Control your BB-8 droid with the Star Wars Force Band
Star Wars Force Band and BB-8. (Supplied)
It took Rey an entire movie to figure out she could move objects with the power of the Force. For me, it was more like five minutes.
Robotics company Sphero had a massive hit last year with their smartphone-controlled BB-8 droid, one of the hottest Star Wars toys of the past holiday season. Now, Sphero is getting set to release the Force Band, a wrist-worn gadget that lets owners use Jedi-style hand gestures to control the adorable ball-shaped droid.
“It’s just the next advancement in how you can control things in a physical space,” said Sphero chief marketing officer Kelly Geer, who was in Toronto this week to give us a hands-on demonstration of the Force Band, coming to stores at the end of this month for $99.
The size of a large wristwatch, the Force Band has sophisticated movement sensors, a speaker and a light-up button used to power it on and off and select different play modes. With its scuffed surfaces and Rebel Alliance insignia, it looks like something Rey might have salvaged from the wastes of Jakku in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Once the device has been set up and configured with its free app, controlling BB-8 doesn’t require a smartphone at all. Simply tap the band to BB-8 to sync it to the tiny droid, use a wrist-twisting motion to orient the wee bot’s facing, and then send it to and fro with pushing and pulling gestures.
It took me a few minutes to get the hang of guiding BB-8 around the room, but before long I was slaloming the droid through table legs by gently moving my arm left and right, and controlling its speed by raising and lowering my hand.
The Force Band has a separate “Combat Training Mode” that emits classic Star Wars sound effects synced to the wearer’s movements, such as lightsaber noises triggered by sharp arm swings, or TIE Fighter sounds that are kind of awesome when holding a toy and pretending to fly it around the room. For, um, kids. Yeah. Kids.
Occasionally, Obi-Wan Kenobi’s voice will pipe up from the Force Band’s speaker, telling the wearer there’s a presence in the Force nearby. By holding out your hand and slowly aiming it around the room, you can “catch” invisible Holocrons of varying degrees of rareness, which show up as encyclopedia entries in the app. (This feature, which can be turned off when it might be distracting, was in development before the Pokemon Go craze, Geer said. The similarity is just a happy coincidence.)
Set to go on sale on Force Friday – that’s Sept. 30, the day when companies will be announcing and releasing a ton of new Star Wars merchandise – the Force Band will retail for $99 on its own, or for $249 bundled with the new “battle-scarred” BB-8, a matte-finish, sand-scuffed version of the droid that more closely matches the character’s appearance in The Force Awakens.