Star Wars fans flocked to retailers Thursday night to be among the first to get their hands on the initial wave of The Force Awakens toys, and by far the most in-demand piece of merchandise was the smart phone-controlled BB-8 droid made by Sphero.
Though it measures just three inches in diameter, the toy is a huge hit with fans, thanks to its unique new features: Not only can the teensy droid be directed from up to 100 feet away via an app, it can patrol a room on its own, mapping out the space in real time using the user’s phone. The app’s screen also offers an “enhanced reality” that makes it appear as though the droid is projecting a hologram message similar to the one R2-D2 presented to Obi-Wan Kenobi in A New Hope. It’s a feature that promises to only offer more videos and information as director J.J. Abrams’ film draws closer.
Sphero CEO Paul Berberian was at the Disney Store in New York’s Times Square on Thursday night to attend Force Friday ceremonies, and told Yahoo Movies that the toy — which is based in part on the company’s original robotic ball toy — will have a lot more in store for fans over the coming months.
“We plan on having a bunch of updates that constantly improve the [BB-8] experience,” he said. “We can send push holograms to you, and we have some plans to expand the play experiences, as well. As we learn about the movie — [and] as the story is exposed to the public, we can bring more story elements to the public.”
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Obviously, some of the updates will have to wait until after the December 18th release date of The Force Awakens, so that BB-8 doesn’t give away any spoilers to the highly protected film (though Disney didn’t mind unveiling a few lines of character dialogue via some newly released Force Awakens action figures).
Sphero, a Colorado-based firm that specializes in robotic toys for education and entertainment, began working on the droid after they saw the original puppet being used for Abrams’ film, giving them a relatively short amount of time to create and finish the project.
“It was a crazy quick [turnaround]; we were writing software [Wednesday],” Berberian said, noting that the mobile-app element was a last-minute development. “We were testing a ton of phones.”
At $150, the gizmo’s price tag is somewhat steep, but perhaps the promise of further adventures will entice fans on the fence to roll toward stores to find their own remote-controlled BB-8. That is, if they can even get one: The Disney Store was handing out limited vouchers for the little droid on Thursday evening, and the first wave of stock is already dwindling. May the Force be with you, shoppers.
Watch Yahoo Tech’s coverage of the BB-8 droid below: