Sphero's BB-8 Star Wars connected toy
Sphero already makes some of the coolest connected toys on the market today, but its latest project could well top them all: it's BB-8, the eye-catching rolling droid introduced in the first Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer.
For the upcoming movie, the filmmakers wanted to ground as much of the sci-fi universe in practical effects, so the droid - essentially an automated football with a hovering platter atop it - was controlled by puppeteers. But then a real, remote-controlled version was made for Star Wars Celebration, and now Sphero has more or less mimmicked that model with a smaller droid you can use in your home.
Officially shown today (after the April announcement), BB-8 looks and acts just like the movie version, with the saucer hovering above the ball as it glides through your space. A magnetic pull keeps it up top even as the roughly three-inch sphere rolls about, and the toy charges wirelessly via the included charging dock, which helpfully doubles as a display stand. Sphero says BB-8 can hold an hour-long charge.
As with Sphero's other toys, you'll control BB-8 using an iOS, Android, or Windows app, and beyond using the screen as a control pad, you can also send him out on "patrol" and have him autonomously follow the route you designate. And in a nod to R2-D2's debut in the original A New Hope, you can view record and view holographic memories displayed by BB-8 in augmented reality thanks to your device camera.
Based on the various hands-on pieces and reviews popping up today, it looks and sounds really impressive. Gizmodo's exhaustive review calls it the "best Star Wars toy ever," which our childhood memories of action figures and AT-ATs might disagree with. But we're excited all the same.
Sphero's BB-8 is priced at US$150, so if you're eager to adopt a tiny droid, consider setting an alarm now.