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Sphero Star Wars BB-8 App Controlled Robot Droid Review
Who is BB-8?
I guess a more appropriate question is, "What is BB-8?" BB-8 is a BB unit astromech droid character in the Star Wars franchise that made its first appearance in Episode VII The Force Awakens back in 2015. It has a round body and a dome head similar to that of R2 series astromech droids in previous Star Wars movies.
Sphero's Star Wars BB-8 Robot Droid is a miniature replica of BB-8 that is controlled by an app. The minute detail design is very impressive and the design is authentic! The Sphero app is free to download and works on both Apple's iOS and Android operating systems. The round body of BB-8, the size of a baseball, is made of durable polycarbonate plastic shell which makes it safe from pet. But keep in mind it has tiny dome head which is a choke hazard. The product description that you see might say this droid is waterproof, but actually this is not the robot ball from Sphero that's waterproof (see the table below) so don't make it go into the water. It is not a boat nor a submarine. It might be splash resistant though. It rolls around at a top speed of 4.5mph or 7ft/s depending on the surface. The head doesn't contain any electrical or electronics component inside aside from the tiny wheels and a magnet to keep it gliding on top of the spheroid body. BB-8 can even work without the dome head.
The Sphero BB-8 droid is powered by built-in Polymer Lithium battery and cannot be replaced. A single 3 hour charging time can last for an hour or so of fun playtime. The base where BB-8 sits is also the induction charger. You simply plug the base using USB cable and let BB-8 sit on the base to start charging wirelessly. The base blinks blue while charging and turns solid blue when BB-8 is ready to go. The induction charger makes it possible for BB-8's round body to be smooth and need not require any USB port. The base also makes a lovely display stand when you don't use BB-8.
System Requirements and Compatibility
For Sphero BB-8 app to work properly on iOS operating system, the device must have iOS 8+ version on iPad 3+, iPhone 4S+, and iPod Touch 5th Generation +.
For Android devices, the OS should be version 4.4.2 or higher and must have Bluetooth LE (4.0 or later), Front and rear-facing cameras, Microphone, Multi-touch touchscreen, hardware sensors capability, and WiFi. Latest Android phones should have all these features.
For Windows devices, the version needs to be Windows 10 1511+ with 1GB RAM, Bluetooth LE (4.0 or later), Front and rear-facing cameras, Microphone, Multi-touch touchscreen, hardware sensors capability, and WiFi.
At the time of this writing, Sphero app is available only through Lightning Lab with Chrome 50+ version.
For Kindle devices, it will only work on HDX 6, HD8, and HDX 10 with minimum OS version of 5.0.
Sphero app is very simple to setup. Just turn on the Bluetooth on your mobile device, launch the app, place your mobile device next to BB-8 and it will automatically pair with your device. That's it.
The Sphero app needs to be installed on your mobile device which you use to maneuver BB-8 via Bluetooth connection. You do not need any data or WiFi connection for the droid to work except when downloading the app. If the Sphero app installs, then it should work. Obviously if the app won't install, it will not work.
The other option to control the droid is with the adjustable wristband device called Force Band. Great for kids without mobile device, which controls BB-8 just by hand gestures.
Besides running around, you can record a video hologram message with BB-8. It is not a true hologram but what's called augmented reality. After recording your message via the app, you hold your device's camera up to the droid and on your display your message will appear as though BB-8 is projecting the hologram through its head. The video hologram message can only be up to 12 seconds long so make it count.
BB-8 runs pretty fast on smooth surface like hardwood but in order for BB-8 to run on carpets, you should change the speed setting on the app.
BB-8 makes a beeping sound like in the movie as it moves around but the sound comes from your mobile device's speaker. The droid itself doesn't have a speaker which also means it won't play music too.
The little droid has no built-in camera so it has no capability to take photos or record videos... it just rolls around.
In Patrol mode, BB-8 drives on its own and sends you a crash report. It will definitely crash because it has no sensor that can detect obstacles or even difference in elevation like the stairs. Its dome head will fall off a lot as it runs into everything for sure.
Unlike other Sphero ball, BB-8 is not programmable. You cannot create your own codes to change how the app is set up.
The maximum distance you can control BB-8 is up to 100 feet which is the limit for Bluetooth connection. But this may vary depending on your mobile device.
After having fun with BB-8, it might get dirty depending on the cleanliness of the surface so you have to be patient when cleaning the head. The spheroid body won't get any, only the dome head. It reminds me of the old computer mouse with track ball underneath, before the infrared mouse came out.
If you have the most recent app and firmware on your mobile device, BB-8 can interact while watching the movie The Force Awakens.
There is a list of voice commands in the app that you can speak to perk BB-8 up. Make sure you are speaking into your device at about arm's distance and in a normal conversational level. For now, the voice command works on iOS operating systems only.
Sphero Star Wars BB-8 Droid is definitely a great collectible item for fans of Star Wars all over the world. It's a little bit pricey in my opinion but hopefully Sphero will bring more improvements in the years to come.
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