Sphero Reveals New iPhone-Controlled R2-D2 and BB-9E Droids

Sphero today unveiled all-new iPhone-controlled Star Wars toys, including R2-D2 and a new character from Star Wars: The Last Jedi called BB-9E (via TechCrunch). This latter droid is described as originating from the same astromech series as BB-8, but is instead associated with the villainous First Order.


Similar to Sphero's BB-8 droid from 2015, BB-9E (priced at $149) comes with a set of pre-programmed moves and voice lines, but users can also manually control the droid from their iOS device. BB-9E's head is equipped with LED lights and is magnetically attached to the droid's body, so it can roll around similar to the character within the upcoming movie.


The company said that BB-9E will interact with its other Star Wars iPhone-controlled droids, as well as react to Star Wars films when users watch with the droid nearby. Sphero said that BB-9E will receive consistent updates, including new voice lines, particularly as the release of Star Wars: The Last Jedi draws closer.

Additionally, Sphero revealed an iPhone-controlled R2-D2 droid (priced at $179), which includes all of the same features as the other Star Wars products from Sphero. R2-D2 can patrol on its own and includes fully-functioning LED lights and an integrated speaker that produces the droid's recognizable sounds.


Both BB-9E and R2-D2 use the same app that Sphero launched with BB-8 two years ago, so users can simply keep adding new droids to play around with, without needing to download a separate app for each. Both of the new droids will support a few augmented reality experiences in the connected app, where fans can view iconic Star Wars settings and characters through their iOS device, with the Sphero characters interacting in the same space.


AR games will also be available to play, and BB-9E is shipping with an "augmented reality platform," which users can place to keep the droid still in order to play AR games around it. BB-8 Sphero droids will be shipped with the same platforms starting today as well.

Force Friday II begins tomorrow, September 1, and previous reports have stated that Apple Stores will be getting a few Star Wars-themed items to participate in the toy release celebrations. Since BB-8 originally went on sale in Apple Stores for Force Friday back in 2015, it's expected for the same thing to happen this year for BB-9E and R2-D2, but many details regarding the shopping event are still under wraps with information about specific toy releases just beginning to emerge today.

If customers do stop in at an Apple Store this weekend, they'll be able to participate in a few Star Wars-themed sessions where they'll learn how to build a Star Wars trailer in iMovie, program a droid, and more.


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Sphero Launches $300 iPhone-Controlled Lightning McQueen From Disney/Pixar’s Cars

Continuing its partnership with Disney, Sphero today revealed its newest iPhone-controlled toy, this time themed after the Disney/Pixar Cars character Lightning McQueen. Sphero calls him the "Ultimate Lightning McQueen," letting users drive Lightning remotely via Bluetooth by using an iOS or Android application.


Lightning himself has authentic movement and animations which Sphero calls "emotive suspension," which allows Lightning to perform movie-accurate animations beyond simply driving around. According to TechCrunch, which spoke to Sphero about the launch, "his left and right sides also twitch up and down with excitement, and he’ll speak and move in response to taps on his roof, hood and doors."

There's a full LCD display on Lightning's windshield that animates the character's eyes, and an animatronic mouth that moves as he talks. During playtime, users can drive Lightning away from them up to 100 feet, and one charge will last around 40 minutes.


Sphero worked closley with Pixar creative director Jay Ward and supervising animator Bobby Podesta, to ensure Lightning's personality and look was as close as possible to his representation in the movies.
“As our partnership with Disney has evolved, we’ve been able to start to look at further properties within the Disney portfolio,” explained Product Manager Jenica Watts. “One of the teams had the opportunity to build an amazing, lifelike Lightning McQueen.”

This was all supervised by Pixar’s Jay Ward, who’s creative director for the Cars franchise, with advice from Bobby Podesta, supervising animator on Cars 3. The end result is that Ultimate Lightning McQueen has a real sense of personality — enough so that after we’d been charging him for a few minutes in the corner of the TechCrunch New York office, we had to put him to sleep because of his constant demands for attention.
In the iOS app, users will be able to drive Lightning around at speeds of up to 6 mph, with controls enabling reverse and drifting options. The app will allow users to directly interact with Lightning as well, with Sphero saying that there are "more than 150 animations for Lightning to perform."


Users will be able to string together various animations and voice lines into scripts with an "acting studio," creating their own miniature Cars storylines. He'll even offer his own commentary when a Cars movie is playing, thanks to an included microphone that will pick up the film's audio. The launch of Ultimate Lightning McQueen coincides with the upcoming release of Cars 3 in June.

Those interested can purchase their own Ultimate Lightning McQueen from Sphero's website today for $299.99.

Tag: Sphero

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