Best known for its app-controlled robotic toys, iOS developer Sphero was responsible for creating the real version of the ball-shaped droid BB-8 featured in Disney’s upcoming Star Wars: The Force Awakens, according to Time. Having released the original iOS-controlled Sphero and much-improved Sphero 2.0 balls in 2012 and 2013, the company was accepted into a Disney accelerator program in 2014, receiving personal mentoring from Disney CEO Bob Iger — a close friend of late Apple CEO Steve Jobs. “When the tech-savvy CEO saw Sphero’s technology in action,” Time reports, “he realized the potential application for BB-8 and connected the startup with the masterminds of the Star Wars characters.”
Along with the disclosure of Sphero’s involvement in the robot’s creation, Time noted that an BB-8 toy was planned for release. Although Gizmodo suggested that an official BB-8 toy by Sphero had appeared on retailer Fat Brain Toys’ site, the image has since been pulled, and Sphero subsequently said that it is not a “legitimate” image. Separately, designer Christian Poulsen has demonstrated how to make a homemade BB-8 droid by cutting open a Sphero ball, inserting a neodymium magnet inside, and placing another magnet inside a handmade foam head, painting the head and ball to match BB-8. Poulsen described making the toy as a quick one-day project, and has a collection of videos showing the modified Sphero moving around much as BB-8 does in the upcoming movie. Sphero 2.0 currently sells for $130. The official Sphero-designed toy will likely be released closer to the film, which is due out on December 18, 2015.
Updated April 22, 2015: In addition to noting that the BB-8 image run by Fat Brain Toys is not its actual product, Sphero has confirmed its involvement in BB-8, providing clarification and an official link to follow progress on the toy.
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