by Garnet Nagato
In November, the BB-8 Sphero, a miniaturized version of the BB-8 from the upcoming Star Wars: The Force Awakens film was introduced along with the film teaser. As the early interest indicates, this promises to be the ‘it’ toy for this holiday season.
Developed by the start-up Sphero, and based on its flagship product of the same name, it is being advertised as some cross between remote control rolling robot and pet, complete with cute android blips and beeps. Controlled through smartphone/tablet (via iOS or Android), its major feature is the ability for autonomous patrol, where it can modify its movements according to its surroundings and even show what would be akin to behavioural changes. It also has some limited capacity for communication, being able to respond to simple queries. It can even create holograms, though these would be viewed on your phone/tablet and be of the original grainy Star Wars quality, and not quite Tupac at Coachella.
As a toy, it is a novel curiosity, but from the point of view of its design¸ it holds greater fascination. The BB-8 is a seamless product, with a magnetically attached head and held upright through gyroscopic assistance and counterbalances within. The seamlessness also raises the issue of how this thing is powered in the first place; that is, via inductive charging, though this does have the drawback of a 3 hour charge time where it remains quiescent in its charging nest. The whole toy is an interesting extension of the Sphero, being part toy, part educational implement. It has already gone through a painful dissection at the hands of ubreakifix who examined the anatomy of the BB-8.
For those curious, the 150,000 units were sold out by Force Friday (September 4), but there are promises of more pre-orders available going into October. Sphero is conscious that this is indeed the droid you’re looking for (yes I went there, but so did Sphero!) and have made adjustments in anticipation of the demand for this coming holiday season.