I’m sure you’ve noticed the influx of ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ merchandise that has been showing up on store shelves these past few months. It’s kind of hard to miss, really. Out of all the toys that have hit the market so far this season, none are more interesting than the BB-8 App-Enabled Droid by Sphero.
If you aren’t familiar with BB-8, he’s that round, white and orange robot seen trucking along in the ‘Episode VII’ trailers. He kind of looks like the love child between R2-D2 and Frosty the Snowman. And just like good ol’ Artoo, BB-8 is an astromech droid – specifically for the T-70 X-Wing pilot Poe Dameron (played by Oscar Isaac).
Back in the late summer, I came across a YouTube video for a remote-controlled BB-8 toy that was supposed to come out later in the year. When I first saw the clip, I was pretty amazed by this thing. Not only did it look just like the BB-8 from the trailers, thanks to Sphero’s gyroscopic technology it actually moved around like him too. I found myself venturing over to the Sphero web site and placing a pre-order for the little guy.
After a few long months of waiting, I’m pleased to report that my BB-8 has finally arrived and he’s just as cool as I hoped he’d be. What do you get for the $150 price tag, you ask? Well, here’s what you’ll find inside the box:
- BB-8 App-Enabled Droid
- Induction Charging Base
- Micro USB Cable
- Quick Start Guide
- Legal Guide
The box itself is a very classy design. It’s sleek, black, and doesn’t in any way look cheap. You can instantly tell that Sphero takes pride in its products, that’s for sure.
Technical specs include:
- iOS & Android compatible
- Top speed of 4.5 mph (7ft/s)
- Durable polycarbonate shell
- Bluetooth Smart BLE connection (100 foot range)
- Inductive charging (over 1 hour of play on a full charge)
- Free App: BB-8 App-Enabled Droid powered by Sphero available through iTunes or Google Play
- Internal guidance system includes a gyroscope and accelerometer
- Height: 11.4 cm / Width: 7.3 cm / Weight ~200 g
Sphero’s BB-8 is much smaller than the real thing. His body is about the size of a large orange. His head sticks on with a magnet, and because of the gyroscope inside it stays on top when he moves. What I really like, however, is that the instructions are extremely simple. You just plop him inside his cradle, insert the plug, and charge him up. When the light on the cradle stops flashing, he’s ready to go.
Controlling BB-8 is done through a free app that can be downloaded to Apple and Android devices. As soon as the app is launched, it will tell you to bring your device near BB-8 and sync-up. Easy peasy.
Now that BB-8 is ready to roll (pun intended), that’s where the fun begins. BB-8 can be controlled like traditional R/C toys using your phone or iPad. He can also be sent to go on patrol by himself and assess his environment. You can record and make ‘Star Wars’-style messages, and even give him voice commands! That’s right, say something like “It’s a trap!” and he takes off as fast as he can go!
For those of you who are interested in seeing everything little BB-8 can do, here’s the promo video that shows off his stuff:
While I would easily recommend Sphero’s BB-8 for anyone who adores ‘Star Wars’, playing with him next to a swimming pool like in the above video is not something you’ll want to do with him. He’s a bit unwieldy (not to mention temperamental) – occasionally bumping into things or even zipping off to do his own thing – so I’d definitely keep him away from water and other hazards at all costs. Otherwise, you may find yourself selling his remains to some shifty Jawas.