The (already) famous roly-poly robot from Star Wars VII is bound to provide entertainment for young and old this Christmas.
When the trailer for Stars Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens launched last year, the question on most minds was: “What is that adorable soccer ball droid and how do I get one?”Fortunately, creator of app-enabled robots, Sphero, heeded the call and made short work of getting the little droid onto store shelves.
|Compatibility||iOS and Android|
|Connection||Smart Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)|
|Full charge||Approx. 3 hours|
|Play time||Approx. 1 hour on full charge|
Upsides: Why you want the BB-8 by Sphero
- Too cute for words: Whatever your opinion on the heavy-handing merching, the BB-8 will soothe your sith-like cynicism. It’s bleeps and bloops, droid-like demeanor and curious nature is almost too cute to bear. If you’re already a Star Wars fan, the familiar sound effects and in-app nods to the wider Star Wars universe are bound to put a smile on your face.
- Autonomous companion: Although controlling BB-8 can be fun (and a little bit tricky), we found it most entertaining when BB-8 did its own thing. You can use the app to set BB-8 to “patrol” mode, allowing it to study the hostile landscape of your living room at its own pace. For someone who isn't allowed pets in their apartment, there is something nice about having BB-8 bump into your feet or enter the room unannounced.
If you take a glance at your device while BB-8 is patrolling, you can view stats on speed, collision and temperature (speed and temperature are both totally made up, but it’s cute nonetheless).
- One durable droid: The BB-8’s polycarbonate shell is super-sturdy. On two occasions, we tested how the droid performed on a wooden table and granite bench (both much better than on carpet by the way) only to have the BB-8 dart straight off the edge and onto a tiled kitchen floor. Both times, the fall was significant, and we thought for sure we’d be sweeping up BB-8’s remnants with a dustpan and brush. To our surprise, BB-8 survived both incidents without even a scratch. We later found out that the Sphero can survive a shotgun blast (video below), so don’t be afraid to put BB-8 in some precarious places.
Downsides: Why you may not want the BB-8 by Sphero
- Charge time: On “patrol” mode, you can get around an hour of play time with BB-8 by Sphero. That’s great in comparison to other droids and drones, but the BB-8’s inductive charging (a base where you rest the droid in downtime) can take up to three hours for a full charge. This wouldn’t be an issue if you had the option of charging a replacement battery on the side. Unfortunately, one of the downsides to Sphero’s impenetrable shell is the sealed battery.
- Some features were oversold: Amongst BB-8’s features are “holographic communication” and “adaptive personality”, neither of which really amount to what Sphero hypes it up to. The holographic feature is essentially an augmented reality function that makes it look like BB-8 is projecting a recorded video on the wall if you look through your device's camera. As for the “adaptive personality”, Sphero’s promotional material heavily implied that BB-8 learned to map its surroundings and assess risks (such as falling from kitchen tables). Through much trial and error, we can confirm that this simply isn’t true.
Who is the BB-8 best suited for? What are my other options?
The bumbling BB-8 will be a surefire hit across Australian lounge rooms this Christmas. It’s adorable, timely and fun to pilot. However, there’s no doubt that BB-8 will be especially popular among long-time Star Wars fans. Although very little is known right now about the soccer ball droid’s role in the new Star Wars, its sound effects and mannerisms are evocative of the original trilogy, and it’s bound to bring joy to masters and padawans alike.
If this isn’t the droid you’re looking for, check out our top picks for droids and drones this Christmas.