Talking tech since 2003

If you are reading this you have likely seen the new Star Wars movie, but if you’re in the minority and haven’t seen it yet, don’t worry this post has no spoilers. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know a new lovable droid is introduced in The Force Awakens, that droid is named BB-8.

If one thing is clear about BB-8, it’s that this new droid is the one you will be looking for. But wouldn’t it be great if you could sell BB-8 to the masses? The folks over at Disney thought so and started accepting pitches from companies to help make that happen. It just so happens that a company called Sphero, which launched in 2010, already made a ball-shaped robot and when they pitched Disney CEO Bob Iger the deal was pretty much sealed.

According to Bloomberg, Sphero sold approximately 14 of its original ball-shaped robots per hour, but when the BB-8 robot was released in September 2015 that number shot up to more than 2,000 sales per hour.

Sphero's BB-8 next to its other ball-shaped robots.
Sphero’s BB-8 next to its other ball-shaped robots.

So when I found out that my girlfriend got me a BB-8 as a gift, I was thrilled. Of course, I had to open it as soon as it arrived–well, after she insisted that she wrap it first. Sphero and Disney have done an amazing job with the BB-8 robot. Right out of the box, it’s extremely easy to setup, simply place the body of BB-8 on the floor and then put the head close and it will attach magnetically (very movie-like!).

bb-8-treeWhen it comes to controlling the droid there’s an app you can download for iOS and Android. The app let’s you select from a few features, including the ability to “Drive” BB-8 or have it “Patrol” which essentially means BB-8 will wander around wherever you are without any input from you. The “Drive” mode takes a bit of practice but you should be able to get the hang of it fairly quickly. There are also a series of voice commands you can activate to control BB-8. Once voice commands are activated, you can start by saying “Okay BB-8” and then issue the command. My favorites are “It’s a trap!” and “Run away!

The app also let’s you view and record holographic video messages. This feature is very cool! To view a holographic message simply hold your iOS/Android device at BB-8 and it will appear on the screen as if it’s being projected from BB-8.

In addition to the controls, voice commands, and messaging, the app has a great feedback system in place which makes using it a lot of fun because it feels like you’re playing with the BB-8 from the movie. When using “Patrol” mode you can monitor BB-8 directly from the app, it uses the droid’s sensors to provide all types of feedback such as how far it is from you, if it crashed into something, the position its in, etc.

BB-8’s monitoring screen for Patrol mode.

In terms of durability, I’ve crashed little BB-8 a few times already (not to mention the times she’s crashed on her own in patrol mode) and each time she comes out of it perfectly fine–though sometimes her head pops off and you just have to stick it back on. I’ll admit, at first glance the toy looks like it may break easily but that hasn’t been the case in my (limited) experience so far.

Quick Look: Check out BB-8 in Action

Sphero says the toy has 60 minutes of battery life, I haven’t had a chance to verify that since I literally just got it last night but I have been using it for a while and it’s still going strong. One thing that really stands out to me is the authenticity of it — the way it moves and interacts just feels very real and true to the movie. I know that may seem silly to say considering it is an official toy, but even still, sometimes these things can be overrated whether they are official or not.

I definitely would recommend the BB-8 to any Star Wars fan. Even my cats seem interested in it! If you want one, you can pick it up on Amazon.

Now if only we could get a movie-sized one…

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