Timed around the release of Episode VII: The Force Awakens Sphero’s authentic app-enabled BB-8 Star Wars toy robot was a huge hit a couple of years ago. BB-8 offers an adaptive personality that changes based on your interactions and even perks up when you give voice commands. Now, two years later, Sphero announced it is expanding its connected toy line-up with two new Star Wars droids the iconic R2-D2, and BB-8’s cranky evil twin BB-9E. It is probably no accident that BB-9E’s debut coincides with the next Star Wars film, The Last Jedi, which is hitting theaters on Dec. 15th, 2017.
R2 and BB-9E are controlled using an iOS or Android App on your smartphone that not only lets you control them directly, but also performs a number of body movements, sound effects, and runs pre-programmed patrols, just like the original BB-8 toy. BB-9E is built on the same robotic platform as Sphero’s BB-8, but it has illuminating lights on the head and its colors are all black and gray, fitting of its place in the First Order. Unlike the rolling BB-8, R2-D2 rolls around on treads, can wobble with its feet, and can unfold its third leg to lean back for movement on tougher uneven surfaces or carpets. R2 has other unique features like its head lighting up and its own speakers to beep and make R2 noises. With R2-D2 you can activate animations like the “freak out” button, where R2-D2 reenacts the famous scene where it is shot by Jawas, flips out, and then falls on its’ head.
Sphero’s Star Wars droids will be programmed to interact with each other and receive firmware upgrades, by sending packet data back and forth using Bluetooth LE technology. The droids are programmable and work with the Apple Swift Playground out of the box. Later this year Sphero will roll-out its’ own stand-alone Edu application that will allow for some hands on customization. The pair will go on sale tomorrow, September 1st, as part of “Force Friday II.” BB-9E will cost $150 and R2 will cost $180.