Ever wanted your own “Star Wars” droid? If the answer is yes, then a miniature version of BB-8, robot star of the forthcoming “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” might just be the droid you’re looking for.
Developed by robotic ball specialist Sphero, the toy, which is just under 5 inches tall, was one of the main attractions in Disney’s recent ‘Force Friday’ promotional event. With excitement mounting ahead of the movie’s Dec. 18 release, BB-8 was reportedly sold out in a number of stores.
A far cry from the “Star Wars” toys of yesteryear, BB-8 is controlled by a smartphone or tablet - an app connects the little droid to users’ gadgets. BB-8 is “woken up” by opening the app and holding your smartphone or tablet near the robot – the app even blasts out the famous “Star Wars” score when you connect to BB-8.
The droid has a number of different settings – these include‘drive,' where you control BB-8 from your mobile device, ‘message’, which lets you record ‘holographic’ messages and ‘patrol,' where BB-8 essentially does his own thing.
BB-8’s ‘drive’ feature uses two main touchscreen commands. One controls a blinking blue light within BB-8 that is used to “aim” the droid. A touchscreen joystick moves the little robot in the direction you want him to go, while other touchscreen buttons let you boost his speed temporarily and drive him in reverse. BB-8 also makes plenty of endearing R2-D2-style noises in drive mode.
The message mode uses a smartphone or tablet’s camera to record a video message, which can then be viewed as a “help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi”-style projection on the device’s screen. The video is ‘projected’ by BB-8, similar to R2-D2’s famous message from Princess Leia in the first “Star Wars”movie.
Selecting the ‘patrol’ option sends BB-8 off exploring his surroundings, looking like the slightly bewildered offspring of a Roomba. A tracking system maps his somewhat confused movements on your smartphone screen, while an event log gives a running commentary on his wanderings, noting, for example, when collisions are detected.
BB-8 also comes with a handful of voice commands – “look around” sends him off on his little voyage of discovery, while he freaks out when you warn him that “it’s a trap!”
The technology behind the cool little robot has already garnered plenty of attention, with magnetic induction keeping BB-8’s head on his rolling body. Some "Star Wars” fans have even created the howbb8works.com website, which is devoted to the droid's inner workings.
Priced at $150, however, BB-8 does not come cheap, although the spherical robot has already raised the bar for future galaxies of “Star Wars” merchandise.
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