After the highly successful BB8 robotic droid released last year – one million units were sold – Sphero announced today the release o two new droids, one is the beloved R2D2 and the other is a brand new one, BB-9E, which will appear in the upcoming “The Last Jedi” movie, and this one is on “the dark side of the force”.
From CNN: In stark contrast to BB-8’s cheery white and orange exterior, BB-9E’s body is a menacing black and gray. In ‘The Last Jedi,’ good droid BB-8 will meet its dark side in a new droid character, BB-9E. “We saw some imagery of “The Last Jedi” and learned how it sounds and behaves in the movie,” said Sphero CEO Paul Barbarian. Like the BB-8 toy, BB-9E is also a 4.4-inch app-controlled robot. It has the same ball-shaped body that moves without wheels. It comes with a magnetically-attached head. It features blue and red lights that illuminate when the head is attached to the body. “This is clever engineering,” said Berberian. “The lights are powered through induction when the head is connected to the body.”
BB-9E features 40 sounds and nine commands controlled via the app such as “patrol,” “run away” and “look around.” Meanwhile, Sphero’s draw-and-drive function — first created for BB-8 — lets you program BB-9E to follow any pattern you draw via the app. After putting the toy on a base, you can explore the different ships of the “Star Wars” galaxy through an augmented reality experience on your mobile device. Soon, the droids will be able to interact with each other. The BB-9E toy ($149) will go on sale midnight Friday during the “Force Friday” event, along with the mini robotic version of R2-D2 ($179).
For inspiration, Berberian said the company purchased every R2-D2 toy it could find and found “not one could behave and move as the character did in the movie.” But Sphero’s R2-D2 design can pull a third leg up into its body, waddle and fall down and play dead, just like the character in the movie. “We want to think of [our products] as droids come to life; not just toys,” Berberian said. The BB-8, BB-9E and R2-D2 toys are designed to interact with the movie itself. When the film is playing, the droids make noise and interact with each other. “Through sound, BB-9E shows it is happy when the bad guys win and BB-8 becomes sad,” he said.
In 2014, the startup participated in a three-month Disney accelerator. During that time, Sphero was handpicked by Disney CEO Bob Iger to make the toy version of BB-8. “[Iger] knew us and immediately pulled out his iPhone and showed us photos from the Star Wars set and BB-8,” Berberian said. “He asked if we could make it come to life.” Sphero was already working on the next iteration of its app-controlled robotic ball, which closely resembled BB-8. The Sphero ball was the company’s first product, and it sold 800,000 units. But the company said it will be a producing a much smaller quantity of BB-9E. “We’re not going to be able to make any more, even if there’s a lot of demand for it,” said Berberian, adding that the move was a deliberate decision. “Typically good characters tend to be more popular than evil ones,” he said. “We’re [also] not making as many because we want to keep the mystique of [BB-9E].”
Pictures and video: copyright Sphero
Text: copyright CNN