Sphero’s New Wristband Lets You Control BB-8 With Hand Gestures
It won’t float in the air and shoot lasers, but Sphero’s latest toy is all about honing your use of the Force.
On September 30, Sphero will release a new special edition BB-8. The company has tinkered with the design, controls, and features of last year’s must-have toy from Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens. The Colorado company built the first smartphone-controlled version of BB-8 in only 10 months to deliver it on time to catch the hype train last September. But as with any impressive tech product, the first version was only the beginning.
This new BB-8 is as close to movie-perfect as possible, with a matte finish and some battle damage from his time as Poe Dameron’s faithful companion.
But the real upgrade is the new Force Band, a wrist-worn wearable device that can be purchased separately or in a bundle with the special edition BB-8. Instead of using your phone to control BB-8, this wristband translates your hand motions into instructions for the bot. Push your arm forward to drive the ball forward, raise your hand to make it go faster, lower your hand to slow it down, and make a “come hither” motion to put the bot in reverse. Pointing your hand left and right makes it turn, and rotating your wrist spins the ball on its Y-axis when it’s at rest. Everything is accompanied by some cool sound effects and BB-8 beeps.
Driving BB-8 around using a phone app was fun, but finicky. Using the Force Band, it’s much more intuitive. It’s a little less force-push and a little more flick-of-the-wrist, but once you get BB-8 moving, it’s incredibly fun. You could play a game of BB-8 bocce and see who can get him closest to a wall without touching, or have BB-8 follow you around the house like he does with Rey, Finn, and Poe.
When you’re not driving BB-8, the Force Band also has Force Awareness mode, a more passive collecting game that falls somewhere between the Topps Star Wars trading card app and Pokemon Go. It allows users to collect Holochrons (a name taken from the Star Wars universe that describes a device left behind by Jedi or Sith containing valuable information), which unlock other characters and items. It’ll scratch that Star Wars collector itch.
With the companion app, you can look at all the Holochrons you’ve collected, and use the ones that have accompanying sound effects in Training Mode, to add sound to other Star Wars toys. Sphero says that like it updated its original app with new modes and additional content, they’ll likely push more collectible items for Force Awareness mode in a future update.
If you’re driving BB-8 around, the Force Band lasts about 60 to 90 minutes per charge. Sphero says the droid gets better battery life in Force Awareness and Training Mode—up to two days in Force Awareness mode.
When it arrives in a month, the price will be $80 for the Force Band by itself, or $200 for the package deal with the “battle-worn” droid and the band. The only way to get the dinged-up-looking BB-8 is if you buy the package deal. If you already have other Sphero toys, the Force Band will work with any Sphero bot that has Bluetooth LE connectivity: The SPRK, the Ollie, and the classic BB-8 bot are all compatible.
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