Play is essential to a Jedi's life.
Adam Wilson spins like a cumbersome ballerina in the middle of a rented office as he demonstrates his company’s latest invention: a wristband that remotely guides the movements of a toy BB-8, the undeniably adorable droid that starred in last year’s blockbuster Disney-Lucasfilm space opera, Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
On the ground, by Wilson’s feet, the orblet traces arcs across the floor—a robot chasing its trail. Wilson, cofounder and chief architect of Sphero, a connected toy startup based in Boulder, Colo., invited Fortune to preview, the “Force Band,” a wearable device that lets a person control the bot’s movements with mere hand gestures (rather than tapping a smartphone’s touchscreen).
The BB-8 orbits Wilson, rolling along, guided by its master’s hand; invisible commands link the two, whispered by silent Bluetooth radio waves.
“We were trying to find something that would make it even more magical than it already was,” Wilson says, mid-corkscrew.
My turn: I strap the gadget, which resembles a digital watch, on my wrist. The band clasps magnetically. After pressing its central button a couple of times, the voice of a Jedi tells me to place my hand near the BB-8. A blue light signals that the toys have synced.
Now we orient ourselves. I hold my arm aloft, rolling it along its axis. The BB-8’s head twists accordingly. Quickly sweeping my hand like a maneki-neko figurine sends the toy zooming ahead. The thing immediately collides into a wall and decapitates.
We reset the dome. A beckoning bicep curl boosts the BB-8 back in my direction. Piloting consists of a few maneuvers: force push, force pull, and steering (sorry, no force choke). A few more test runs and I start to get a hang of the mechanics. So I challenge Wilson to a duel.
The matchup is a joke. Wilson’s BB-8 runs circles around mine. It dodges my thrusts like a bored matador. He parries with the panache of an orchestral conductor. A flick of the wrist and—cleonk—his remote-controlled bowling ball strikes mine from the side.
Sheepishly, I concede defeat.
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After the skirmish, Wilson shows off an apropos edition of the toy: the battle-worn BB-8. The cosmetic upgrade (downgrade?) features decals that appear roughed up. “There were a lot of fan pictures out there of him peeking out behind stuff, and you could just tell that it wasn’t the real thing because of how clean that BB-8 was,” Wilson says.
“We wanted to say, This is the BB-8 from Jakku,” a desert planet in the Star Wars universe where parts of the most recent film are set, he says. “It’s dirty, it’s been out there.”
Wilson proceeds to introduce the Force Band’s other gameplay features. In addition to driving, there’s a “combat mode.” Gesture and the wristband makes noises: TIE Fighter wail, X-Wing whistle, Chewbacca groan. (The combat aspect requires some imagination.)
Lastly, there’s Force Awareness. “Say it’s the middle of the day and you feel a disturbance in the Force,” Wilson says, then you can search the space around you and find hidden prizes. The scavenger hunt recalls Pokémon Go, except the items are not geocached and the range is more confined.
In this case, wandering unlocks “Holocrons”—Star Wars artifacts that contain secret knowledge, basically virtual collectible cards displaying characters like Rey and General Leia, or extra combat sounds, like the screech of the Millennium Falcon, the crackling whoosh of Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber, and the foreboding buzz of a stormtrooper’s Z6 riot control baton—in an accompanying app.
So far there are about 100 digital collectibles, Wilson says. He adds that the number may increase in future software updates. “This will just continuously get better as we go along,” he says.
“Usually you can get about five to six [Holocrons] within the first play session,” Wilson estimates. He defines one “play session” as lasting about an hour and a half, about equal to the droid’s battery life.
Watch BB-8 visit Fortune’s offices:
If you’re a Star Wars fan, you’ll find the Force Band delightful—if not a little frustrating to use at the get-go. The device is still a big improvement over the touchscreen directional pad it replaces. It lets you wield the Force (sort of)!
I tell Wilson that I assume Sphero is in talks with Niantic, the company behind Pokémon Go. After all, the BB-8 toy could easily moonlight as a Poké Ball.
Wilson replies diplomatically, describing his company’s partnership with Disney dis in glowing terms. He says Sphero is focused on furthering that relationship right now, yet Wilson regards Sphero as an unbounded platform for stories, characters, and fictional universes to come to life.
“We’re not exclusive,” he adds.