Jan. 7, 2014 at 10:05 AM ET
There are always a few high-tech toys on display at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, and this year is no exception. Perhaps the most charming is Ozobot, a tiny robot that follow lines drawn on screens or paper — it's a simple concept that's surprisingly fun.
The little robot, about half the size of a small egg, whirs along on invisible wheels, using a camera on its base to follow any line it's put on. When it meets a branching path, it picks one randomly. It looks very cute as it scoots along, but that's just the beginning.
Since Ozobot's sensor can detect color, you can give it instructions by drawing different patterns. Blue, green blue, for instance, makes it speed up. Red, blue, green might make it do a U-turn, or take the next left. In a way, it's like you're programming the bot — with a felt-tip pen.
There's an app with tracks you can put the bot on, or you can draw your own with the built-in canvas. There are other things planned as well -- physical tracks you can put together, and stickers with color codes if you don't have color pens handy.
It's easy to imagine a class of third-graders making their own tracks, learning the Ozobot logic, and generally being creative with the things. They'll cost $60 when they're released later this year, so they're not exactly impulse buys, but it doesn't seem excessive for such a unique device.
Ozobot is planning a Kickstarter campaign to get the word out about the robot and fund its manufacturing, so be on the lookout for it and you might be able to snag a cheap pre-order.
Devin Coldewey is a contributing writer for NBC News Digital. His personal website is coldewey.cc.