Original trilogy fans can rejoice—they're also releasing an app-controllable R2-D2.

By John Patrick Pullen
August 31, 2017

Star Wars fans gearing up for The Last Jedi—have you felt it? There’s been a great disturbance in The Force. Okay, well, maybe a small disturbance. Specifically, it’s the same size as BB-8, and painted in a sinister-looking black. Sphero, the maker of popular app-controllable robots, just revealed BB-9E, the newest droid in the Star Wars galaxy.

The new Star Wars character was revealed as a part of Sphero’s growing product line of toy droids. Sphero’s first app-enabled droid was the $149 BB-8, originally launched with Disney’s blessing in 2015, prior to the release of The Force Awakens. The new BB-9E droid is identical in size, abilities, and price to BB-8, but it comes with menacing First Order look and has a particularly sour demeanor.

And never to be outdone, R2-D2 joins the fray at $179, boasting integrated speakers and a drop-down third leg that lets it cruise around in true Artoo style. Both the new BB-9E and R2-D2 will be available for sale alongside the previously-released BB-8 through Amazon, Apple, Best Buy, the Disney Store, Sphero.com, Target, and other outlets starting at midnight, Sept. 1.

Sphero’s relationship with Star Wars and Disney has been a short but sweet one for the startup. While spending time in a Disney-run accelerator in 2014, the company caught the attention of Disney CEO Bob Iger, who later enlisted its technology to bring the ball-shaped robot to life in Star Wars’ newest films. Since then, Sphero has not only brought Star Wars droids to market, but in 2017 also put out an ultra-realistic Lightning McQueen from Pixar’s Cars and an artificial intelligence-backed Spiderman doll co-branded by Marvel.

Star Wars, however, is the most powerful force in the toy aisle, and to that end, Sphero has been wise to keep its products fresh. Since launching its BB-8 toy in 2015, the company added new features and accessories in 2016, like making the droid respond to scenes while “watching” Star Wars movies, and letting it be controlled by a “Force”-enabled wristband instead of a smartphone app. Sphero’s new BB-9E and R2-D2 droids will also be able to perform those tricks, and more.

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The most exciting feature launching along with the new droids is a new part of the app called Droid Trainer, which uses augmented reality to let the droids take users on tours of starships like the Millennium Falcon. The company is also promising other features in the future, but true Star Wars fans likely have just one thing on their mind: “Threepio!? Where could he be!?

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