It's Force Friday and Sphero is celebrating with the introduction of two new droids to accompany their incredibly popular BB8 droid. The all new First Order droid BB-9E, is a new spherical droid that looks like a great foil for the loveable BB-8. And an all new R2-D2 robot had the three teenagers in my house jumping for joy.
The new Sphero Star Wars app (I've been testing a pre-release version) lets you control multiple droids. I added both BB-9E and R2-D2 to the app. Switching between the active droid is simple - just tap the icon in the top-right corner of the app and choose a droid or connect to a new device.
Attention to detail
Both droids look incredible. R2-D2 is a familiar to everyone and the Sphero team have done a great job of creating a faithful reproduction.
I spoke with Jon Carroll, Director of Prototyping and one of Sphero's founders, and he told me every aspect of the Star Wars product line goes through a strict approval process with Lucas Film to ensure the Star Wars brand is not tarnished.
We haven't seen BB-9E before. Its body is similar to BB8 but the head is squarer, making it look more sinister.
R2-D2 is pretty easy to drive. The left/right and backwards/forwards controls are easy to operate and there are bunch of 'canned' actions. For example, you can tap a button to make him rock from side to side and let out his famous "squee".
BB-9E takes some practice to control. I had to reduce the tracking speed to a very low level while I got the hang of the controls.
The app also lets you draw a track that the droid can follow on the floor.
In order to prove my commitment in testing, I watched The Force Awakens with R2-D2 on the floor with me. The app has a movie mode where the Sphero droids react to audio from the movie.
So, in the scenes when Kylo Ren and his troops attack Jakku and Takodana, R2-D2 got quite excited. To be honest, while it's a cute feature, it can get a little annoying to have those beeps and squeaks going on while watching a movie.
BB-9E is an astromech droid that specialises in keeping starships and machinery fully operational.
The revelation of BB-9E isn't just about the public debut of a new droid - the first time a Dark Side (or, at least, a "bad guy") droid has been a featured character. One of the features BB-9E brings is a virtual tour of a new First Order ship and the ability to explore the Star Wars galaxy through a holographic simulator.
BB-9E retails for $249.99 and R2-D2 will set you back $299.99. They are available through EB Games, Tech 2 Go, JB Hi-Fi, Zing, Apple and Harvey Norman.