Review: Sphero R2-D2 App-Enabled Droid

Review: Sphero R2-D2 App-Enabled Droid

When I was a kid, I had a ton of Star Wars toys. From banthas to Jabba and Luke and Leia, I had multiple characters, critters, and ships to play with. But, I always came back to droids. My specific favorite action figure was a small R2-D2 that had pop-out gizmos and gadgets, just like in the movies. I always wished that this little Artoo could move on its own, or at least make some convincing sounds, but 1990s toy technology just wasn’t all that sophisticated.

That’s why Sphero’s R2-D2 blew me out of the water. This tiny robot goes above and beyond what the company accomplished with its awesome, rolling BB-8 a few years ago. On this new droid, the detail is better, the animations are better, and the sounds are better. This might be the ultimate Star Wars toy bar none, just because it captures this one, beloved character so remarkably well. In my book, the $179 app-enabled toy stands up there with premium collectibles from the likes of Kotobukiya and Sideshow.

Alongside owning a real lightsaber, an X-Wing fighter, and a speeder bike, this Artoo is a dream come true for me.

Sphero

Part of the magic comes from the design. Surprisingly, droid characters’ likenesses can be tough to nail. Sometimes, proportions are off or small touches like vents aren’t quite in the correct spot. Not with this droid. If Artoo had lived a life of leisure instead of repairing starships and trudging through the desert, this is the pristine look you’d find underneath all that carbon scoring. Even the lights on his chrome dome are exactly like you’d expect, underneath his single radar eye and continuing onto the back of his head. He looks like, well, R2-D2.

Electric Slide

The droid’s motorized animations are impressive. Sphero’s biggest accomplishment is that this dinky droid can transition from two legs to three and back completely on its own. I don’t know that there’s another Star Wars toy that can boast this feature—it’s just that difficult to pull off. But, when you see it happen before your eyes, it’s simply magical. You can drive Artoo around in tripod mode, turn around, then go back onto two legs with perfect precision. The show doesn’t stop just because he’s on two legs, as Sphero has programmed in more impressive animations. With the push of a button on your smartphone, R2-D2 can rock back and forth and even fall down as if he’s been shocked by a rogue jawa.

To fully clinch the illusion, Sphero used authentic sound effects from the films. Artoo hums, whistles, and whines, and you’ll even hear strained motors as he swivels his head side-to-side. Unlike the previous Sphero droids, Artoo has an internal speaker, so he has his own voice rather than relying on the tinny, dislocated speaker on your smartphone. As someone who’s seen the Star Wars films too many times to accurately count, my brain was simultaneously unprepared and completely at-ease with how Sphero’s experience comes together with sound, lights, and motion all working together.

On top of being a sophisticated toy, Artoo also reacts to Star Wars films (providing a droidspeak commentary over Rogue One: A Star Wars Story as well as The Force Awakens and A New Hope) and interacts with Sphero’s other Star Wars toys. There’s also a STEM angle with Sphero’s educational app opening up easy-to-follow programming experiences. Artoo is also compatible with Sphero’s Force Band, which is an accessory that lets you control him with the flick of a wrist.

Sassy Bot

Of course, there were moments when I was a little frustrated with the feisty little droid. Transfers from tall carpet onto hardwood made Artoo tip forward no matter how slowly I approached the transition. Occasionally, Bluetooth pairing was a waiting game. And then there’s the matter of the rear treads that propel R2 forward and backward—they quickly became gummed up with dust and hair, and there’s no obvious way to replace them if they break. Between the treads and the non user-serviceable internal battery, this is a toy even Anakin Skywalker couldn’t repair. And unlike the simpler BB-8 and BB-9E, there are far more motors and moving parts that could potentially break.

However, Sphero’s R2-D2 has so many good points, I can’t help but recommend it. It might not be great for younger kids, but if you’re between the ages of 7 and 70 and love Star Wars, it’s one of the best toys I’ve ever seen.

Source: https://www.wired.com/review/review-sphero-r2-d2-star-wars-toy/

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