For many, today presents the perfect opportunity to dress up as Jedi Knights/rebels/Sith (God so help me if I see a Jar Jar) in a socially acceptable way and swarm the toyshops, gobbling up the latest Star Wars goodies. For others, it’s an excuse to come to work in our bathrobes – and who are you/my co-workers to judge?
The day is part of Disney’s mass merchandising ploy, which has included an 18-hour live streaming event to showcase the first tie-in products from Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
That’s no moon…
The new products naturally include lightsabers, action figures and spaceships as well as Lego models, but the indisputable star of the show is the absolutely adorable BB-8 droid, the podgy little ball that many of us fell for 30 seconds into the first Episode VII trailer.
The little bot is the latest innovation from Sphero, the company that brought us the durable little bot-cum-cat-toy of the same name. The BB-8 is about the size of a tennis ball and can move all by itself, allegedly evolving as it interacts with you and explores the environment. Its movements are also surprisingly Star-Wars-universe authentic, with magnets keeping its head stationary even as the rest of it roly-polys about.
You can also control the BB-8’s movement via Bluetooth from your phone (both Android and iOS) using an app, the controls of which are not dissimilar to that of a remote-controlled car, with the options split into the categories of drive, message, patrol and settings. But that’s not all: you’ll also be able to control it using voice commands. Since I haven’t had the pleasure of trying this out myself, I defer to the experience of someone who has:
The thing that really sells you on BB-8 being alive, though, is his voice controls. Though not available in the beta software, BB-8’s voice controls let you tell him to move; if you yell “It’s a trap!” he will freak out and run away. (Bonus points if you say it in Admiral Ackbar’s voice.)
Help me, B-88. You’re my only hope.
As if that isn’t enough to be excited about, the little droid lets you record your own faux-holograms, in R2 style, projecting them onto nearby surfaces or your phone screen using augmented reality, making it look as though it’s the BB-8 that’s beaming the video to your handset.
Judge me by my size, do you?
The only downside (aside from, arguably, the price) that I can see is the BB-8’s short battery life. Three hours’ charging time in its induction charging cradle will provide for an hour’s worth of rolling and chirping – but even when it’s plugged in the little droid can’t seem to keep still, beeping and wiggling in anticipation of imminent adventures.
Shut up and take my money!
Retailing at £129.99, the Sphero BB-8 isn’t the cheapest toy – more like a gourmet treat for Star Wars fans. You can grab it basically anywhere: Firebox, the Disney Store, Zavvi (use the code WELCOME to bring the price down to £116.99 if it’s your first order – thanks for the tip, Engadget!). It’s already sold out on Amazon, though not for long, I expect.
The bottom line is that the BB-8 is really nifty and cute and I totally want one.
Good thing my birthday’s coming up! *hint hint nudge nudge*
Now please excuse me, I must go assault a co-worker with my Nerf gun to alleviate some of my excitement.