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January 7, 2016 / carlispina

Fun With BB-8

Sphero BB-8This year over the holidays I had a chance to play with someone else’s BB-8 Droid by Sphero. Since this was one of the hot (and kind of expensive) toys of the season, I thought I would blog about it even though I only had a chance to spend a brief time with the droid. It is no surprise that this toy has proved to be so popular. Most viewers seem to agree that BB-8 can challenge even R2-D2 and C-3PO as best droid in the Star Wars universe. This new fan-fave has been popular since the first images from the movie were released.

But, how does the toy compare to the on-screen droid? The first, and perhaps most notable, difference in look is that the Sphero BB-8 is quite small, standing only about four and a half inches tall. Though this might disappoint some, it makes it a very maneuverable toy that can move quickly (according to the specs, BB-8’s top speed is about 4.5 miles per hour, though I don’t think I reached that speed on a carpeted surface). Another big, but not surprising, difference is that this BB-8 is completely tied to and dependent on the app that goes with it. This makes it important to know that you have a device (Android or iOS) that will work with the droid before you make a purchase. It also means that all of BB-8’s sounds actually come from the app and your device’s microphone – there is no microphone built into the toy itself. Assuming, however, that you know that your device will work with BB-8 and you are prepared for these elements, set up is pretty quick and easy, though the instructions are, at best, basic, so if you run into troubles you might find yourself searching for an answer online.

The fun part, of course, comes after all of this set up work is done and this is where BB-8 excels. The app offers three main functions for your droid: drive, message (record and view holographic messages), and patrol. In patrol mode, BB-8 will move around the available space autonomously, but in drive, you take control of the direction and speed of motion. In both modes, BB-8 is fast and responsive, changing directions so quickly that occasionally the magnets that keep the head and body together can’t keep up (though it is easy to just place the head back on the surface of the body sphere to fix this issue). In the drive mode, you can either use the controls in the app to change BB-8’s direction or you can use voice commands that make the toy even more interactive. The mode I played with the least is the message mode. Using this feature, you can record up to twelve seconds of video within the app and then “project” this within your app much as BB-8 projects messages in the movie. If you prefer to stay within the universe of the movie, the toy also comes with several pre-loaded messages from famous Star Wars characters. Overall, BB-8 is a lot of fun! And, I think the fun will only increase later this year when Sphero releases the recently announced wristband that will allow you to control BB-8 with gestures mimicking the Force. It is an impressive (if expensive) way to bring home a piece of Star Wars magic, but it is important to do some research first to make sure you know what you are getting and that the toy will work with your chosen device. You can see BB-8 in action in the promotional video below, which offers a pretty fair view of its features.

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One Comment

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  1. Sandra Skinner / Jan 7 2016 11:52 pm

    Just saw this at CES!

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