With the legendary R2-D2 absent for almost the entire film, the debut of the BB-8 stole the droid spotlight in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Like R2, BB-8 is a small astromech droid whose primary function would be to provide automated maintenance and service on starships or other crafts and machinery. Despite the seemingly simplistic nature of their intended purpose, both droids have won over Star Wars fans with their quirky and often mischievous personalities, traits that are in no way necessary to their function.
Of course this is what makes fans and critics love droids like R2-D2 and BB-8.
“He bowled us over immediately,” Entertainment Weekly‘s Anthony Breznican wrote in 2015. “From the moment Star Wars fans laid eyes on the droid with the roly-poly body and the babyface, it was love.”
Breznican’s article was more a review of BB-8 as a character than of the Force Awakens as a movie.
BB-8’s appearance spawned and abundance of merchandizing, including several remote controlled BB-8 toys, but they all left much to be desired, according to critics.
— SPACE.com (@SPACEdotcom) February 19, 2017
Now a new remote controlled BB-8 is finally doing the adorable droid justice, according to reports from i09 and others.
In an article headlined “This Giant BB-8 Toy That Follows You Like a Puppy Might Be the Ideal Robotic Pet,” i09‘s Andrew Liszewski heaps praise on the new BB-8 remote controlled robot, which is produced by toy manufacturer Spin Master.
“Despite being a Star Wars toy, Spin Master’s new life-size BB-8 might just be the zero-maintenance pet you’ve always wanted,” Liszewski says after lamenting the demise of Sony’s AIBO robot dog line back in 2014.
“Originally announced at Toy Fair 2016, Spin Master’s BB-8 was just a prototype a year ago, with limited functionality. It was supposed to hit store shelves during the holidays last year, but the company decided to delay its release until 2017 to improve its capabilities, including a redesigned remote. We finally got a chance to play with the little droid at this year’s Toy Fair, and walked away wishing it could follow us all the way back to our offices.”
Among the most interesting features of Spin Master’s Hero Droid BB-8, as it is properly known, are its size, the fact that it rolls around on its body (without wheels) just like the real-life BB-8 and its ability to follow voice commands in addition to remote control demands.
“[T]he Hero Droid is a full 16-inches tall, which makes it tall enough to be a credible droid but short enough so that young children can play with it, without getting rolled over,” Avram Piltch wrote in a recent review of the BB-8 robot for Tom’s Guide.
— Gizmodo (@Gizmodo) February 19, 2017
Spin Master’s BB-8 can supposedly follow 10 voice commands, including “follow me,” “ball away” (which instructs it to give the operator some room) and “Kylo Ren,” (which causes it to act scared).
The robot rolls around on its body, with the head kept in place by magnets. The magnets allow the head to be removed and replaced anywhere on the robot’s spherical body without effecting its mobility.
Just how impressed are reviewers with Spin Master’s take on BB-8? Some of them argue that the toy robot version might even be better than the original BB-8 from The Force Awakens.
“Considering that Disney used a combination of puppets and remote-controlled props to bring BB-8 to life on screen, the Hero Droid may actually be more intelligent than the one in the movie,” Piltch concludes.
Spin Master has not set a definitive date for the release of the Hero Droid BB-8 yet, but it is expected to retail for $229.
[Featured image by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images]