Promising hours of fun--for you and your pets--the $130 Sphero ( Macworld rated 4.5 out of 5 mice ) is a glowing, app-controlled orb that connects to your iOS device via Bluetooth to allow you to control the ball from up to 50 feet away. Launch the free Sphero Drive app, and the first thing you do is orient the Sphero to yourself with a two-finger gesture. Once Sphero knows where you are, it will follow your directions using joystick controls, classic-RC controls, or an accelerometer-based tilt mode, reaching speeds of up to three feet per second.
The Sphero sports an internal LED, and you can customize the LED to nearly any color you can dream of. You can also tweak the Sphero's behavior for the best performance on wood or carpet. After charging for about three hours on its clever inductive charger, Sphero will roll around for up to an hour.
Orbotix offers several other apps for the Sphero that let you do more than just drive. The Sphero Cam app lets you capture video and photos (on your iOS device) as you drive Sphero, so you won't miss a second of your cat's reaction to this glowing invader. Sphero Golf turns your iPhone into the club and the Sphero into, well, the ball, as you use the accelerometer in your device to send Sphero across the floor towards a target. My favorite of the bunch, though, is Sphero Draw N' Drive, an app that lets you trace out a course for the Sphero, and then have it follow that course. To clear the canvas, you just shake your device and start over again. (The Sphero Drive app also lets the orb double as a Magic 8 Ball, answering Yes/No questions with either a green or red pulsing light.)
One of the only confusing things about the Sphero's iOS controls is that if you're walking around with the Sphero, the controls do not automatically change for your new position. In other words, if you start out to the south of Sphero and then step over to the north side of it, the controls will be backwards. This isn't a huge problem, though, as you can re-orient your position relative to the Sphero at any time using a two-finger gesture. My only real regret when testing Sphero is that I didn't have a cat to play with it.
Bottom line: Sphero is a fun and versatile iOS-controlled toy that's easy to use and entertaining for both you and your pets.