Sphero's back to making Star Wars toys. To mark the upcoming release of The Last Jedi, the company is introducing a BB-8 counterpart: BB-9E, a dark droid from the new movie. It works in the same way Sphero's BB-8 toy does; users can drive BB-9E around, watch Star Wars movies with it (the droid doesn't have a gender yet), and have it patrol an area.
The company's also introducing another new droid today, although you're likely more familiar with him: R2-D2. The company tells me that while R2-D2 toys and figurines have existed for decades, Sphero has strived to make its own as realistic as possible. That effort shows in how R2 can go from two legs to three and recreate his original sounds and moves, like a total body shake and fall. The lights on both R2 and BB-9E also recreate the movies and are a new feature for Sphero. The new toys also include a special tray through which owners can practice driving them around and explore an AR experience that shows off new ships from the movies.
So now that Sphero has a collection of three interactive Star Wars toys, the company's thinking ahead about how they all might interact with each other. BB-8 and BB-9E probably aren't buds, so they should indicate that relationship in how they react to one another, even when you aren't paired with them through the app. They should also animate during different parts of the movies. Sphero founder Adam Wilson tells me that in between these new Star Wars projects, the company worked on perfecting its movie-watching technology, specifically for its Lightning McQueen toy. Their automated system relies on a Shazam-like software that listens for voice cues, so the droids know when to react. This means that even if you pause a movie, R2-D2, BB-8, and BB-9E know where you left off.
The company also launched a new iOS / Android app, called Star Wars App-Enabled Droids By Sphero, so users can control all their droids from one place. The new app lets you select a movie to watch and features a new way of driving the toys around. Whereas a virtual joystick previously existed, users can now just tap on the screen to send a droid in that direction. (Sphero calls this the "touch-anywhere joystick.) There's also a new draw-and-drive feature where users can draw a shape, and the droid will drive it. These options are meant to hint at programming, which is Sphero's true goal — educating kids about code.
Both toys will be released globally on September 1st with R2-D2 costing $179 and BB-9E costing $149. They'll work with the previously released Force Band controller in November, as well as the Sphero education app.