Sphero's BB-8 droid from Star Wars rolls into Apple Stores on Friday

Posted:
in General Discussion edited September 2015
Sphero, maker of iOS-connected robot toys, is bringing The Force to Apple Stores this Friday when it introduces BB-8, a rolling ball model named after the astromech droid from Disney's upcoming film Star Wars: The Force Awakens.




At $150, the miniature BB-8, complete with magnetically-attached head and gyroscopic drive system, is one of the most expensive products to launch as part of today's massive Star Wars merchandising blitz dubbed "Force Friday." However, in marketing the "toy" as a premium device with iPhone and iPad control capabilities, Sphero nabbed coveted Apple Store shelf space.

BB-8 is basically an upgraded version of the Sphero 2.0 rolling robot, which encases a small electric drive system with wheels, motor and circuitry in a tough plastic shell. Adding a magnetically attached head to the mix, along with some unique Star Wars graphics, imbues a certain amount of personality, but with BB-8, software is the real star.

Sphero uses clever behaviors to convey emotion, like tilting BB-8's head using the internal gyroscopic drive system, or illuminating a red LED, wobbling and producing beeping noises to express anger after hitting a wall. The device feigns artificial intelligence with a Patrol mode and limited voice control, while the accompanying app includes a nifty augmented reality feature that simulates holographic video chats onscreen. Users can create, send and view messages in-app as though BB-8 is projecting the video on a nearby object.





Sphero claims BB-8's behavior will adapt as users interact with it, though the extent to which the device changes is unknown. It is possible that future software updates will unlock even greater autonomy and a more varied set of responses.

On the hardware side, BB-8's battery is good for about an hour before it needs to be set back into its inductive charging cradle. Bluetooth Smart connectivity offers remote controlled rolling up to 30 meters for iOS and compatible Android devices.

Sphero's BB-8 droid is available today at the Apple Store, Best Buy and Sphero's website.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 40
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post



    Sphero, maker of iOS-connected robot toys, is bringing The Force to Apple Stores this Friday when it introduces BB-8, a rolling ball model named after the astromech droid from Disney's upcoming film Star Wars: The Force Awakens.



    Sphero's BB-9 droid is available today at the Apple Store, Best Buy and Sphero's website.

     

    I'm not a fan of spoilers, but this new Star Wars character is a perfect match for Sphero. They've had the tech to make this work for some time, now I think it's going to pay off. I does feel strange, however, to be selling the toys before the movie debuts, as if the toy is going to help sell the movie. Shouldn't it be the other way around? (Whether it's called BB-8 or BB-9). 

  • Reply 2 of 40
    Clever design. I hope iFixit plans on tearing it to shreds so I can see how its designed.
  • Reply 3 of 40
    I does feel strange, however, to be selling the toys before the movie debuts, as if the toy is going to help sell the movie. Shouldn't it be the other way around? (Whether it's called BB-8 or BB-9). 
    This is Star Wars we're talking about here. They could make a brown pile of goo and call it "Bantha Shit" and fans (in the interest of full disclosure I am as die-hard as you can get) would buy it in droves, irregardless of any movies coming out. That and the fact that people will be lining up in droves for months ahead of the release ala Apple products so I don't think either one if going to help/hurt the other.
  • Reply 4 of 40
    This is like printing money.
  • Reply 5 of 40

    I'd love to get this. It is a real neat toy!

     

    I really don't know what to expect from the new Star Wars movie and whether it is a good thing or a bad thing that Lucas is not involved. I am not too happy with Disney's involvement, not am I a fan of what J.J. has done to Star Trek.

     

    The trailer was ok, nothing too great. Kylo Ren's lightsaber with laser cross-guard does not make any sense to me. Still, I'll be watching this on the first weekend. 

  • Reply 6 of 40

    I am... I mean my son, is so getting one of these for xmas.

  • Reply 7 of 40
    The new one has a camera.

    (rumor)
  • Reply 8 of 40
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 4,152member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by BestKeptSecret View Post

     

    I'd love to get this. It is a real neat toy!

     

    I really don't know what to expect from the new Star Wars movie and whether it is a good thing or a bad thing that Lucas is not involved. I am not too happy with Disney's involvement, not am I a fan of what J.J. has done to Star Trek.

     

    The trailer was ok, nothing too great. Kylo Ren's lightsaber with laser cross-guard does not make any sense to me. Still, I'll be watching this on the first weekend. 




    So then how would a completely fictional light sword that most likely would never exist in our reality as is depicted in the movies make sense then?



    As a child, I would never have questioned it.  I would have just sat in the theater with eyes bug-eyed-open in amazement and awe.  As an adult, my child-like curiosity and innocence may have dissipated a bit, but I still keep the part of not wondering how it makes sense and just enjoy the fantasy of it.  Who cares really?  It just looks cool.  Lighten up will ya?  (pun intended)

  • Reply 9 of 40
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by sflocal View Post

     



    So then how would a completely fictional light sword that most likely would never exist in our reality as is depicted in the movies make sense then?



    As a child, I would never have questioned it.  I would have just sat in the theater with eyes bug-eyed-open in amazement and awe.  As an adult, my child-like curiosity and innocence may have dissipated a bit, but I still keep the part of not wondering how it makes sense and just enjoy the fantasy of it.  Who cares really?  It just looks cool.  Lighten up will ya?  (pun intended)




    I'm obviously speaking of it not making sense in the context of the completely fictional world where the light sword exists. Is the cross-bar supposed to help protect his fingers from his opponent's lightsaber? It looks like it'd sooner accidentally chop his own fingers off before it actually protected him.

    To me it looked like they were trying to out-do the awesome moment when Darth Maul shows off the true extent of his lightsaber in The Phantom Menace. 

     

    Of course I'm going to enjoy the fantasy of it, which is why I admitted I'd be watching it on the first weekend. But it does not mean I won't have my own reservations and fear.

  • Reply 10 of 40
    MarvinMarvin Posts: 14,172moderator
    This isn't a typical toy replica either. Sphero built the BB-8 in Star Wars:


    [VIDEO]


    These can be built a couple of different ways. The head is held on by magnets and can use either wheels or ball-bearings to slide over the ball. Some 3rd parties have built one where the wheels on the head drive the ball direction but that's too limiting because it means the ball can't move independently from the head. A better way to do it is to take the original sphero, which internally has a separate gyro stabilized part:


    [VIDEO]


    then just add a vertical bar with a magnet on top. The bar would normally stay upright relative to the internal part but this then gives you the freedom to tilt and twist the bar separately from the ball movement so you could make the head move around the ball while the ball is stationary.

    This kind of toy should be much more popular than something like Anki Drive because it fits into any environment and is much more dynamic. This is also a good thing for the app ecosystem because toys+apps have been making a lot of money like the Disney Infinity toys and Skylanders, which are making billions in revenues:

    http://fortune.com/2015/07/24/toys-to-life-market/

    Game developers can have APIs that let kids import the toys into the apps and link what they do in the games with the toy's onboard software. They can sell in-app upgrades for the toys like new noises or dialog for spoken characters, music tracks (play Star Wars theme tune).

    This is a smart move by Sphero because they probably didn't get paid that much to build the single unit for Star Wars but 7 million units of these and it's a billion-dollar company. Not bad for what looks to be about 80 employees.

    They also have education programs:

    http://www.sphero.com/education

    where they can use apps like the following:

    https://www.tynker.com

    where kids can program the ball to do things. They could perhaps make one with paint that kids program to draw out a picture. They can program AI on how to get out of a maze.
  • Reply 11 of 40
    asciiascii Posts: 5,778member

    Oh dear. I'm usually pretty good about saving, but I think there might be some exceptions in my future when these new Star Wars toys start becoming available. They can make action figures a lot more realistically now than when I was a kid.

  • Reply 12 of 40
    wizard69wizard69 Posts: 12,506member
    I'm not a fan of spoilers, but this new Star Wars character is a perfect match for Sphero. They've had the tech to make this work for some time, now I think it's going to pay off.
    The product likely will be very successful. Hell is 54 and find a purchase tempting. I really don't see this as premium product though, it can't be cheap to make such a device. The unit is a bit small for the price.

    Unfortunately I think Apple and Spereo are missing out on a big opportunity here, they really need a version oriented to hacking and robotics enthusias. It is a shame that Apple has lost sight of education and frankly robotics are a lot like computers in the day of the Apple 1/2.
    I does feel strange, however, to be selling the toys before the movie debuts, as if the toy is going to help sell the movie. Shouldn't it be the other way around? (Whether it's called BB-8 or BB-9). 

    The "toy" would sell no matter what, even if the movie bombs at the box office it will still sell. Personal robotics is an emergent technology and this is a low cost way to enter the field. Or it could be if there is enough emphasis on education with the device. If this machine comes with some sort of vision system, to aid navigation and user programmability, it could very well be a hit in the same way the Apple 2, Vic 20 and other early computers where.
  • Reply 13 of 40
    ascii wrote: »
    Oh dear. I'm usually pretty good about saving, but I think there might be some exceptions in my future when these new Star Wars toys start becoming available. They can make action figures a lot more realistically now than when I was a kid.

    I don't know... Back in the 1950s my toys were extremely realistic... after I added my imagination.
  • Reply 14 of 40
    wizard69wizard69 Posts: 12,506member
    Marvin wrote: »

    This kind of toy should be much more popular than something like Anki Drive because it fits into any environment and is much more dynamic. This is also a good thing for the app ecosystem because toys+apps have been making a lot of money like the Disney Infinity toys and Skylanders, which are making billions in revenues:
    Whatever happened to Anki Drive?
    http://fortune.com/2015/07/24/toys-to-life-market/

    Game developers can have APIs that let kids import the toys into the apps and link what they do in the games with the toy's onboard software. They can sell in-app upgrades for the toys like new noises or dialog for spoken characters, music tracks (play Star Wars theme tune).
    Being able to develop for a robot itself is reason enough to want these. For young people robots can take the "boring" out of programming.
    This is a smart move by Sphero because they probably didn't get paid that much to build the single unit for Star Wars but 7 million units of these and it's a billion-dollar company. Not bad for what looks to be about 80 employees.
    You would be surprised, there is big money in one offs.
    They also have education programs:

    http://www.sphero.com/education
    No info about BB-8 support. I do hope that it is there though.

    As an aside their web sight sucks! It is amazing to me that a tech company can rely upon such a hideous web site.
    where they can use apps like the following:

    https://www.tynker.com

    where kids can program the ball to do things. They could perhaps make one with paint that kids program to draw out a picture. They can program AI on how to get out of a maze.

    Well I don't know about AI as I'm not sure about the computational performance of the devices. This is however why I'd love to see Apple get deeper into education and robotics as they have the low cost integrated circuit technology to put a lot of computational performance into devices like this. Further I'd expect Apple shortly to start introducing technology in their SoC to aid AI's. AI accelerators if you will. I'm actually hoping that much of Apples recent "car related hires" are actually hires in part focused on robotics.
  • Reply 15 of 40
    asciiascii Posts: 5,778member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Macky the Macky View Post





    I don't know... Back in the 1950s my toys were extremely realistic... after I added my imagination.



    Good point, I often get more lost in books than computer games. But I still think toys are noticeably better these days!

  • Reply 16 of 40
    jungmarkjungmark Posts: 6,547member
    $150 is a bit expensive but my wallet needs to lose some weight. Decisions. Decisions.
  • Reply 17 of 40
    I am going to get fried, but I kind of thought that SW was all downhill after the first one (which was admittedly, radical). Can't get too excited about this impending release.

    Maybe I am a romantic, but I prefer things more in the Captain America tradition.
  • Reply 18 of 40
    jungmarkjungmark Posts: 6,547member
    I'd love to get this. It is a real neat toy!

    I really don't know what to expect from the new Star Wars movie and whether it is a good thing or a bad thing that Lucas is not involved. I am not too happy with Disney's involvement, not am I a fan of what J.J. has done to Star Trek.

    The trailer was ok, nothing too great. Kylo Ren's lightsaber with laser cross-guard does not make any sense to me. Still, I'll be watching this on the first weekend. 

    The prequels are evidence it's a good thing Lucas didn't write this movie.
    Disney and Star Wars have worked together for years. Disney didn't hurt Marvel.
    I agree that JJ kind of screwed up Star Trek but I'm still going to see this movie.
  • Reply 19 of 40
    I am going to get fried, but I kind of thought that SW was all downhill after the first one (which was admittedly, radical). Can't get too excited about this impending release.

    Maybe I am a romantic, but I prefer things more in the Captain America tradition.

    A New Hope has one element I find underrated; you can watch just it and be satisfied. There's no real "oh my gosh what happens next" in it. In that respect The Phantom Menace, which is basically a retread, isn't that bad either.
  • Reply 20 of 40
    pmzpmz Posts: 3,433member
    This looks really good.
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