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Sphero unveils programmable SPRK Edition to teach kids about robotics

You know Sphero? The little robotic ball you can drive around with your smartphone? Well, earlier today its creators released a new version of the hit toy, dubbed Sphero SPRK, that’s geared toward robotics education. The new bot is almost identical to the popular Sphero 2.0 ball, both mechanically and physically — but it’s got a couple new additions that make it a brilliant educational resource.

The first and most obvious difference is probably Sphero SPRK’s transparent polycarbonate hull, which offers users a peek at the intricate mass of components that make it work — but aesthetic changes are just the tip of the iceberg. What makes SPRK really special is the new mobile app it comes with, which makes it easy for kids to create and save custom programs that Sphero can execute.

Related: Start ’em young: Vortex robot teaches kids how to program

It’s not just for kids, either. The app is designed for budding coders of all ages, and features a number of different programming interfaces for learners of varying skill levels. The most basic mode allows users to program Sphero visually by dragging and dropping blocks that affect different parameters, such as speed, spin, and color. If that’s too simple or limiting for you, the app also provides a text-based programming mode for more advanced users.

And of course, if you ever get tired of writing code and programming Sphero to perform specific tasks, the SPRK edition also functions like a regular ol’ RC ball whenever you want it to. Just change the orientation of your phone from vertical to horizontal and the app will instantly switch to drive mode, allowing you to zip your Sphero around the floor and give your brain a break.

Starting today, the Sphero SPRK Edition is available in the US for $130, and the company says it has plans to launch in more countries very soon.