The Sony “Rolly”

Adel Gabot

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1:32PM

Saw an article on The Verge‘s Circuit Breaker gadget blog recently about the Sony Rolly. It was a look-back article, honoring and paying tribute to recent-but-quickly-rendered-obsolete tech. Nice. I have some experiece with the Rolly too.

Several years ago, I had a client who owned one and showed it off every chance he could get. He was obviously very proud he had one of the new-fangled toys, and he graciously lent me the thing for a week. I showed it off to all the people at my office in ABS-CBN, at the house, and to everyone I could.

Predating the Sphero Star Wars: The Force Awakens BB-8 by a good few years, the Rolly was a vanity project for Sony. It was pretty expensive back then at US$400, pretty rare—and pretty nice too.

It was essentially an egg-shaped wireless Bluetooth speaker that fit in the palm of your hand and had blinking lightbars (or light-rings) around it that changed colors on the fly or if you shook it really hard, two ends (or as Sony calls them, arms) that opened up and flapped like wings and rotating tracks that that moved together or in opposite directions and let it dance around intelligently to the music.

It had 2GB of flash memory and an accelerometer built-in. You synced it to your computer, tablet, phone or MP3 player via Bluetooth, and it would dance around on the floor or on the tabletop with many predetermined routines, with the ends flapping open and closed separately or together in time with the music, zooming and spinning around the room on the two tracks, as if it knew the song it was playing and was actually dancing to it specifically.

While it can dance to streaming music on the fly, it also has a “choreographer” program that can analyze the music tracks and create specific “motion” files for it to dance to. It can even play spoken word files which the arms would flap to and create the illusion that the device was actually talking. But it was much better at dancing.

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And that was all it did. As I said, a vanity project.

I really don’t know what purpose it served. I mean, who wanted a speaker that danced all over the room? It would be nice to watch for about fifteen minutes, but after that it got old real fast.

It’s been discontinued in most outlets, and you’d be lucky to find one in a store or website.

It’s since been superceded by Sphero and a few other companies who’ve created far better and more capable toys than the Sony Rolly, but if I find one of these at a discount store or website somewhere, I’d be sorely tempted to buy it, just for old time’s sake.

And that sums up my brief experience with the Rolly.


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