As far as beeping, rolling robots go in the Star Wars universe, BB-8 did much to steal R2-D2's thunder in The Force Awakens. Last year Sphero gave kids (and big kids) the chance to own one of the droids themselves, and now a special edition model gives the bot a new lick (or lack) of paint as well as pairing it with a wrist-worn controller that brings with it the power of the Force.
The droid itself hasn't changed much in this new edition. Instead of the factory-new sheen of last year, BB-8 and his charging stand now have a "Battle-Worn" paint job, which gives the robot a bit more character. Other than that, it still has all the cool, app-driven functions that earned it a spot in our tech toy gift guide last Christmas.
That suite of functions expands with the new Force Band, a wearable device with a built-in accelerometer and gyroscope that translates a user's hand motions into instructions for the droid. Pushing your hand forward sets BB-8 in motion, steering is managed by sweeping left or right and pulling back calls it home. You can also raise and lower your arm to move the robot faster or slower.
The Force Band also comes with its own app and minigames. Force Awareness mode is designed to run in the background while you go about your day, and every now and then it will detect a "Disturbance in the Force." When it does, it communicates that through vibrations, and as you sweep your arm around, that rumble gets stronger or weaker. Find the sweet spot, hold it there and you'll unlock a "holocron" in the app. These collectible cards can be characters, weapons or ships from the movies, which can be used to give the Force Band the ability play vwing and pew-pew sounds when certain gestures are performed.
The new model BB-8 isn't the only one sensitive to the Force, either; the Band works just as well with the first model, as well as the rest of Sphero's non-Star Wars line of ball bots.
The Special Edition bundle includes the Battle Worn BB-8, the Force Band, a charging dock, tin and two micro-USB cables, for US$199.99. If you already have a Sphero robot and just want the Force Band by itself, it's available for $79.99. Both packs go on sale September 30.
Stay tuned for our full review later this month. Meanwhile, the promo video for the Special Edition BB-8 is below.
Product page: Sphero