Today we examine the many great features of the star of Star Wars Episode VII – The Force Awakens—it’s the incomparable Sphero BB-8 App-Enabled Droid! This is one seriously fun toy, and I’m pretty sure you won’t be able to resist him. I was fully expecting to be very pleased with this little guy, and he turned out to be even more impressive than I thought. Read on for all the details.
BB-8 makes a very good first impression. He comes in a classy black box that just calls out to collectors. It has an enlarged photo of BB-8 on the front and all of the expected features info on the sides and back. The toy itself feels very solid, has flawless lines and colouring, and a removable head that’s totally reminiscent of the one and only R2-D2. He’s also chock full of personality, even before you charge him up and pair him to your phone.
The free Sphero BB-8 App also adds to the fine first impression from the moment you first install it. After a brief (and entirely appropriate) musical opening, you’re immediately introduced to the very straightforward menu. From there you can easily select how you’d like to play with your BB-8, and no matter which option you choose, you’ve made the correct decision! Quite honestly, BB-8 is a tiny ball of perfection!
Charting the Key Considerations
|How much set up time does the Sphero BB-8 require?||BB-8 requires very little set up time. Simply charge him up and download the free app. Charging is meant to take up to 3 hours (though mine took only half that) and provides up to 60 minutes of play time. Just place him in the included charging cradle and plug it in. The cord is a standard USB plug-in.|
|What type & quantity of batteries does BB-8 use?||BB-8 uses a built-in lithium polymer battery and nothing else (aside from the battery in your smart device that controls the App). In other words, don’t rush out to buy batteries!|
|What are the mobility (& range) characteristics of BB-8?||BB-8 rolls nicely on most flat surfaces and can cover plenty of ground. His speed can also be dampened down until you get used to controlling him. While in Patrol Mode, he explores your home all on his own and even sends back progress reports (such as a tracking graph that shows his path of travel). It’s pretty cool!|
|Does BB-8 feature any special lights & sounds?||Yes BB-8 lights up and makes several Astromech Droid sounds. He also does a few little tricks such as head nods and saying “No, no, no” when you press a specific icon in the app. The app also features a very cool hologram projection gimmick that allows you to record an important message and have BB-8 play it back. It may be the coolest thing ever!!|
|What is the suggested age range for BB-8?||BB-8 is meant for those aged 8 and up, which I think is appropriate as some children below 8 may not know their own strength and could be too rough with BB-8. As for an upper limit, there certainly isn’t one with this guy. Any one, any age can enjoy him!|
|How much of a WOW factor (on a 0-5 scale) does BB-8 have?||BB-8 scores a perfect 5 / 5 on the WOW scale for me. This doesn’t mean that everything about him is perfect. However, it does mean that he’s pretty close to it. He’s also one of the most fun and innovative toys I have ever seen. I would only give a perfect score to a toy I’d buy myself for my own personal collection, and BB-8 easily meets that criteria.|
Testing & Play
BB-8 is so much fun that it ought to be illegal! There are several ways to play with (and interact with) him, from just driving him around, to sending him off on his own little adventure. The 4 menu options seen when you first pair him to your phone or other device are Drive, Message, Patrol, & Settings. The first 3 are actual play modes, and the fourth speaks for itself.
If you’re thinking of getting a BB-8 for yourself or someone else, make sure you confirm first that your (or their) device is equipped with a version of Bluetooth that’s compatible with the toy. If you’re not quite sure how to do this, just click HERE and the good folks at Sphero will clear it right up for you.
Also take note that the Sphero BB-8 App is free to download for any and all, and that iOS users may do so via the App Store, while Android users can simply go to Google Play for their copy of the program. It takes mere seconds to download and install, and once you’ve got it, there’s nothing else you need to do but enjoy your BB-8.
To charge your BB-8 up, there’s a very handy charging cradle that matches your BB-8’s colours and style. Charging is achieved through induction, so it’s probably one of the safest systems around. The charging cord is actually a USB one (rather than a wall plug), so you can easily plug it right into your computer. FYI, there’s a photo in the mini gallery showing a BB-8 relaxing in his charging cradle.
The image at left is Screenshot 1, and in it we see the main screen that comes after you select “Drive” from the main menu. On the right-hand side of the screen is an outline of BB-8 that allows you to orient his direction. Simply use your finger (swiping right or left across the main part of BB-8’s on-screen body) to turn BB-8 until the blue light on the toy itself faces you. When this happens, BB-8 is actually facing away from you, and he’s ready to drive using the steering circle on the left-hand side of the screen. Moving your finger upwards (from the smaller inner circle) will make BB-8 drive forward (i.e., away from you). Moving your finger in any other direction will likewise move the actual BB-8 toy in that direction. He’s pretty easy to control if you’ve got a bit of room to maneuver him in.
In Screenshot 2, at right, we see another of BB-8’s “Drive” screens. This one also allows you to drive your BB-8 around, but the 4 icons on the right-hand side of the screen also reveal some of BB-8’s special capabilities. For instance, the top left box (the icon with the check mark in it) makes BB-8 nod his head “Yes” in a most vigorous way. The top right box makes BB-8 say his fun little “No, no, no” phrase. I demo both of these actions in the final video below. I never quite got the full gist of the feature revealed by the bottom left box. He just seems to go into a little display of personality when you hit that one. Finally, the bottom right icon makes him bolt off in whatever direction he’s facing at the time. Don’t worry, though,, he doesn’t go far.
BB-8’s hologram feature (shown in Screenshot 3) may be accessed by selecting “Message” in the main menu. As you can see, this feature has BB-8 projecting a message concerning the classic X-Wing Starfighter. Simply click on the X-Wing icon and hold your device such that its camera centers on BB-8 and shows him on your view screen. The BB-8 App then adds the projection details and plays the important message. The absolute best part of the hologram feature, though, is that you can record your own personal message for BB-8 to project whenever you like. It actually records your face saying whatever you want, and you can either watch it on a continuous loop or store it for future viewing. See the image in the mini gallery below showing BB-8 projecting a silly message coming straight out of my face, and watch me demo this feature in the final video below as well.
As you can see in the photo at right, BB-8’s head is not permanently attached to his body. It just rolls around… I had a bit of fun with this by placing BB-8’s head on the Sphero SPRK Edition. It doesn’t stick to the SPRK magnetically as it does to the BB-8 body, but it still looked pretty good just sitting there (see the photo in the mini gallery below).
Since BB-8’s head has tiny wheels on the bottom, and the main body itself uses an internal gyroscope to maintain its orientation (as well as having an internal magnet opposite the gyroscope to keep the head in place), whenever the main body rolls anywhere, the head automatically follows in the opposite direction by rolling along the top of the body. In this way, the head always stays where it should—right on top of BB-8’s body. It’s quite a system, and it works astonishingly well!
For & Against
The arguments in favour of BB-8 are many and varied. He’s a highly innovative toy, he features a number of interesting play patterns, and he’s just heaps of fun. I especially like his little displays of personality, which are both funny and cute. Aside from all of that, he’s in Episode VII & he’s absolutely awesome!!
Against BB-8… well, truly there are no flaws here. Of course, as with many of the items in our Top 25 Toys of 2015 list, BB-8 doesn’t come cheap, so he may be out of some budgets…
Examining the Video Evidence
Check out BB-8 in action in the following promotional video:
I have also put together a video that shows the “Official Un-Boxing of BB-8” in the first half and a demo of some of the fun ways you can interact with him in the second:
I rarely like any toy this much! I just can’t say enough good things about this little guy, and there’s really nothing here that I don’t like. BB-8 is a super cool toy, and whether or not you’re a serious Star Wars fan, I think you’ll really enjoy him. He’s definitely the best Sphero toy that I’ve tested—easily my favourite! If you haven’t done so already (and let’s face it, you very likely did so on Force Friday), I wholeheartedly suggest picking a BB-8 up. He’s sure to serve you well!
Until next time, have an excellent day!
Mini Gallery of Additional Photos