When Sphero released the original app-enabled BB-8
back on the inaugural Force Friday on September 4th 2015, fans were able to marvel at the engineering that, among other things, allowed the cute-little droid to be controlled by a smart-phone and interact with The Force Awakens
. They followed that up just over a year later with the Force Band and cranked things up a level, providing an opportunity to "use the Force" to control the BB-series astromech with a variety of hand gestures.
Released in a custom collector's tin, the battle-worn special edition BB-8 with Force Band
uses a separate app to the regular version and it is through that, that you can access the different modes.
Once the Force Band and BB-8's base have both been charged and the app and any updates are installed, fans can familarise themselves with the gestures needed to push, pull and control BB-8 with the Force Training Mode, before moving on to Droid Control Mode, where the training can be put into practice. The Force Band fits around your wrist with a magnetic connector and velcro strap and can be turned on via a button on the top. Pressing this button repeatedly enables you to switch to the different modes, allowing you to "choose your activity" as the Obi-Wan-like voice puts-it. After a brief period of inactivity, another voices announces that the Force Band is powering down.
With the app running and the Force Band powered-up, you can also choose any of the features via the app. When using the app, you first need to link it to the Force Band, at which point you can then connect to your BB-8, following the instructions to "hold your Force Band near your droid to connect", after which you'll be told "your droid is connected". Under the Force Training Section are the sections "Force Band Story", "Rathtar Escape", "Holocron Tutorial", Droid Control Mode and a Help section. Alternatively, if you're simply using the Force Band by itself, you can just connect it to BB-8 and switch through the modes with the button.
When using Droid Control Mode, I found it took a little while for my hand movements to be recognised, but after a while, BB-8 began to respond to my gestures, and there's a real thrill as you slowly begin to grasp the controls and become more used to controlling him. You'll know when your hand gestures are being received, as the Force Band vibrates softly and once that happens, you really start to motor!
Force Awareness Mode works along similar lines to Pokémon Go, where you can uncover digital holocrons found within your real world environment that contain supplies. These can then be added to the armory for use in Combat Training Mode, which allows you to imagine wielding a blaster, a lightsaber or the Force itself. The Robot Control Mode enables the Force Band to work with other Sphero robots powered by Bluetooth SMART.
For anyone that already owns the regular version of BB-8
, the Force Band is available separately
and will give your Sphero droid a new lease of life as you dive into the new features. A recent enhancement to the regular BB-8 app now means that you can watch Rogue One
with BB-8 and experience the movie in a completely different light. Place BB-8 on the charger, open the BB-8 app on your smartphone or tablet, play the DVD and watch him visibly react to events in the movie with animations and sounds. 120MB larger than the prior app, the update provides additional features that create an authentic Rogue One
experience particular to the film's storyline.