It's almost time, The Last Jedi is just around the corner, your Star-Wars-mad son or daughter won't stop nagging you about getting a droid for Christmas and you don't know your BB-8's from your R2-D2's. Not to fear, I've been getting hands on with Sphero's entire Star Wars range this week, check out how we got on below.
BB-8 Resistance Droid
If you really want to impress your kids, you should know that BB-8 is the highly loyal Droid of Resistance pilot Poe Dameron. We first see BB-8 in the very first scene of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, during the massacre on Jakku. Now the first thing to address has to be the size. No, BB-8 is not as big as it appears to be in the movies, not even close (yes, I wish it was too). BB-8 measures in at around 11cm tall, which is pretty tiny - but it also means that it can be extremely agile. A droid the full BB-8 size simply wouldn't get the classic characteristics that you'd expect. It would have to be going at an outrageous speed before you could achieve the classic head-leaning look that we all love from BB-8. With a much smaller ball, BB-8 can seem way faster and have all the right mannerisms - in a table top gadget. A smart move from Sphero, if you ask me.
As usual, I've translated the classic marketing spiel into some (hopefully) useful info:
"Send BB-8 out to patrol on its own, or even watch him move while charging."
BB-8's patrol mode is potentially my favourite feature of these Sphero droids. You can set him to patrol around you, protecting you from any potential First Order threats. Although his lack of sensors means he'll occasionally bump into things, he then detects that there's been a collision, and zooms off in another direction. It's great fun to have him rolling around your room, not exactly a very thrilling function, but very cute and very lifelike. Just a quick word of warning - unless you've got faster reactions than I, don't send him roaming around on your desk or worktop, or you may well find that his head and body are now patrolling different parts of the room.
Watch with Me:
"View films from the Star Wars saga with BB-8 by your side." Personally, I think the Sphero Watch with Me feature is pretty awesome. I visibly morphed into a 10 year old version of myself when I was able to watch star wars with my own droid next to me. Now, whilst the instructions says to place BB-8 in the charging dock during the movie, I disagree. When it's in the charging dock, only his head can move, and it all looks and sounds a bit forced and jerky. Out of the dock, although you'll need a little space for him to roam in, it's a lot more immersive. Now while the battery boasts an hours play time, this obviously wouldn't be enough for even the credits of a Star Wars movie - I think it should be able to last the full length of the movie, because he only moves around every now and then, and is idle in between. In terms of his actual reactions, BB-8 will generally perk-up when he sees himself, or his budding companion Poe. He'll shake a bit when he's nervous and even turns to face away during the massacre of the villagers on Jakku. You'll even get interactive messages on the app as you watch, your droid will warn you of First Order threats, for example. To set up the Watch with Me mode, simply place BB-8 on the floor in front of you, select the correct movie on the app and press play!
There are, inevitably, a few caveats. First of all, you may want to sit down for this bit, you'll have to give up your phone for a few hours. The way BB-8 knows what part of the movie he's in is down to the phone listening in to the movie and reporting back. Therefore, if you want BB-8 to watch the whole movie with you, you'll have to give up some precious screen time. You can, of course, still flick between apps without having to start the movie again. Secondly, the only films that are currently supported by this feature are Rogue One, A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back and The Force Awakens. However, Sphero says that all other Star Wars films should be supported by the time The Last Jedi is released on the 15th December.
Listens & Responds:
"BB-8 recognises and reacts to your voice." This pretty nifty trick is only available on the specific BB-8 Sphero app, not the DroidsbySphero one, for some reason. Essentially, you turn voice commands on in settings and can then partially control BB-8 with an array of voice commands such as "Go To Sleep", "Wake Up", "Go explore" and many others. It may sound a little elementary, but it's actually a lot of fun to be able to simply shout at your droid and watch it respond.
"Record and view virtual holographic messages with BB-8." Don't get too excited about this function, it's pretty cool - but it is a gimmick, and I, personally, don't think it's quite polished enough. The premise is that you can watch and listen to pre-recorded holographic messages, as well as recording your own face and voice in to one. You simply point your phone at your droid and it looks like the message is being projected by it, just like in the movies (I'll put a photo from the movie in here somewhere for those deprived among you who haven't seen Star Wars). The issue is that the tracking isn't quite up to scratch, a lot of the time it appears that the hologram is actually coming out of the top of BB-8's head, or even the table behind. However, this should just be a software deficiency - so may well be improved in the future. Convinced? Check out our BB-8 page now!
BB-8 with Droid Trainer
The actual droid itself is exactly the same as the "BB-8 Resistance Droid" that I just detailed above, however it does come with an extra piece of kit - the all new Droid Trainer. Now whilst the droid trainer is just a fancy piece of plastic and doesn't actually do anything on its own - it's a fun little accessory to improve your droiding experience.
The essential premise is that the trainer allows your droid to spin freely (and look pretty awesome whilst doing it) without actually letting it move anywhere. The benefits of this are two fold - first off, this is great for getting used to your new droid, trying all of the pre-programmed movements and generally figuring out how it works. Secondly, it unlocks another dimension to the droid, and another feature on the app - the new Holographic Trainer. This mode incorporates your droid into the VR section of the map, as you step inside of a holographic simulation and explore different memorable locations from the Star Wars saga.
Each droid unlocks a different area for you to explore - for BB-8 it's Raddus, a heavy cruise ship used by The Resistance in their struggle against The First Order. Whilst its pretty cool to be able to zoom around the inside of a Resistance ship, that is all you can do. There are no mini games to play, or adventures to go on - only points on the map where you can read info about key characters in the films. Whilst its a great idea, and I think will progress well in the future, the app software at the moment is very limiting. It is also worth noting that you could simply place your droid between your legs, or in a bowl to stop it running off whilst you play - but it doesn't look half as cool... Hooked on the droid trainer? Check out the bundle on our BB-8 Droid trainer page!
Special Edition Battle Worn BB-8 with Force Band
The features of this special edition BB-8 are the same as I outlined above in the "BB-8 Resistance Droid" section - but there are also some extras. First of all, one of my favourite additions, is BB-8's new "battle worn" design. Although it still has the same quirky orange and white design, it now sports the wear and tear of the resistance missions and the sands of Jakku. I find that the new weathered look helps to created a more immersive feel to the drone, plus the packaging containing descriptions in Aurebesh (one of the most used languages in the Star Wars galaxy), and the logos and serial number being hidden so well help to maintain the fourth wall.
The other huge selling point of this particular bundle is the Force Band. This is a piece of wearable tech that is pretty effective in enhancing your droid experience - once you get the hang of it. The band goes on your wrist, as a watch would and allows you to drive your droid with simple hand gestures (or very extravagant ones). You can force push and pull to control the speed of your droid and move your hand in different directions to steer. Admittedly, I crashed a lot before I managed to get the hang of it, but once you've cracked it, it really is a lot of fun.
The Force band doesn't stop there though, there is also an imaginative play mode called combat training, which allows you to hear real time sound effects from the band as you swing your hands (lightsaber). Your band will even alert you to the presence of hidden Resistance supplies in the real world - which you can then collect on the app. Now here's what really
made me want a Force Band. The Force Band now works with IFTTT, a free web based service that allows applets to communicate with each other. More simply, it allows you to turn on your lights by force pushing towards them... Cool, right? The Force Band is also available to put on its own from RC Geeks, check it out on our Force Band page
, or check out the bundle on our BB-8 Special Edition page!
BB-9E First Order Droid
As with the previous droids, BB-9E does have all of the capabilities of the BB-8 Resistance droid above. However, this is the latest in the Sphero lineup, and therefore has some pretty cool extra features. First off - BB-9E now sports some brand new LED's on its head, adding another dimension to the drone, as well as the useful feature of actually being able to tell when the drone is turned off! The head is still attached using magnets and just draws power through an induction technology. This new dark-side droid can also detect your presence, thanks to its enhanced radio system, and will react to you when you enter the room. Fancy a dark side droid? Check out our page for the BB-9E
R2-D2 Resistance Droid
I saved, in my opinion, the best till last. For me, there's never going to be a better droid than trusty ole' R2, but I also believe that the Sphero version is better than the other toy droids. Similarly to the other droids, R2 has all of the same features, such as the patrol mode and VR exploration; however, it also has R2's signature front and back lights, which are fully functional. The droid also features an integrated speaker, meaning R2's well-known beeps and boops come directly from the toy itself, in real time. The integrated speaker makes every aspect of the droid better, from the watch with me feature to the patrol me - it actually feel like it is a real droid whizzing around your room. If that's not enough, R2 can actually convert from bi-pod to tripod modes and carry out the emotive waddles we have all seen in the movies. For me, R2 is streaks ahead of the other droids here because of the sheer attention to detail and life-likeness - the mannerisms and noises are so spot on that it really does bring the films alive, right in the comfort of your own home. Settled on R2-D2? Check out our R2-D2 page
These Are The Droids You're Looking For!
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