Sphero R2-D2 hands on review


When BB-8 was announced for The Force Awakens, it was a perfect fit for Sphero. It was a no-brainer that the company’s connected toys (which just happened to be spherical) could be made to create a droid that comprised 85% round ball.

Since the original BB-8 release, however, Sphero has branched out beyond the ball with a number of releases that have the AI smarts you’ve come to relate with the company – including a talking Spider-Man and Lightning McQueen from Cars 3 – but don’t rely on being round. 

And now it has done it again the most famous Star Wars droid ever, R2-D2. Released on Force Friday II, Sphero announced two new additions to its growing Star Wars family – the evil Sphero BB-9E and this, the most famous Star Wars droid ever, R2-D2.

Design and features

If you have used any Sphero product, you know what you are getting with the Sphero R2-D2. 

R2-D2 may use his trusted tracks but it moves in a similar way to the other droids, through the dedicated app. Having tracks dos make Artoo a little slower than the other Sphero toys but it also means that controlling is a little easier. The tracks work really well on carpet, too, so R2-D2 should be able to move freely as long as your carpet isn’t too thick and shaggy.

Not being restricted to a ball shape has also meant that Sphero has been able to add a little more detail to R2-D2’s chassis. There are some nice touches, including some rubber ‘hydraulic’ foot cabling at the bottom and a retractable third foot.

It stands taller too, at 17cm (around 7 inches). It’s quite notably heavier as well, at 370g – compared to 200g for the other Sphero droids.

Start it up, though, and it’s R2-D2 through and through. Its mannerisms are identical and the sounds it makes are completely authentic. 

Sphero explained to TechRadar that it went to Skywalker Sound to get the original recordings of R2-D2 in Star Wars: A New Hope and used these as a basis for its bleeps and bloops. It’s all about the detail.

Performance

Controlling the R2-D2 is the same as all other Sphero products, through a dedicated app. A new app has been created – called Droids by Sphero – so that all your Sphero droids can be controlled from one place. 

This is a real help as it’s likely that fans of Star Wars will want more than one droid to play with. 

As with the other droids, you get a virtual d-pad to control Artoo. The d-pad now moves to where your thumb is on the screen, which is a real boon as it makes controlling so much easier. 

There are some lovely one-touch gesture flourishes in the app which are kind of like special moves. These are shown as images on the right-hand side of the app and include a ‘freak out’ moment, Artoo speeding away and you can have him chatting to you as well. 

R2-D2’s head moves, too, just like the other Sphero droids but it’s not detachable. It does have his front and rear LED lights, though, to add to the authenticity. 

Early verdict

We only had limited time with Artoo, but it’s an impressive connected toy. Sphero has made it so that each droid can interact with each other. We’ve yet to see this in action but we did witness the great new addition of his Holographic Simulation. 

Here he roams around an AR version of the Millennium Falcon without fear that you will lose your Artoo unit – it only moves its head when you are wandering through the ship so there’s no fear of losing him. It’s a great addition to the Sphero setup. 

You will also be able to watch Star Wars films with Artoo, through the Watch With Me feature. The Force Awakens and Rogue One are currently available –
and from Force Friday II you’ll be able to watch Star Wars: A New Hope, too. 

Sphero R2-D2 is available now for £179.99 ($179.99).

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