Sphero’s Star Wars BB-8 Droid
Straight from the new Star Wars movie, BB-8 is an app-enabled Droid with a personality all its own. BB-8 recognizes and reacts to your voice. You can drive or let him explore the surroundings. To be clear, this BB-8 isn’t as big as the one depicted on-screen, and it probably won’t be quite as smart or independent. But hey, it’s a Star Wars droid that you can control from your smartphone or tablet, which is pretty freaking cool.
Usually, when you fall in love with a cool gadget depicted in the latest science fiction blockbuster, the best you can hope for is that maybe, maybe, some gifted entrepreneur will be inspired to bring it to life in the years to come.
For the most part, that’ll be true of Star Wars: The Force Awakens (coming this December, as if you hadn’t already marked your calendar). As far as I know, you won’t be able to bring home a real-life spaceship or light saber — but you can buy your own BB-8 droid, thanks to a collaboration between Disney and robotics startup Sphero.
To be clear, this BB-8 isn’t as big as the one depicted on-screen, and it probably won’t be quite as smart or independent. But hey, it’s a Star Wars droid that you can control from your smartphone or tablet, which is pretty freaking cool.
When Sphero’s Chief Creative Officer Rob Maigret demonstrated the BB-8 for me, he used his iPhone like a remote control, rolling the droid around the room. He also used his iPhone to give it voice commands — for example, telling it to go on patrol. (At that point it started moving around the room on its own, looking for enemies.) And through his iPhone camera, we could actually watch BB-8 broadcast holographic messages recorded by other users — perhaps inevitably, the message riffed on the “Help me, Obi-Wan scene” from the original Star Wars.
Maigret said that underneath the hood, BB-8 uses much of the same technology as Sphero’s existing robotic ball, but with upgrades like a new inductive charging system. (In other words, you don’t have to plug in the BB-8 to charge it. You just place it on its stand.) And of course it has the movie droid’s distinctive and weirdly endearing shape — a robotic head floating above a rotating ball.
In the case of BB-8, he talked about how Sphero actually created animated scenes that it wanted the droid to act out. Once those scenes were refined, the team “pumped them into the hardware,” turning animated storyboards into physical behavior.
Over time, Maigret predicted that users will be able to program their own custom BB-8 actions (though not necessarily with official support from Disney or Sphero).
“The thing is, it’s a robot, it’s a droid — and people will figure out how to hack it,” he said. “We think that’s a good thing. We don’t have a kit that comes out on day one for it, but people will put two and two together.”
We recently visited the workshop of Mike Senna, a droid builder who has made his own R2-D2 and Wall-E robots. Mike’s next project is recreating the BB-8 droid featured in Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens! We discuss what’s known so far about how BB-8 was built for the film, how a remote-controlled model could be built, and take apart a BB-8 Sphero to see if we can learn anything from the small-scale toy!
Source :techcrunch.com and youtube