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Consumer Electronics Show: Sphero, a toy ball driven by smart phone or tablet

Sphero, a small, rolling ball controlled by a smart phone or a tablet computer, is a toy that is being shown off at the Consumer Electronics Show.

But Orbotix, the Boulder, Colo., start-up company that makes Sphero, hopes its baseball-sized invention will end up being more than just a toy and is using the CES to court retailers, the media and developers.

Sphero in hand "We see it as a new gaming platform," said Orbotix Chief Executive Paul Berberian. "We have a sumo game app where people drive balls into each other. We're also working on a game where people can solve math problems to allow them to take control over other people's Sphero until that person can solve a math problem."

Xbox or PlayStation this is not, but an affordable gateway into gaming and robotics is what Berberian is hoping will make Sphero catch on with consumers, namely kids.

Sphero is due for sale online and in stores, which have yet to be named, by the end of the year for less than $100.

6a00d8341c630a53ef0147e15b0a03970b-800wi The ball, which connects to smart phones or tablets via Bluetooth, is controlled by apps on Apple's iOS and Google's Android operating systems.

Users can use their fingers to drive Sphero or tilt the smart phone or tablet itself to move the ball around. Inside the app, a user can change Sphero's color and speed.

Orbotix is also working on an augmented-reality app for Sphero that would display obstacles on screen that a player would have to dodge.

"Inside the ball, we use components from air traffic controllers," he said. "Everything is programmed with open source code, and it's very easy to program for. So, we think this could be great for education too. It's really an inexpensive way to get into programming and robotics."

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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles
twitter.com/nateog

Video: Sphero at the 2001 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Credit: Nathan Olivarez-Giles/Los Angeles Times. Photos: Sphero in hand and a screen shot of the Sphero App. Credit: Orbotix

Consumer Electronics Show: Lady Gaga's new Polaroid printer, camera and glasses

Lady Gaga Polaroid printer

Lady Gaga descended on the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas for the second year in a row as the creative director of Polaroid. But this year, Gaga showed off products she helped design that are headed for retail this year.

The Gaga lineup is branded Polaroid Grey Label by Haus of Gaga and is made up of a mobile printer, dubbed the Polaprinter GL10, an aluminum rimmed instant-camera and a pair of sunglasses with a camera and two OLED screens behind the lenses.

PolaroidDevices The reveal of the three items came with applause and a few yelps from a crowd of a couple of thousand standing around Polaroid's booth -- a bit of a rarity at CES, where most media members don't clap much. Then again, Gaga is a rock star and not an average consumer electronics executive.

The sunglasses, called the Polarez GL20, and the camera, known as the Polaroid GL30, are prototypes, Gaga said, but both will arrive in stores around holiday season 2011. No prices have been set for the glasses or the camera.

The Polaprinter GL10, however, is a retail-ready product and will hit stores in May for $149.99, said Katie Linendoll, a Polaroid spokeswoman.

 Gaga said the glasses were inspired by a pair of specs she made from iPod screens for a concert. The two 1.7-inch OLED screens in the glasses sit below a user's eyes and facing outward, so the image can be seen through the glasses but not by the wearer.

Gaga2-polaroid-vert325px1The earpieces on the glasses house a USB drive where images taken by a small camera sitting on the glasses' nosepiece are saved.

The GL30 camera has a screen on it so pictures can be viewed before being printed, a feature not found on the Polaroids of the past, as well as the ability to connect to any other picture-taking device via Bluetooth to print photos from other gadgets.

The ability to share photos from a smart phone or tablet, via Bluetooth, is a feature that's also making its way to the mobile printer.

Sharing a photo with the GL10 printer, and printing it using ink-free technology, takes about 40 seconds. The printer will also be able to connect to other cameras and computers by way of USB.

When the GL10 ships, an Android app will be available that can sync phones to the printer and add borders and filter images before printing.

Polaroid printer apps for the Apple iPhone, BlackBerry and Windows Phone handsets will arrive later this year, Linendoll said.

The GL30 camera, too, will use mobile apps to modify photos it snaps, but those apps may or may not be the same as the apps for the printer, she said, adding that the same popular smart phone platforms will be supported.

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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

twitter.com/nateog

Top photo: Lady Gaga sends a photo from her BlackBerry smart phone to the Polaroid Polaprinter GL10 she helped design, held by Polaroid Chairman Bobby Sager, at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Credit: Nathan Olivarez-Giles / Los Angeles Times.

Middle image: Polaroid Grey Label printer, left, sunglasses and camera from Haus of Gaga. Credit: Polaroid

Bottom photo: Lady Gaga draws a larger crowd at the Polaroid booth. Credit: David Becker/Getty Images

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