Star Wars The Force Awakens isn’t even out yet, but we’ve already got a favourite character - meet the BB-8 Droid.
If you didn’t know better, from watching the trailer you’d think the little robot is all CGI, but we were all amazed when JJ Abrams rolled a working version out on stage during the film’s press conference.
We were then absolutely gobsmacked to find out you’d be able to buy one in toy form, from the makers of everyone’s favourite iPad-controlled-ball - Sphero.
It’s like all of our Christmases came at once.
What are our impressions of this new toy? Read on to find out!
Design and Build
Can you imagine this toy being made a few years ago? Of course not, the BB-8 droid is a marvel of modern toy-engineering.
How’s it done? The little head attaches with a magnet. This means you could rip it off without doing any damage (if you are that heartless).
The plastic feels thick and durable - we tested it on concrete and there're no scratches to be found.
The most fragile piece is the little antenna on the droid’s head, which looks like it could quite easily break in the wrong hands.
Of course, that won’t be a problem if you don’t let your children anywhere near it (which you shouldn’t, because this is a grownups toy, right?)
Apart from the removable head there’s very little else on the toy, no buttons or switches, nothing.
The Droid does have a docking station, where it sits and charges wirelessly, just plonk it on and watch as the little dude fills up with juice. Once full, you’re good for 60-minutes use.
Unfortunately, it won’t return automatically to the charging dock when battery life is running low (well, they have to save something for BB-8 Droid 2 don’t they).
The charging dock connects to a wall socket or computer with a MicroUSB cable.
App and functionality
The BB-8 Droid is controlled entirely from an app which is available on iOS and Android.
Upon opening it’ll automatically start searching for nearby devices, if it detects one, it’ll start the connection process.
It’s incredibly easy to setup.
On the main menu you can select your mode; a control mode that puts you behind the wheel, and a patrol mode, where he’ll learn his environment by bumping into everything, then move around it autonomously.
Controlling the little guy at first can be tricky, it’s simple to pick up and play, but there’s definitely a fine art to advanced Sphero control which we haven’t quite picked up yet.
Short carpet is the optimal surface for control, wooden floors create too much wheel spin, while it gets slightly bogged down in deep (shagpile) carpets.
You control the BB-8 using a simple onscreen joystick, just like previous Sphero’s before it. It’s very self-explanatory, move the stick forward, and the droid will move forward. The Sphero does include a blue LED inside, which allows you to orientate yourself with the device - a big improvement over previous versions.
There’s also a boost button, just in case the family pooch takes an interest.
The range is an impressive 30 metres.
There are also app enabled voice interactions, with commands such as “run away”, “look around”, and “how are you feeling?” - which will be rewarded with a little dance.
We found the most fun we had was in patrol mode, letting the little guy autonomously roam around the room, gathering information about his surroundings.
One final thing to mention is the toy’s hologram mode - R2D2 and Princess Leia this ain’t. Instead, you simply record a message on your smartphone, it then uses your smartphone’s camera and AR to ‘project’ this video message in the app.
This is one of the coolest toys we’ve ever seen, even if you’re not a Star Wars fan, this little droid has great character.
It’s simple to control, everything works well, and most importantly, it’s fun.
The only thing holding this toy back is the fragile antenna, and the price, which is a little steep at £130.
The toy is available at places like Firebox and other major retailers - if you're thinking of buying one for Christmas, get your order in early - they're expected to be in short supply come December!