Sphero, makers of the namesake spherical robot toy, today released a brand new connected toy, an iPhone-controlled BB-8 droid from the upcoming ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ movie. Yes, it’s now possible to explore the galaxy with your own trusty astromech droid by your side.
Featuring an adaptive personality that changes as you play, the little robot can show a range of expressions and even “perk up when you give voice commands”.
“Set it to patrol and watch your Droid explore autonomously, make up your own adventure and guide BB-8 yourself, or create and view holographic recordings,” said the company.
In addition to these features, the iPhone-controlled BB-8, basically an upgraded version of the Sphero 2.0 rolling robot, allows users to create their own routes that the toy will dutifully follow. Voice commands such as “move forward” and more are issued through the companion app.
The droid features magnetically-attached head, a gyroscopic drive system and is adorned with rather interesting Star Wars graphics.
Fortune explains that Disney actually selected the Sphero startup for its accelerator program last year, along with nine other companies, giving them upwards of $120,000 in investment capital to “make an impact on the world of media and entertainment”.
If you don’t see the embedded video, watch it on YouTube.
As it turns out, Sphero didn’t just create the premium toy, but was also instrumental in the development of the BB-8 droid used in the actual movie, with Disney CEO Bob Iger acting as its mentor.
“When the tech-savvy CEO saw Sphero’s technology in action, he realized the potential application for BB-8 and connected the startup with the masterminds of the Star Wars characters,” Fortune said.
Disney also licensed the same underlying Sphero technology to create the version of BB-8 that graced the stage at the Star Wars Celebration.
It’s very interesting that the companion app includes an augmented reality function of sorts that allows yu to send and view instant messages simulated as holographic video chats onscreen.
“A review unit arrived this morning, and we’ve been playing with the little droid non-stop ever since,” Polygon writes. “This is a premium product, and even the packaging lets you know that you’re about to experience something special.”
The Sphero BB-8 costs $150 and is available starting today through the Apple Online Store and at Sphero.com as part of a massive Star Wars merchandising blitz dubbed “Force Friday”.
To learn more, visit sphero.com/starwars.
I’m a huge fan of Star Wars: will you buy me a Sphero BB-8 for Christmas?