Star Wars BB-8 Unboxing and Review

Posted on 11/12/2015 by slatour in Toys
When we think about Star Wars tech, we think about 3 things: light sabers, spaceships and of course, droids!  The new Star Wars: The Force Awakens movie is set to hit the big screen on December 18th 2015. The movie is not even out yet and a new character is getting every Star Wars fan's attention: BB-8. The good news is that Disney teamed up with Sphero to bring this new robot to life!
BB8's Box FrontBB8's Box Front
BB8's Box BackBB8's Box Back
The box itself is made of thick cardboard with a nice design and a lot of attention to detail, which really gives a premium feel to the product. Once you remove the top cover, you will see another box with a design that looks like a high-tech metal crate that would feel right at home in the cargo bay of the Millennium Falcon.  This is the kind of box every collector will want to keep to display their robot.
BB-8 Cardboard CrateHi-Tech Crate Look
When you open the box's flap,  you will find the droid with its Star Wars themed charging base firmly secured in high density foam, perfect for storing / displaying the unit.
BB-8's Opened BoxBB-8's Opened Box
On the top, you will find a thin cardboard box that contains the USB cable and manual. No USB charger is included to charge the robot so you will either need to plug the base to one of your computer's USB ports, or to a separate USB wall adapter (if you already have one).  No controller is included as this robot is meant to be controlled by an Android or iOS device (smart phone or tablet).
What's Inside The BoxWhat's Inside The Box
The robot itself is comprised of two parts; a BB-8 themed Sphero ball and a small plastic head.  Since the design is based on the original Sphero, the robot is considerably smaller than the one shown in the movie previews. You can see its size compared to a regular soft drink can below.  We felt compelled to compare it to one of our coffee mugs as well.
BB-8 Size ReferenceBB-8's Size Compared to Soft Drink Can
BB-8 Compared To R2D2 MugBB-8 Meeting R2D2 Mug
The ball has a glossy finish and is completely sealed, which means you won't be able to open it to change the battery. This is not a problem though since the charging station uses induction to charge the battery so you just need to place the droid on the base and you will see blue light bars indicating that it's charging.
BB-8 On Its Charging StationBB-8 On Its Charging Station
As for the head, it is pretty light weight and uses rollers underneath and tiny, somewhat flexible plastic antennas on top. The antennas did not bend or break during play sessions, but they may not survive the abuse of younger kids. Fortunately, they are only aesthetic and don't carry a signal.
BB-8 CloseupBB-8 Up Close
Back to the robot, the head is held in place on the ball using a magnetic system which allows it to move freely on the surface of the ball. Another magnet inside the ball is used to control the head's position on the ball and its orientation. No solid fixation also means that the head will go flying about when you hit a wall or any other objects standing in the way.  Just put it back on the ball and you are good to go. The robot survived an 8-stair "accidental stunt" without a scratch, so it is safe to say that the construction is quite solid.  We also noticed that the rollers on the head tend to pick-up dirt very quickly (like the old track ball mice) so you might have to clean them frequently.
BB-8'S Rollers Get DirtyUnderneath BB-8's Head
Pairing the new robot with a phone or tablet is very straightforward.  Once the Star Wars themed application is installed, you just need to start it and bring your device close to your BB-8. It should connect automatically withing a few seconds. The wireless connection uses Bluetooth, so ensure your device's Bluetooth is enabled (the app will remind you).
Pairing the BB-8Pairing Mobile Device With BB-8
On the first boot of the application, you will be presented with a hint screen which provides a small tutorial on how to use the application to control the robot. The main control interface is split in two parts: the left is the joystick to move the robot and the right switches between calibration mode and command mode.
BB-8's Main UI CalibrationBB-8's Main User Interface With Calibration Mode
To "calibrate" the robot, you just need to indicate your position relative to the robot moving a blinking light dot inside the robot toward you by swiping on the icon on the right of the screen. This is very easy to do and can be done in less than 5 seconds.  Getting the robot to move is also pretty easy; just move your finger on the left portion of the screen and the robot will move. Being able to precisely control the robot is another challenge; after a couple of minutes (ok, maybe hours..), we were able to get the robot roughly where we wanted, but we had to go slowly and re-calibrate the robot often.
BB-8'S main UI commandsBB-8'S Main User Interface With Command Mode
The command mode allows you to issue a few pre-programmed commands to the robot by touching different icons. Some of them are pretty evident like yes/no commands and the robot will move its head accordingly and make sounds (coming from your phone/tablet).  There is also the option to make small square or "8" shaped trajectories.  The other commands are less intuitive and we mostly deduced them when we tried voice command. By saying "Ok BB-8" the robot begins to pay attention to what you are saying. Commands like "Watch out!" and "Look around" will make BB-8 behave in different ways. Other than that, there is an option to get the robot to wander around and see all sort of sensor data.  There is also a small augmented reality feature in the app that lets you record a video message and then, when you look at BB-8 trough you device's screen, it displays your message like the holograms R2-D2 used to display in the Star Wars movies.
BB-8's RB1 HologramBB-8 Displaying Hologram of RB-1
Overall, this robot is a pretty fun toy.  Some might say that this is only a Sphero with a little head on top, but that head, along with te new features of the app, gives this robot something that the former lacks; a personality.  Although my kids were too young to control it, they really liked playing with it when I was controlling it for them.  BB-8 answered their questions with yes or no by moving its head, played hide and seek with them around the living room table, etc. After the weekend, the robot had literally become the family pet. For the price, this is a must-have robot for Star Wars fans.
BB-8 BB-8 Side View
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