Sphero's BB-8 has been one of the most interesting tie-ins to Star Wars: The Force Awakens (which, given the sheer quantity of Star Wars merchandise this past year, is no small feat). The company this week is showing off its next trick, a wearable wristband that will let you use gestures to control and puppeteer the droid. The Force Band won't come out until later this year, but we got to try out an early prototype earlier today at CES.
Here's how the Force Band works, at least in its current state. Resting your hand to your side enters driving mode. With your palm down, Sphero looks away from you; with your palm up it looks toward you. Spin in place, and BB-8 spins with you. The direction also dictates where it drives, and the rolling speed is at least somewhat affected by your hand's elevation. Waving your hand in place will enter a gesture mode — the only one that worked for me was a nod "yes" when we did a quick right jab — and then putting your hand back down re-engages driving mode.
Driving the BB-8 with your hand takes practice, and admittedly I never quite got the hang of turning. (I'm also, it turns out, prone to moving my hands a lot while talking — something BB-8 responded to erratically.)
The Force Band is still ways off, though — fall 2016 to be more precise, with no pricing details yet — and Sphero stressed that this is very much a prototype. Everything could change in the interim. But even in its current state, the Force Band is an intriguing step for Sphero, and one that felt decidedly more interesting than the current touchscreen controls interface.
Sphero says it'll have more details next month at Toy Fair. A variant BB-8 featuring post-Jakku wear and tear will also be going on sale later this year.
The Force Awakens Now BB-8 can patrol your home