17th July 2013 Olivier

Controlling Sphero using Windows Phone 8


I went to the Bluetooth session at Build 2013 (http://channel9.msdn.com/Events/Build/2013/3-026). The session itself was so-so (only 30min, and not enough details for me) but we got a nice surprise at the end : the attendees (at least the firsts of them) will get a Sphero !

Sphero is a ball than can be controlled by Bluetooth. There are several SDKs, notably for iOS ,Android and a preview version for Windows 8.1. https://developer.gosphero.com/

More info here : http://www.gosphero.com

Now let’s play with it !

About the APIs

You can find the doc here : https://github.com/orbotix/DeveloperResources/tree/master/docs

The problem is the API is not exactly the same as the one I have (And I made the latest firmware upgrade) so it broke my head from time to time…The biggest problem I found was with the GetVersioning command (more on that later)

Command packet


Example, the command to get Bluetooth info is 0x00 (DID) 0x11 (CID) (See API p13). The message will be : 0xFF,0xFF,0x00,0x11,0x01,0x01,0xF2

I put SEQ = 1. DLEN is always 1 at least, as there is the CHK byte.

Now an example with some data. To set the back light, the command is 0x02, 0x21. The data is a byte giving the brightness value.

The message (to set brightness at 255) is : 0xFF,0xFF,0X02,0x21,0x01,0x02,0xFF,0xDA

DLEN = 0x02, for data and CHK

= 0xFF, to set to 255

Response packet

The response format is :


SEQ is the same SEQ byte as in the command sent, so you know to which command it is the response.

Lot of the time, there is not part as it is just an acknowledgement of the command. Such answer is called SIMPLE ANSWER in the documentation.

For the MSRP, check the APIO document appendix for the values (0x00 = OK)

Stream mode

You can set the message to stream. With that, you will not get a response. It is faster, but some messages can be lost.

To do that, just set the SOP2 to 0xFE. Example with the set brightness command : 0xFF,0xFE,0X02,0x21,0x01,0x02,0xFF,0xDA

Playing with Sphero


See http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/windowsphone/develop/jj207007(v=vs.105).aspx for info about Bluetooth for WP8

First of all, as we will be using Bluetooth, we need to set the ID_CAP_PROXIMITY, ID_CAP_NETWORKING capabilities in the manifest. Then, just a few lines of code are needed to connect :

PeerFinder.AlternateIdentities["Bluetooth:Paired"] = "";

var pairedDevices = await PeerFinder.FindAllPeersAsync();

// Get the device with "sphero" in the name
var sphero = pairedDevices.FirstOrDefault(d => d.DisplayName.ToUpper().Contains("SPHERO"));

 if (sphero == null)
     MessageBox.Show("No Sphero detected !");

     // open a socket
     spheroSocket = new StreamSocket();
     await spheroSocket.ConnectAsync(spheroName, "1");
catch (Exception ex)

// Get device name
DeviceName = sphero.DisplayName;


Note : the Sphero need to be paired with the phone before we can connect with it !

Now you’ve got a socket open where you can send the commands

Sending commands

Here is the generic method I use to send the commands

public async Task SendCommand(byte[] command)
      // Compute checksum
       byte checksum = 0;

       for (int i = 2; i < command.GetLength(0) - 1; i++)
           checksum += command[i];

       // set the complement to 1 of the checksum at the end of the message
       command[command.GetLength(0) - 1] = (byte)~checksum;

       // stream it

       await _spheroSocket.OutputStream.WriteAsync(command.AsBuffer());

       await _spheroSocket.OutputStream.FlushAsync();

       // Show message in output window

The command byte array is send as parameter. I sum the bytes, from DID to the one before the last (CHK). I invert it, then I put it at the end of the message.

After, I just write it in the Outpustream of the socket. I flush it to be sure.

Some basic commands

Except if I really need the response, these examples are in stream mode (SPO2 = 0xFE)

Set color

You can set the Sphero color with :

async public Task SetColor(byte r, byte g, byte b)
       var command = { 0xff, 0xfe, 0x2, 0x20, 0x1, 0x5, 0, 0, 0, 0x0, 0 };

       command[6] = r;
       command[7] = g;
       command[8] = b;


Simple, I just put the R,G and B values in the message

Set back LED

As Sphero is a ball, there is no real front and back. To know what Sphero consider is back, there is a (blue) backlight. You can set the brightness of it using :


public async Task SetBackLed(byte intensity = 255)
    var command = { 0xff, 0xfe, 0x2, 0x21, 0x1, 0x2, 0xff, 0 };

    command[6] = intensity;




Get Versioning

I had problem with this one, as the API doc doesn’t seems to be correct. Finally I found a message on a forum from a developer of the API who stated that they planned to do it as written, but the new response broke their SDK (a bit annoying!) so they revert to an old response message. Without changing the doc it seems.

Here is what I have on my Sphero (There is a byte on 8th position I have no idea what it is for)


Here is a VersioningInfo class I made :

public class VersioningInfo
    public string RecordVersion { get; set; }

    public string Model { get; set; }

    public string HardwareVersion { get; set; }

    public string MainAppVersion { get; set; }

    public string MainAppRevision { get; set; }

    public string BootloaderVersion { get; set; }

    public string OrbBasicVersion { get; set; }

    public string MacroExecutiveVersion { get; set; }

    public string APIVersion { get; set; }

    static public VersioningInfo FromBytes(byte[] array)
        if ((array == null) || (array.GetLength(0) < 9))
            throw new ArgumentException();

        var stringarray = BitConverter.ToString(array).Split('-');

        var obj = new VersioningInfo
                            RecordVersion = stringarray[0],
                            Model = stringarray[1] == "02" ? "Sphero" : "Unknown",
                            HardwareVersion = stringarray[2],
                            MainAppVersion = stringarray[3],
                            MainAppRevision = stringarray[4],
                            BootloaderVersion = stringarray[5][0] + "." + stringarray[5][1],
                            OrbBasicVersion = stringarray[6][0] + "." + stringarray[6][1],
                            MacroExecutiveVersion = stringarray[7][0] + "." + stringarray[7][1]

        return obj;

So, to send the message and get the response :

async public Task GetFirmware()
     byte[] getFirmwareCommand = { 0xff, 0xff, 0x0, 0x2 ,0x1,0x1,0xFB};

    await _spheroSocket.OutputStream.WriteAsync(getFirmwareCommand.AsBuffer());

    await _spheroSocket.OutputStream.FlushAsync();

    var buffer = new byte[14];

    // read first 5 bytes to have first part of message
    var b = await _spheroSocket.InputStream.ReadAsync(buffer.AsBuffer(), 5, InputStreamOptions.None);

    var response = b.ToArray();

    Debug.WriteLine("Answer : " + BitConverter.ToString(response));

    var messageresponse = response[2];

    // read rest of message
    b = await _spheroSocket.InputStream.ReadAsync(buffer.AsBuffer(), response[4], InputStreamOptions.None);

    if (messageresponse == 0)
        // OK, so create a VersionInfo of it
        return VersioningInfo.FromBytes(b.ToArray());
        throw new Exception("Error code : " + messageresponse);

    return null;


I send the message (not in stream mode, as I need the answer).

I get the first 5 bytes of the answer. I get the message response code (the third byte) and I get the rest of the message .If it is success, it should be 9 bytes. If not, just one (the CHK). Anyway, I get the remaining length using the 5th byte of the answer (DLEN).

Now I check if the response is successful or not. If not, I thrown an exception. If success, I create a VersioningInfo.


That is probably the main command !


Not complicated. Just set a heading and a speed. Heading is 0 to 360. 0 being straight line on positive Y axis.

async public Task Move(int heading, int speed)
    if (speed > 255)
        speed = 255;

    if (speed < 0)
        speed = 0;

    if (heading < 0)
        heading += 360;

    if (heading > 359)
        heading -= 360;

    var command = { 0xff, 0xfe, 0x2, 0x30, 0x1, 0x5, 0, 0, 0, 0x1, 0 };

    var directionbytes = BitConverter.GetBytes(heading);

    command[6] = (byte)speed;
    command[7] = directionbytes[1];
    command[8] = directionbytes[0];



I check if speed and heading are in correct range.

Then I get a convert the heading into bytes.

I set the heading and speed bytes in the message.

I send the message

Note : the STATE byte is set to 1. If you want to make Sphero to stop, it is better to set it to 0, in order to give a smooth deceleration (See appendix C in docs).


Turn off Sphero.


public async Task Sleep()
    var command = new byte[]{ 0xff, 0xfe, 0x0, 0x22, 0x1, 0x6, 0x0, 0x0, 0x0, 0x0, 0x0, 0 };


This is a very simple version of the sleep command. No timeout, no macro.


As I said earlier, as Sphero is a ball, there is no real front and back. But we still need to calibrate Sphero to set the heading 0 (straight line).

The way I do it is :

  • Set the tail light on so I can have a mark
  • Rotate the Sphero by calling the Roll command on a heading with a speed of 0 to align it as you need.


In the app I made (Sources given at the end) here is the calibration screen :

Keep pressing on the + or – button move the Sphero of +5 or –5 degrees.

Moving using phone sensors

In my app, you move the Sphero by orienting the mobile. To be more precise, the Pitch is for forward/backward and the Roll is for left/right

The more the orientation is increasing, the more the speed is also.

You see the red ball in the screenshot. Take a vector from (0,0) to the ball. Its angle gives the heading (0 being the Y axe) and its norm gives the speed.

To get sensor data,I use the Motion class

_motion = new Motion();

_motion.TimeBetweenUpdates = TimeSpan.FromMilliseconds(100);

_motion.CurrentValueChanged += _gyroscope_CurrentValueChanged;



When the orientation changed, I compute the heading and speed :


void _gyroscope_CurrentValueChanged(object sender, SensorReadingEventArgs e)
    //Debug.WriteLine(string.Format("X : {0} Y : {1}", e.SensorReading.Attitude.Pitch, e.SensorReading.Attitude.Roll));
    var x = e.SensorReading.Attitude.Roll;

    var y = e.SensorReading.Attitude.Pitch;

    var _halfPi = Math.PI/2;

    // Limit to 90 degrees (Pi/2 in radian)
    if (x > _halfPi)
        x = (float)_halfPi;
    if (x < -_halfPi)
        x = (float)-_halfPi;

    if (y > _halfPi)
        y = (float)_halfPi;
    if (y < -_halfPi)
        y = (float)-_halfPi;

    // Move the ball on the screen
    Dispatcher.BeginInvoke(() =>
                                    ((TranslateTransform)Position.RenderTransform).X =
                                        x * (120 / _halfPi);

                                    ((TranslateTransform)Position.RenderTransform).Y =
                                        y * (120 / _halfPi);

    // Get vector angle
    var angle = x != 0.0 ? (int)((Math.Atan(y / x) + _halfPi) * (180 / Math.PI)) : 0;
    // Get vector magnitude
    var speed = Math.Sqrt(x * x + y * y) * 255 / _halfPi;

    // If x < 0, add 180 degrees to have a heading in degrees, clockwise
    if (x < 0)
        angle += 180;

    Debug.WriteLine(string.Format("Angle : {0} Speed : {1}", angle, speed));

    _spheroCommands.Move(angle, (int)(speed));

I limit orientation to 90 degrees max (pi/2). To get the angle, I use the Atan to get an angle (in radian) from a tangent (y/x). I add 90 degrees (pi/2) as for Sphero, heading 0 (angle 0) is on the positive Y axis, not on the positive X as it is by default for math. Then I multiply by 180/Pi so I have degrees and not radians.

For the speed, the norm is simply square root of (x*x + y*y). I divide by Pi/2 (as Pi/2 is the maximum) in order to have a number between 0 and 1. Then, multiply it by 255 to have a number in the range 0..255.



It is just a quick overview, Sphero is capable of way more, but it needs a book to explain it all. But there is already lot of things that can be done with those simple commands.

Next post : the same thing but with Windows 8.1.

You can get the app sources HERE

Mobile and Mixed Reality engineer , Arcana Studio
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