Goat Toy Day 24


Are these the droids you’re looking for?

On day one of my goatdom, I mentioned that I might post something about R2-D2’s friends. Well here we are, and I assure you that BB-8 being on sale over on Woot today for $50 has NOTHING to do with this at all.

BB-8 was actually the first of Sphero’s droids, which make sense because Sphero makes balls. From the instant that BB-8 first appeared on the net, the hive mind instantly went to work on hacking an ordinary Sphero into a droid. (Or scratchbuilding one, but that’s a different rabbit hole.)

Christian Poulsen was the first one I saw do it, and he inspired my first Sphero purchase. He pulled it off, but it was a bit wonky, as the extra weight of the head messed with the Sphero’s balance. The Sphero’s programing thinks the ball is leaning, and tries to correct the non-existant lean, so the hacked droid will keep going in whatever direction he starts. Still, I give Christian full credit for making the first (mostly) working BB-8 outside of Lucasfilm. He posted the full details of his project.


As an example, Step 1:

Simple, right? Maybe that’s why I never got around to it. Christian’s hack was posted in April 2015, and in September the official Sphero version was announced. Of course I wanted one, but at $150 my selfish hope was that they would be overproduced, and the price would drop after a while. And here we are.

The R2-D2 Sphero was a complete surprise to me because R2 isn’t, you know, a ball. Besides shape, a big difference between the two is R2 has an internal speaker and BB does not, his sounds only come from your phone or tablet. It’s probably a practical matter: since the ball is thick airtight plastic, an internal speaker would be very muffled.

Did you know Spheros are rated waterproof to 15 feet? But they float, so that’s not really an issue.

Don’t put your BB-8’s head in water though. On the other hand…

I just learned something.

R2’s other “friend” up there is really his enemy. R2-Q5 is an evil Empire droid who first appeared in Return of the Jedi on the second Death Star. You can tell he’s evil because he’s dressed in black, like all bad guys. Like Darth Vader. Like the Imperial Stormtroopers. Wait, what? I’m confused now.

In Sphero terms, Q5 is obviously the same basic droid, but besides the coloring differences, he has different programming and sounds. He sounds harsher and meaner.

And of course R2-Q5 has a friend in BB-9E (the E stands for evil, right?). I don’t have a BB-9E myself, but besides the different sounds (again, from your phone) 9E has LEDs in his head. They are powered wirelessly from the ball.

The BB-8 Woot is selling today is the weathered or “battle damaged” version, and includes the Force Band that lets you control the droid without your phone.


You can go about your business.

Move along.