Smart toy maker Sphero is probably best known for its BB-8 rolling droid, but has recently been aiming its products at future programmers and makers. The company has opted to take the crowdfunding route to fund production of its latest bot – called Rvr – which has been designed to be tweaked and hacked by adult hobbyists and young roboticists alike.

The Rvr rolling robot platform is Sphero's response to feedback it's received over the years, with customers asking for future products to be able to tackle different kinds of surfaces, respond to voice commands, serve as home security patrol, be a battle bot when needed, and more.

This platform doesn't meet all feature requests out of the box, but has been designed so that users of all skill levels can pretty much make it do whatever they want it to do.

It works with Sphero's Edu app, and can be driven around straight away using joystick controls within the app. Once it's been taken for its first test drive, users can then dive into coding using the same app in an environment based on Scratch visual programming language.

The first port of call for newbies will likely be the app's Draw and Drive feature, then they can get a bit more serious with block programming before moving into JavaScript coding. If help is needed along the way, or just more info or a chance to chat about Rvr adventures with other hackers, the Edu app also has an online community to explore.

The robot itself has the look of a remote-controlled toy, with four chunky wheels and a relatively high ground clearance (20 mm) giving it all terrain capabilities. The Rvr has a suite of sensors to detect color, light and infrared, as well as a magnetometer, accelerometer and gyro. And there's a bunch of addressable LEDs to mess around with too.

It's powered by a removable battery that lasts about 2 hours per charge. There's a 4-pin universal expansion port with onboard 5 V/2.1 A USB data and power that's ready to receive maker boards like the Raspberry Pi, BBC micro:bit or Arduino, backed up by software libraries and samples of code to make it easy to get things rolling as soon as possible.

Sphero says that project backers can look forward to a pro-level vector-based, closed-loop control system with hi-res encoders, a 9-axis inertial measurement unit, and the company's own algorithms.

The Sphero Rvr Kickstarter has already trundled past its US$150,000 funding goal with more than a month on the campaign clock. Pledges start at US$199 and, if all goes to plan, shipping is estimated to start in October. The video blow has more.

View gallery - 11 images