The Sphero BB-8 droid lets you own a piece of Star Wars
Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens doesn't hit cinemas until December, but already the rolling, bleeping BB-8 droid that features in it has proved a hit with audiences. Now you can buy your very own working version of the robot, thanks to a replica toy produced by Sphero.
The BB-8 captured the imagination of Star Wars fans as soon as it bumbled across the screen in the first teaser trailer for the upcoming sci-fi movie. Was it fully mechanical or was there some CGI trickery involved? How exactly did the head stay on and move independently? Director JJ Abrams then showed off the droid at the Star Wars Celebration in 2015, confirming that it was a real-life, physical robot brought to life by physical effects supremo Neal Scanlan.
Enter Sphero's BB-8, based on the company's existing rolling robots, and yours for US$149.99, £129.99 or AUS$249.99. It's smaller than the original but it's based on the same gyroscopic propulsion.
Two internal wheels provide propulsion, kept level by a counterweight, while the floating head uses magnets instructed by sensors inside the ball – by knowing which way is up and which way it's traveling, the BB-8 toy can adjust the head accordingly without it falling off.
The Sphero BB-8 offers a 30-meter (98-ft) range and 60 minutes of battery life between charges. You can set it off on an autonomous exploration of its own or take command with the accompanying smartphone app – there's even the option to record "holographic" videos for playback through the app, just like Princess Leia. If you don't want to use the smartphone app, the BB-8 can be controlled by your voice too, and it comes with its own inductive charging cradle.
There's a huge wave of Star Wars merchandise on the way from Disney, including replica lightsabers and drones in the shape of the Millennium Falcon, but the Sphero BB-8 could prove to be the most popular of the lot. The video below shows the toy being put through its paces.