TechCrunch posted today about 11 new startup companies to be funded by TechStars, a group that has provided seed money and mentorship for various startup companies for the last four years. Most of these companies seem to lead towards different web services, but GearBox is a "smart toy company" who have created a robotic ball which can be controlled via a smartphone using a simple API.
How this all works is summarized in a recent GearBox blog post:
So basically how HTC/Android/Apple make smart phones, we make smart toys. Our first smart toy is a robotic ball that you can move by tilting your phone in the direction you want the ball to roll. We are then leveraging the connectivity and computing power of the phone to create a fully interactive experience for the user. Our first app for the ball is Sumo. I throw my ball on a table, you throws yours on the table and then we can try and sumo each others ball off the table. However, while our physical balls are moving there is also an onscreen component with online stats, profiles, damage, powerups and other aspects of gameplay that aren’t possible with a regular remote control toy. For instance, when the balls collide they can sustain “damage” and roll slower or I could get a powerup to reverse your controls for a few seconds.
Other examples cited were a golf game where you swipe to "hit" the ball, curling where you roll the ball then "brush" on the screen, or even just control the ball to harass your cat. Currently all of the app development is being done on Android, but according to the guys at GearBox, iPhone development is totally possible and they're just using Android for prototyping. The Smart Ball is still in prototype phases itself, and it's hard to say when it will be available for sale. Either way, it seems that the Parrot AR.Drone isn't going to be the only toy in town to be controlled via a smartphone.