The droid you are looking for?
11/18/2015 | Fernando Lyons

 The new Star Wars movie Episode VII is exactly a month away, and I couldn't be more excited.  Back in September, on Force Friday, a new line of Star Wars toys, and merchandise, based on the upcoming movie, was released.  The most popular, and hard to find, product released on that day was the BB-8 Droid by Sphero, a company that specializes in robotics.  The app controlled toy is based on the BB-8 droid character from the new movie, who is the apparent successor to R2-D2, as the Star Wars series' most lovable and comical robotic character.  After several weeks, the BB-8 toy recently started to appear on more store shelves, and I was fortunate enough to get my hands on one. 

Once you get through the BB-8's premium quality packing, you will find the actual BB-8 droid, a charging base that matches the BB-8's design, and a USB cable that connects charger to a computer or electrical outlet adapter.   This toy has a quality build to it, and it looks great on a desktop, so I would suffice to say most people will  plug the cable into the USB port on his or her computer to charge it.  To activate and operate the BB-8, the Sphero BB-8 companion app must be utilized.  Once the app is on a compatible smartphone the real fun begins.

There are several features available through the Sphero BB-8 app.  The Drive feature allows users to manually control the BB-8 droid using a smartphone or tablet touchscreen directional pad.  Users can change BB-8's orientation, activate a speed boost, or change to/from inverted controls.  The BB-8's controls are very responsive, and controlling the BB-8 will take a little getting used to.  It moves pretty fast, and can easily get away from you, so don't place it on a table or near stairs.  The Message feature allows users to record and view holographic messages, similar to the You're Our Only Hope message that Princess Leia recorded on R2-D2 in the very first Star Wars movie.  Of course, no holographic projection comes from the unit itself, but an image overlay is displayed on the smartphone or tablet screen to create the effect.  Occasionally, users will receive new messages from key characters from the new movie.  Finally, when users select the Patrol feature, BB-8 scans the environment in order to map a path to explore.  The scan results are displayed on the smartphone or tablet screen.  Once the scan is complete, BB-8 goes off to explore.      

The BB-8 performs best on flat hard surfaces, that are free of obstructions.  On thicker carpets, the unit can create a grove in which it gets stuck.  There are a list of voice commands available for the BB-8.  Users can verbally command BB-8 to wake up, go to sleep, look around, or explore on its own.  Users can also provide verbal warnings and ask specific questions of BB-8 to solicit comical reactions.  Even though it is a toy, the responses and reactions, and sounds (which actually come from the app and not the toy itself) really exhibit the character's personality.  You can quickly forget that this is a toy.  The overall list of voice commands is small in comparison to the voice command list of the much larger R2-D2 Astromech Droid, but the BB-8 is controlled through the companion app, so the potential for addition of new voice commands exists.  The BB-8's head moves freely on it's round body, and the head movements perfectly coincide with the responses and reactions.  The head sits on rollers, and remains attached to the body magnetically.  It is quite secure, so there is no real risk of the head becoming detached while operating.  That being said, if the unit is dropped or handled carelessly, the head could fly off causing damage to it.  I lost one of BB-8's antennae when it's head flew off and hit a filing cabinet, when I picked it up too fast.  Fortunately, the antennae served no function, so the damage to BB-8 was minor and cosmetic.

The BB-8 takes three hours to fully charge, and a full charge provides users with approximately an hour of playtime.  This is a well designed toy, and a joy for people of all ages to play around with.  Any Star Wars fan will definitely love the BB-8 Droid by Sphero.  Even non-fans will find the BB-8 entertaining.  While it's technically considered a toy, at $149, I don't know if I would trust it in the hands of an unsupervised younger child.


Bottom Line:

+Well Designed, Looks and Acts Just Like the Movie Character, Some Great Features and Performance, Companion App, Responsive Controls, Fun to Play With                                        

-Very Expensive, Does Not Perform Well on Thicker Carpet, Limited Amount of Voice Commands & Games, No Internal Sound, Battery Life   

Comments: 0