Sphero's iPhone-connected robotic BB-8 droid was one of the hottest gifts this holiday season, and Sphero is hoping to maintain that momentum with the introduction of the Force Band, a wearable wristband that will allow BB-8 owners to control the droid using gestures.
For those unfamiliar with Sphero's BB-8, it's a small replica of the BB-8 droid that starred in the recently released Star Wars: The Force Awakens movie. BB-8 is based on years of past iPhone-connected ball-shaped robotic toys that Sphero has released, and in our review, we called it Sphero's best toy yet.
The Force Band isn't going to ship out until later in 2016, but Sphero has a prototype available at this year's Consumer Electronics Show. The Verge was able to go hands-on with the Force Band and gave some insight into how it works. BB-8's speed is controlled by hand elevation and direction is controlled by the orientation of the hand.
Resting your hand to your side enters driving mode. With your palm down, Sphero looks away from you; with your palm up it looks toward you. Spin in place, and BB-8 spins with you. The direction also dictates where it drives, and the rolling speed is at least somewhat affected by your hand's elevation. Waving your hand in place will enter a gesture mode -- the only one that worked for me was a nod "yes" when we did a quick right jab -- and then putting your hand back down re-engages driving mode.
Sphero's Force Band is an interesting solution because it will turn the BB-8 into Sphero's first product that won't exclusively require a smartphone for control. With the Force Band, Sphero will be able to be used sans iPhone.
Pricing has not yet been announced for the Force Band, and Sphero expects to release the device in the fall of 2016. The pictures shared above are of an early prototype version and the design of the final band will change.
Sphero has also unveiled plans to release another version of the BB-8 with a worn-out battle-scarred look.