Is your life incomplete without a droid roaming your house? Good news! You can now get your own BB-8, the spherical robot1 seen in the trailers for the forthcoming Star Wars: The Force Awakens. You can control the $150 toy manually with your smartphone, or let it drive around your house automatically.
But for all the added bells and whistles, the BB-8’s primary directive is really just to be a ball of cuteness – to make you feel something and ascribe emotion to an algorithmically driven device. Even when you’re not using BB-8, the droid will start looking around, as if it’s impatiently waiting for you to give it directions. The first time I set it down in its charging stand, it suddenly began “looking around,” twisting and moving its head erratically as if it’s trying to ascertain its environment. It was a jarring moment for myself and a few other co-workers, too, but it speaks to Sphero’s renewed focus on giving its products personality. “We think this is probably the first step for Sphero,” said Maigret, reflecting on the company’s rather ambitious goals for the future. “We think that ultimately there will be a robot in every house – that everyone will own a companion.”
Don’t expect BB-8 to fetch your morning tea (or coffee), though–it’s only a droid, and not very knowledgable about such things.