My name is Brandon and I am a collector of the vintage Kenner Star Wars line. Up to this point, I have been hesitant to give any attention to the release of anything that was being released on Force Friday for TFA. This is not because I am an original trilogy extremist who is ripping apart new items out of misplaced obligation or fear that I will be marked as some sort of traitor by my peers for succumbing to the modern, corporate “Disney machine”. Or because of the memory some may have of being burned from the prequels that spent hundreds of dollars thinking there would one day be a large monetary return on everything they had purchased. Collecting is not always about the return you will get in 30-40 years, and it doesn’t translate that you love vintage any less. Buying new Star Wars stuff can simply be for the love of the films. I personally just don’t really have any more room to start another collection right now. I had convinced myself that I was content with not buying anything until the moment I saw the Sphero clip (https://youtu.be/YhTxX5_0m6s) the day before Force Friday of the BB-8. As soon as I saw the clip, I knew instantly that if I was going to get something, this was going to be it.
Sphero has produced something new that none of us has had before. We can own a toy that mimics a character in the Star Wars universe. I am not referring to the days of old where we had a remote control R2-D2 that moved as if he had gum on the bottom of his legs. I am speaking of droid that interacts with objects and we can control its actions and verbally communicate with it as if he was designed for us specifically. This is a new technology that provides the consumer the ability to develop a relationship with one of the characters. This is all done through Bluetooth on our mobile device. An app titled “Star Wars Sphero BB-8” controls what we want to do with BB-8. There is a series of controls for the toy. There is a “drive” option to move him in any direction you want. This can take a bit to get used to because he is a perfectly round sphere that can be bumped around. A “message” option to make a video-selfie that BB-8 will make into an R2-ish like hologram on your mobile phone. It is black/white and grainy almost as an homage to R2’s famous hologram to Ben Kenobi. There is a voice recognition option to give direction to BB-8. Right now there is only a limited number of commands to give but is still very cool to be able to do. There is also a “patrol” option to send him out to explore the environment. This can be tricky if you have a lot of things stored on the floor or furniture to get stuck under. And there is also a speed setting for children (or adults) to make sure he is not Attempting any suicide missions into solid objects preventing any kind of droid destruction.
It’s packaging is sleek, simple but very sturdy. It is meant to appear as a shipping container, but is simplistic in design. It is encased in a felt/foam material that encircles BB-8. Only coming with a charging station that doubles as a display stand, USB power cable, and a warranty sheet. The directions are just a series of pictures for each step to follow. It practically holds your hand while it pairs with your phone.
I think the playability is based on a series of factors. The trailer for it was shot in an empty-ish house that has completely flat floors that seem to extend forever and ever. Not all of us have that, including myself. We have tile, rugs, and furniture in our house. These obstacles don’t stop BB-8 from hustling around the house, but it does inhibit the smooth flow that it was designed for. He still operates on carpet, but it definitely bogs him down a little bit. And if you have pets or anyone with long hair, it can become entwined in the little wheels that are under the “head” of BB-8 making it more difficult for it to stay attached all the time. This just requires making sure it is removed every once in awhile.
At first you may feel protective due to durability concerns. I have not taken BB-8 full speed into a wall or let it roll off the edge of the table because why would you do that to something you love…? But he has been banged around quite a bit. It does not scuff easily and does not have a crack on it. Could you break it? Sure, if you try hard enough, most things can. But if you use it as it was designed for, it should live up to the investment price tag of $150.
I don’t know if I can identify any major downfalls at this point. The greedy, imaginative side of me just wants it to do more things, and I think a lot of these things could come in time. BB-8 doesn’t actually make any noise other than the physical noise of toy to floor from moving from place to place. All of the beeps and bops come out of your phone. It would add another dimension of A.I. if sounds came out of the toy itself, but this would probably interfere with the sound quality. The hologram message would be great if it could actually display it on the wall instead of on the phone, but then the chances of breaking it could increase. Maybe a feature where he just followed you around the house while he’s exploring. And just more voice commands in general.
I know… These improvements would only increase the cost and would likely cause a more fragile product. But if this is their first contribution to the Star Wars universe, I can’t wait to see what’s next.