Star Wars was huge at Christmas, thanks to the release of The Last Jedi, which we are still a little salty about. Anyway, Sphero produce a number of ‘connected toys’, which are interactive tech that is fun and enjoyable for kids and adults, of course! They have licenses with Star Wars, Marvel & Pixar, and they have produced 4 Star Wars droids, that move, talk and are fully interactive. I’m sure you’ve seen the BB8 model before, I remember seeing it all over the internet in 2016. BB8 formed part of the initial release and they have since added R2 D2, R2 Q5 and BB9E, the droid you see for about 30 seconds in TLJ. They sent over BB9E & R2D2 for us to check out, so let’s do just that!
The droids come in a well presented box but with minimal contents. R2 comes with just a charging cable, while BB9E comes with a charging dock, charging cable and a training platform. The level of detail on the droids in superb, both of them look exactly how you’d expect. R2 runs on two plastic belts as ‘feet’, with a center leg for balance. He is textured, with plastic leads and his head rotates. BB9E is slightly different, as he is a solid, smooth ball, that fits in your hand. His head is magnetic and has been designed to remain at the top of his body, when is body moves. Yes, his body rolls just like in the movies and it’s very impressive indeed. BB9E can only be charged wirelessly via the dock and the training platform, allows you to test out BB9’s controls in a safe, confined environment. R2 is charged via a micro USB port within his body.
The droids are controlled via the Sphero app, which is free and available on iOS & Android. Once you’ve downloaded the app, you need to sign up and create an account with Sphero. It’s very straight forward and done within a couple of minutes. The app will then load up and you will be able to pair your droid to your device. The pairing is via bluetooth, so you will be prompted to turn this on, on your device. Via your device, you can search for nearby droids and pair up. There is no on/off switch on the droids, so they are always on and ready to be paired. Even if you have paired with your droid before, you need to pair up every time you want to use said droid. It’s quick and easy.
From the app, you can fully control your droid and within that app, there are a number of features which allow you to set the droid up, move it, activate pre set characteristic actions, set a pin point movement map for your droid to follow, play an augmented reality game with your droid and even watch your favorite Star Wars film with your droid by your side (they interact with the movie!).
The main feature of the droids is to control them, which you do by moving your finger around the screen, within the app. Left, right, forwards & backwards, you can move your droid anywhere you want. There are also a number of preset animations, which see your droid making familiar sounds & gestures. One of my favorite is the angry R2 animation, which see’s him get in a fluster and then fall over. There is also a button to give your droid a speed boost. If you want to try something different, you can map out the route of your droid, using a number of points. Just touch the screen and draw the route you want, once finished, the droid will follow that route. Overall the controls work very well, they are easy to use and responsive, thought BB9E takes a little to get used to. The route mapping is a little tricky, as the app doesn’t know how large your floor area is, so it will take a couple of tries to work out the boundaries.
The other features such as the augmented reality, see you explore the various ships you typically see that droid on. You can explore and interact with certain areas. Note you cannot mix and match the droids to the ships i.e. R2 will only explore the Millennium Falcon. Once you’re done exploring, you can relax and watch one of your favorite Star Wars movies, with your droid by your side. Your droid will interact with the movie, making sounds & movements when specific scenes appear. You do need to purchase the movie and not all films are available just yet. It’s also worth mentioning that the droids interact with each other, yourself and can also be controlled via a Sphero Force Band, which is sold separately. Charge time is around an hour, with about 30 minutes of play. R2 has built in speakers, BB9E doesn’t, the sounds for him come via your device.
We love Star Wars, always have and these droids are great fun to play with. Two of us raced around the office, we built an obstacle course to see who had the better control and then we had enough of each other, we played the AR content. They are well constructed, feel robust enough, especially BB9E, so they can take the odd knock and they look & sound just as you would expect. My only concern is the longevity of the product, will you get bored after an hour? I guess it depends how old you are and/or how much of a fan you are.
Retail prices are about £99 for all, apart from R2 Q5 which is £149.99. We’ve seen them cheaper than that online though! For more info, visit the official Sphero website.