We’re big fans of Sphero here at SI Kids — especially the company’s dedication to helping kids (and adults) learn code and get excited about STEM topics. But they also created one of the best toy robots ever: the small, super-realistic BB-8 that was released ahead of The Force Awakens last year. From the way Sphero’s BB-8 moves to the detailing on its body, the robot is fantastic. It’s so good, in fact, it’s hard to imagine how they could improve it. But of course they found a way.
Today, Sphero announced the release of its Force Band, a wearable device that allows you to control your BB-8 (or other Sphero robot) with your mind. OK, it’s really your arm, hand, and wrist. But the feeling of using Jedi powers to steer your droid is strong.
The Force Band is about the size of a watch. It’s designed to look like a hunk of metal that has seen combat — or, put another way, like “something Poe would wear,” says Adam Wilson, founder of Orbotix and its Chief Software Architect. And like Poe, BB-8 will follow your commands once it’s paired with the band. Make a pushing motion with your arm to send BB-8 forward, then move your hand and arm to the left and right to help guide the droid. When you want to bring him back, lower your arm to bring him to a stop then pull your arm toward you and BB-8 will roll back your way.
Driving BB-8 with the Force Band is a lot easier than using the app on a phone or tablet. There’s still a bit of a learning curve, but once you get the hang of it you might as well call yourself Obi-Wan. “You really look like some kind of magician,” Wilson says. (By the way, the voice that comes out of the band sounds an awful lot like Old Ben…)
When you’re done playing with BB-8, you can still use the Force Band in a mode called Force Awareness. If you leave your band on, it will vibrate in the presence of Jedi and Sith holocrons. You have your wrist around to capture them, and when you do it unlocks cards in the app of characters, vehicles, and weapons from the Star Wars saga. Once you have them, your Force Band becomes your own personal Star Wars sound effects studio where you can pretend to wield a lightsaber or fly a TIE Fighter.
If you’re a Star Wars fan — young, old, kid, adult — the Force Band is a must-have. The playability factor here is off the charts, which means you not only get a lot for your money but that you’re going to have a lot of fun, too. It’s available starting September 30, either on its own for $79 or in a bundle with a special edition BB-8 with a new, this-droid-has-seen-some-action paint job for $199.