Sphero BB-8, BB-9E and R2-D2 App-Enabled Star Wars Droids Review

Back in 2014, Sphero, a startup, was handpicked by Disney CEO Bob Iger to make the toy version of Star Wars: The Force Awaken’s BB-8 droid. In 2017, after more than million units of BB-8 were sold, Sphero again worked closely with Disney, owner of the “Star Wars” franchise, to develop a mini toy version of BB-9E — BB-8’s evil twin. The BB-9E toy went on sale along with a mini robotic version of R2-D2. The app-controlled Star Wars Droids family is expanding.

Although BB-8, BB-9E and R2-D2 are expensive, Sphero has put the time in to make sure these Droids are all movie-accurate and meticulously detailed, even the sounds that accompany these Droids are movie-accurate as well. The droids are plenty durable enough to survive actually being played with and the materials used are engineered to last.

The BB-8, BB-9E and R2-D2 toys are designed to interact with the movie itself. When the film is playing, the droids make noise and interact with each other. If you have kids, watching them as they interact with the Droids during a movie is amazing. If you don’t have kids, do this anyway. It’s a ton of fun, and one of the things that make these Droid truly unique.

Sphero BB-8 App-Enabled Droid

Features at a Glance

  • Moves and responds to obstacles with life-like motions and sound effects
  • Responds to voice commands
  • Easy-to-use free mobile app paired with the Star Wars sound effects, graphics and animations to control the bot
  • Choice of three different modes of play: patrol- watch the Droid explore autonomously, drive- make up your own adventure and guide BB-8 , or message- create and view holographic recordings.
  • Adaptive personality with unique attitude and actions evolve as you interact.
  • Bluetooth Smart connection allowing Gyroscopic propulsion to a 30m range
  • Induction charging stand providing 60 minute battery life
  • Compatible with the Force Band for control via gestures
  • Recommended age: 8+.

Check the price and customer reviews

Sphero BB-8 App-Enabled Droid is a tiny replica of Star Wars: The Force Awaken’s BB-8 droid that can roll and balance. When paired with an app running on your smartphone or tablet, BB-8 can autonomously explore your home or wherever you want, perform a series of pre-programmed movements, and even respond to voice commands. It moves and responds to obstacles with incredibly life-like reactions, motions, and sound effects.

A lot of care and attention to detail has gone into its design, its manufacturing, and especially the app. As Sphero, the maker of BB-8, was a part of Disney’s accelerator program and was paired with Disney CEO Bob Iger as its mentor, the company was instrumental in the development of the real BB-8 droid used in the actual movie. Animated Star Wars storyboards are turned into physical behavior of the BB-8 App-enabled droid. The result, especially paired with the Star Wars sound effects, graphics and animations in the mobile app that controls the BB-8 toy, is adorable and surprisingly impressive. The app is also incredibly well laid out, responsive, and surprisingly easy-to-use without having to sit through a long tutorial. When BB-8 is fully charged, all you have to do is to make sure Bluetooth is activated on your mobile device, launch the app, and the connection between BB-8 and your mobile device happens automatically after just a few seconds. Then, you have your choice of three different modes of play: patrol- watch your Droid explore autonomously, drive- make up your own adventure and guide BB-8 yourself, or message- create and view holographic recordings.

For BB-8, internal self-righting mechanism has been upgraded with a vertical support to holds its head in place using a strong magnet. It’s incredibly easy to re-attach it to his spherical body in the rare occasion of pop-off. Besides that, BB-8 uses much of the same technology as Sphero’s existing robotic ball, but with upgrades like a new inductive charging system. (In other words, you don’t have to plug in the BB-8 to charge it. You just place it on its stand.)

Although it’s about as kid-friendly as a $150 toy can be, the lack of sensors anywhere on the toy also means you’ll have to be really careful where you choose to play with BB-8, even when you’re at the controls.

sphero bb-8 app-enabled droidSphero BB-8 App-Enabled Droid may be a little expensive for a toy, but it has something unlike other robot – an “adaptive personality”. His “attitude” and actions will evolve the more a user interacts with him. Based on your interactions, BB-8 will show a range of expressions and even perk up when you give voice commands. Over time, Sphero predicted that users will be able to program their own custom BB-8 actions (though not necessarily with official support from Disney or Sphero). And since the app that can be updated down the line, the experience of using, playing, and living with this little robot isn’t a finite window. It’ll provide more holographic messages and content as The Force Awakens‘ December release date approaches.

What’s in the Box?
BB-8 App-Enabled Droid
• Induction Charging Base
• Micro USB Cable
• Quick Start Guide
• Legal Guide

BB-8™ Tech Specs
• iOS & Android compatible
• Top speed of 4.5 mph (7ft/s)
• Durable polycarbonate shell
• Bluetooth Smart BLE connection (100 foot range)
• Inductive charging (over 1 hour of play on a full charge)
• Free App: BB-8 App-Enabled Droid powered by Sphero available through iTunes or Google Play
• Internal guidance system includes a gyroscope and accelerometer.

Sphero BB-8 Product Line Options

You have the choose to purchase the original Sphero BB-8 or the new BB-8 with droid trainer. You can also pair the droid up with the Force Band for control via gestures. Click any BB-8 or accessories below to check its price and customer reviews.

Sphero BB-9E App-Enabled Droid

BB-9E as the breakout droid star from “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” went on sale before the debut of the movie on December 2017. The new droid looks a lot like the adorable BB-8. It is also a 4.4-inch app-controlled robot and has the same ball-shaped body that moves without wheels. But BB-9E’s black and gray body is in stark contrast to BB-8’s cheery white and orange exterior.

The features of BB-9E is pretty much exactly what you get with its predecessor, BB-8. Some nice new touches include the illuminating lights on the head that are powered via induction from its base. On the other hand, playing with these two Droids offers very different experiences. Both BB-8 and BB-9E have “personalities” that include reacting to bumps and turns differently, and the app has a whole set of commands that are unique to each droid to give a unique look and feel too. BB-8 is generally more bubbly and positive, while BB-9E is terse and downright grumpy with some of the sounds it makes. The app is also themed to match the Droid you are driving, but that’s not as big a change obviously.

BB-9E comes with a secondary dock what the company calls an “augmented reality platform”, something the original BB-8 did not come with but will also start shipping with new BB-8s. This dock is for the Augmented Reality (AR) mode in the app, which is a lot more fun than I expected it to be. With BB-9E, you are exploring Supremacy, the Mega-class Star Destroyer where Supreme Leader Snoke currently lives. This AR mode lets you drive around Supremacy as BB-9E, and as you explore, you’ll learn things about the First Order and its capabilities. The AR Mode with new BB-8s lets users explore the Raddus instead.

Sphero BB-9E – Check the price and customer reviews

Sphero R2-D2 App-Enabled Droid

As with other recent Sphero toys like Spider-Man and Lightning McQueen, Sphero’s R2-D2 is a step away from the core tech of BB-8 and BB-9E. It does leverage a lot of the technology it built to make the original BB-8 far more well-rounded and lifelike. R2-D2 design can pull a third leg up into its body, waddle and fall down and play dead, just like the character in the movie. 

The toy uses the same app as BB-8 — you can just keep adding droids to the lineup, and once all the firmware is in place, they’ll be able to interact with one another and the films while you watch. R2-D2 uses the same basic control scheme as BB-8, as well. It’s a mixture of pre-programmed moves taken from the movie, from disappointment to excitement, to playing dead and touch-based movement. You also can move the head around independently. With a droid that has a clear front and back rather than a ball, R2-D2’s control scheme is much easier to master than BB-8 though.  Unlike BB-8 and BB-9E using the speaker on your phone for all the sound, R2-D2 has its own integrated speaker & LEDs. The sound is plenty loud enough to enjoy and the user experience are more dramatic with its fully functional front and rear lights.

Sphero’s R2-D2 is my favorite among the three Star Wars Droids. It comes to life rather than just being a toy. For example, R2-D2 has a mode in the app where it will rock back and forth and then fall over on purpose. That fall is LOUD, and is accompanied by internal sounds that would leave a casual observer to believe some serious damage had been dealt. Star Wars fans will immediately recognize this as a recreation of the scene when a restraining bolt was forcibly attached to the Droid, but it’s a little alarming to see an expensive toy fall like this. And you won’t find a single scratch on this thing after many loud falls.

Sphero R2-D2 – Check the price and customer reviews

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