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New Hampshire company building a ball that needs your smartphone to play

Posted by Scott Kirsner  May 11, 2012 10:32 AM

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If you have kids, you've probably gotten used to handing them your phone so they can play games or watch videos.

So what about handing them your phone so they can insert it into a Nerf-like ball and toss it around?

That's the idea behind a new product from Physical Apps in Hollis, New Hampshire. The TheO Ball is a foam sphere with a pocket in its center that keeps the phone safe while allowing players to see its screen. Some of the initial games will be bowling, hot potato, and a question-and-answer game called Interrogo, but the company also plans a software development kit that will enable others to create games for TheO. The ball will sell for $24.95, and include several free apps. Additional apps will be sold through the Android and iTunes online marketplaces.

Popular Science dubbed TheO the best toy at this year's Toy Fair trade show in New York, and Physical Apps chairman Bob Houvener tells me the TheO will start shipping this summer. It'll be available through the company's web site and Amazon store, as well as a number of independent toy retailers.

Houvener writes via e-mail, "We see a very significant opportunity to get folks up and moving, while leveraging their smart devices with our innovative and proprietary physical enablers such as TheO, combined with fun and enjoyable apps. This essentially lowers the price point for 'console' type game experiences by an order of magnitude, while expanding the market to an even greater degree globally."

The video below explains the concept, but the ball's design has changed to look like the one above.

Will you buy one?

(Houvener tried raising $15,000 last year on Kickstarter, didn't succeed, but seems to be trucking along anyway.)

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Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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