The Droids of the Star Wars universe always hold a special place in our hearts. R2-D2, C3-PO, that silly Droid that Chewie likes to shout at in the Death Star.
It's no surprise then that we've got a new Droid to love/hate for the new Star Wars: The Last Jedi film out on 15 December.
Called BB-9E, not much is known about the new Droid as yet, aside from what we've learnt from Star Wars merch announced ahead of the new episode. From toy sets like Lego Star Wars, we've learnt that he'll be something to do with Kylo Ren and Supreme Lord Snoke and be part of the First Order.
But it's thanks to robot maker Sphero, that we've actually got a robot to play and control with too. We've been playing with the new sphere robot ahead of the Force Friday event to see what's what.
BB-9E Droid hardware
On the surface the BB-9E is the same as the BB-8 Droid the company launched in 2015 around the release of Force Awakens.
The robot is controlled via a wirelessly connected smartphone or tablet and features a small cylindrical sphere that comfortably sits in the palm of your hand with a small head unit that seemingly magically floats on top thanks to the clever use of magnets.
Unlike BB-8s bright orange and white design, BB-9E is instead black and silver, with the Droid sporting a flatter head dome design that now features a couple of LED lights for extra effect.
The Droid is wirelessly charged via a docking station, and an even nicer touch is that Sphero has worked out how to make the head charge and those LED light up at the same time without you having to worry about connecting any wires. Also included in the box is a training base (more on that in a moment).
The paint job and build quality is exceptional. The black is slightly see-through so you can see a blue directional LED light through the chassis, and the ability of the Droid's head to stay in place is really clever.
We also really like the noises the new Droid makes giving it a really distinctive persona against BB-8. Sphero says it's worked with Industrial Light and Magic to create sounds specifically for the Droid, while also planning to update them to match, as best it can, the noises the BB-9E from the film - something they did for the BB-8 first time around.
BB-9E smartphone app
The key to controlling the new BB-9E is the accompanying app for both iOS and Android. We played with the iOS version on an iPhone for our demo. The app, which is now the same across the four Star Wars Droids that Sphero offers, gives you basic movement controls, specific moves, the ability to draw a designated path for BB-9E to follow, as well as, a host of other functions and features.
Controlling the Droid is now a lot easier than previously and we had no problems controlling the robot around the office we were in for our preview. When you aren’t moving the Droid via the on screen control pad controls, you can request the BB-9E perform specific moves or sounds.
When you aren't controlling the Droid you can do other things too. New to the app this time around is a pseudo Augmented Reality area that will let you steer your way around spaceships from the Star Wars Universe. For BB-9E it's the First Order Star Destroyer, Supreme Lord Snoke's personal spaceship.
It is here that the AR trainer base comes in handy allowing you to move freely around the spaceship without your Droid smashing into walls or off table tops while you do so.
If you've taking a break to enjoy the movies, you'll be able to sit and watch the Star Wars movies with BB-9E. The Droid will pitch in when it thinks it's relevant. Currently you can watch Force Awakens, Rogue One, and New Hope, with the others coming soon.
Like the BB-8 from 2015, the BB-9E is great fun and really enjoyable. Sphero has managed to give the Droid plenty of character, while still delivering a robot that kids old and young will love. Of course whether you prefer this one over the original BB-8 will come down to whether you prefer Luke over Vader or Rey over Ren, but at least we now have a choice. There is no performance differences between the BB-9E and BB-8 apart from the decal and the Augment Reality spaceship you can explore.
Ultimately, we'll have to wait for The Last Jedi to find out whether BB-9E is a character worth rooting for.
BB-9E will cost £149.99 and will be available for retail worldwide starting at 12:01am local time on Friday 1 September, at Sphero.com, Amazon, Apple, John Lewis and Disney Retail Stores.
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