Sphero BB-8 is likely to be the must-have Star Wars toy this Christmas. Likely to even overshadow R2-D2 in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, BB-8 is a spherical Droid that stole the thunder when he was first spotted in the movie's original online teaser video. And now he has been brought to life by robotics maker Sphero for kids young and old across the globe to control and move around via a phone or tablet.
Sphero BB-8 review: One spherical Droid
BB-8 certainly looks the part. The robot consists of two parts: the main ball and the "floating" head that roughly stays put thanks to some magnets and clever firmware within the software.
Smaller than you might expect, BB-8 is (ignoring the head) same size as the regular Sphero that's already been on sale for over a year, only this time jazzed up in bright orange and white.
If you're wondering, then yes the head does come off, and the ball body starts flashing red and white to let you know. We know this because we've crashed the little fella a couple of times already. It's easy to pop back on though, and away you go again.
When you're finished you simply plonk BB-8 back on its wireless Star Wars-branded docking station, making this toy look cool even when not in use.
BB-8 smartphone control
Like the regular Sphero, the BB-8 is controlled via a smartphone or tablet, but there are differences between this model and the predecessor. BB-8 uses Bluetooth LE rather than standard Bluetooth making it more efficient in terms of power usage, and you can't, as you were able to previously, use third-party apps this time around. Sphero tells Pocket-lint that is because of licensing issues surrounding the Star Wars franchise.
Once you've connected your phone to your BB-8 - we've used both an iPhone 6S and and an iPad - you get a number of different ways to control your new Droid.
The main way is by using the big virtual pad on screen, which you simply move your finger around, while a second on-screen pad gives directional control. Use both together and Sphero BB-8 can be controlled with relative ease.
Beyond the freeplay control there are also a number of pre-set responses like tricks or moving its head. Failing all that you can give it voice commands like "it's a trap" or "look around" to send it off on a specific task.
Having previously reviewed the original Sphero, we have to say the BB-8 iteration is a lot easier to control, mainly because you get the visual feedback of which way BB-8's head is facing.
Sphero BB-8 review: Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi
One of the coolest additional features of the BB-8 is its ability to project holographic video just like RD-D2 did in the first Star Wars movie. There is a modern day twist of course: the holographic projection is actually only visible on the phone screen via Augmented Reality.
There is one pre-recorded video for you to project back to get the idea, and then you are left to record your own to share with others. Yes, it's easy to spend hours trying to re-create the famous scene with Princess Leia in Star Wars.
Sphero BB-8 review: Patrol & back to base
This is an intelligent robot after all, so when you can't be bothered to be at the controls you can set BB-8 to patrol the room on its own. You can still see what's going on, and Sphero has been clever enough to show you all the actual results from the on-board data the Droid collects.
The BB-8 is charged via an induction base that looks more like a display stand and means that you don't have to worry about plugging anything in. When he needs more juice (and the battery lasts for around an hour), it's a simple case of back to base. Very handy, and very easy - although the three hour recharge time is a bit slow.
At £130 the Sphero BB-8 is a little expensive, especially as the original Sphero is some £30 cheaper and comes with more games. But with BB-8 you you don't get the Star Wars experience and that's really what you're paying for here on top of the original.
Whether you're a Star Wars fan or not, BB-8 is great fun, especially if you take the time to create an obstacle course to traverse. It's likely to be one of the must-have Star Wars toys to own this Christmas.
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