Rolly, a new "audio entertainment player" from Sony, is capable of twisting and turning while playing music. The player, which Sony has been teasing for the last couple of weeks, is egg-shaped and can fit into a hand.
It has speakers on each end that are normally hidden by dish-like covers, but the covers move to reveal the speakers and reflect their sound when the Rolly is switched on.
There's just one button on the player – an on/off switch – with the other functions being controlled by a pair of rings that circle its body.
One ring is used to move from track to track or album to album while the other controls the volume. The same two rings are connected to motors that enable the Rolly to scoot around a table-top in time to the music being played. Alternatively it can be set to sit motionless. In that case it's possible to control the Rolly by moving it back and forth to switch tracks, or in a circular motion to increase or decrease the volume.
Rolly has 1GB of flash memory built-in and can playback MP3, Atrac or AAC songs (AAC songs with copy protection from iTunes Music Store aren't supported). In addition to playing back music from its internal memory the Rolly can also receive music streamed via a Bluetooth connection.
Sony demonstrated the device running with its "Sonic Stage" software but Rolly will accept streams from other software and devices capable of Bluetooth streaming, the company said.
Rolly's movements need to be preprogrammed into the device for each track. There are six that are possible. The dish-like speaker covers can flap in and out, the ends of the device to which the speaker covers are attached can twist around and the wheels can turn. With just these six motions is possible to program a surprisingly complicated sequence of moves.
Sony will supply a software application called "Motion Editor" for move-by-move choreography or a rough set of moves can be automatically generated. The latter won't necessarily match in detail the music being played but it's a much quicker way of setting the Rolly in motion that programming by hand.
Sony also plans to launch an online community where the company and users can share movement files.
Users should get about five hours of audio playback from Rolly. This drops to four hours when the device is in motion and three and a half hours when Bluetooth streaming is also enabled.
The Rolly isn't an iPod-killer nor is it meant to be. At a relatively heavy 300 grams and measuring 104 millimeters long and 65 millimeters in circumference the player is not very practical for those wanting a portable audio player. But it is certainly unique and likely to be a talking point whenever people see it.
It will go on sale in Japan on 29 September and cost about ¥40,000 ($353). Sony has yet to decide plans for an international launch.