
It helps that Specdrums is also compatible with third-party apps that integrate Bluetooth MIDI, so there is a use in the home and school beyond simply making cool noises.
Specdrums review: Coding gets musical
We've been playing with the Specdrums set at home and it's a whole lot of fun. The small sensor fits on your index finger, and the battery lasts around 2 hours, which is plenty long enough for making music, and way longer than it takes for you to get bored.
Once paired with your phone via Bluetooth LTE, you use the app to play individual notes based on what colour the optical sensor sees that you are wearing on your finger.
The fabric mat gets you going, but the real fun comes from finding other surfaces and colours around your house to make notes from.
The app is easy to use and comes with a number of note selections to start with and you can download more.
There are many more sounds to choose from too, including a traditional piano or something more adventurous.
That need to download more notes as you go can be a bit frustrating at times, and it would have been nicer for Sphero just to included them from the start to save you the hassle of downloading on the fly.
Making music is surprisingly easy, even for someone who's tone deaf, and those with a musical "ear" will certainly be able to turn the notes into something not only useful, but tuneful.
What we like about the Specrums is that it's very different from the robots the company usually makes, but it still has the same capability for learning. We've most focused on playing with the musical instrument, but the device also comes with a learning focused app that will help teach you or your kids to code without the distraction of a ball rolling around the home or the classroom.
The only catch with the Specdrums is that, like a real musical instrument, you'll need to have the imagination to get the most from it, otherwise you'll soon find that it ends up in the back of the draw being forgotten about. If you do that that imagination, this is a great and fun way to get into music and coding.
Specdrums retails in the UK at £64.99 for one-ring and £99.99 for two-rings. The app is a free download.
It is available on Sphero's own website nowand will come to other retailers in April.