Sphero R2-D2: The toy to get for Star Wars fans

The Sphero R2-D2 app-enabled droid is a real treat for Star Wars fans. PHOTO: SPHERO
The Sphero R2-D2 app-enabled droid is a real treat for Star Wars fans. PHOTO: SPHERO

SINGAPORE - Droid toy maker Sphero has launched an app-enabled R2-D2 droid, which is great news for fans of perhaps the most-loved robot in the Star Wars universe.

Having reviewed Sphero's app-enabled BB-8 droid, I was excited to take this R2-D2 - or "Artoo" - out for a spin.

It is considerably shorter than the movie Artoo, which stands at 1m. At about 17cm tall, the Artoo toy is about the height of two Sphero's BB-8 stacked on top of each other.

After unboxing, I was immediately taken by the amount of detailing on mini Artoo. Everything, from its iconic silver blue domed head to its vents around its main cylindrical body, has been faithfully recreated.

Its two main legs have rubber hoses running through the ankles, and even use rubber treads (like the real thing) for movement, instead of wheels on some Artoo toys.

Like the real droid, its third leg will retract when it stands. But when it is moving, the third leg will extend out with its main body tilting backwards.

In fact, the details look so realistic that you might think it is made of metal. It is only when you touch it that you realise it is made of plastic. The other telltale sign that this is a toy is the micro-USB port situated at its rear for charging. A nice gold braided micro-USB charging cable is included in the box.

Like all of Sphero's droid toys, this Artoo is controlled by an app - Sphero has consolidated all its Star Wars droids under a single app called Droids by Sphero (available for Android and iOS).

This Artoo works via Bluetooth and has no power button - you just start the app and scan for the toy. Once the app finds Artoo, its icon will be shown on the app. Tap on it to pair.

Once paired, the app has several modes for you to interact with the toy. The first and most basic is the movement mode, in which you use a virtual joystick to control Artoo. It was fun to guide and watch it zip around the living room, but it does not run particularly well on carpets.

This mode also has a menu of sounds and gestures that you can choose by tapping on "sad", "thrilled" and other icons. Artoo's head will turn, with blue and red lights blinking, when performing some of these gestures.

  • TECH SPECS

    PRICE: $289

    CONNECTIVITY: Bluetooth

    COMPATIBILITY: Android and iOS

    WEIGHT: 370g

    RATING

    FEATURES: 4/5

    DESIGN: 5/5

    PERFORMANCE: 4/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 4/5

    OVERALL: 4/5

The beeps and chirps this droid makes sound exactly like those in the movies. Apparently, Sphero developers have gone to the people who made the Star Wars movies to record those sounds.

The next mode, Patrol, allows Artoo to explore a room. But be prepared to feel a tinge of heartache when it collides with something, as it tends be clumsy.

The Draw & Drive mode lets you use your finger to draw a path for Artoo to follow, while the augmented reality mode lets you explore the interior of the Millennium Falcon spaceship from the perspective of Artoo, by moving the smartphone and using a virtual joystick. Turn your smartphone and Artoo will turn on the spot accordingly, but it will not move forward or backward.

You can also set Artoo to be your movie buddy. It will react to specific scenes in Star Wars movies such as A New Hope and The Force Awakens, as if to tell you it was there when those scenes happened.

The toy's battery life is a bit short though, at around 1 hour on a full charge. Also, this Artoo does not have a retractable repair arm or a holographic projector (I'm joking here, of course).

But the Sphero Artoo's biggest downer is its price tag. At $289, it is an expensive toy to get. That's nearly half the price of a gaming console or the price of a fairly decent bicycle.

That said, I think its price will not be a deterrent to hardcore Star Wars fans.

Verdict: If you are a Star Wars fan, or if you are splurging out on a Christmas present for a Star Wars lover, the Sphero R2-D2 is definitely something that you must buy.