Continuing its partnership with Disney, Sphero today revealed its newest iPhone-controlled toy, this time themed after the Disney/Pixar Cars character Lightning McQueen. Sphero calls him the "Ultimate Lightning McQueen," letting users drive Lightning remotely via Bluetooth by using an iOS or Android application.
Lightning himself has authentic movement and animations which Sphero calls "emotive suspension," which allows Lightning to perform movie-accurate animations beyond simply driving around. According to TechCrunch, which spoke to Sphero about the launch, "his left and right sides also twitch up and down with excitement, and he’ll speak and move in response to taps on his roof, hood and doors."
There's a full LCD display on Lightning's windshield that animates the character's eyes, and an animatronic mouth that moves as he talks. During playtime, users can drive Lightning away from them up to 100 feet, and one charge will last around 40 minutes.
Sphero worked closley with Pixar creative director Jay Ward and supervising animator Bobby Podesta, to ensure Lightning's personality and look was as close as possible to his representation in the movies.
“As our partnership with Disney has evolved, we’ve been able to start to look at further properties within the Disney portfolio,” explained Product Manager Jenica Watts. “One of the teams had the opportunity to build an amazing, lifelike Lightning McQueen.”
This was all supervised by Pixar’s Jay Ward, who’s creative director for the Cars franchise, with advice from Bobby Podesta, supervising animator on Cars 3. The end result is that Ultimate Lightning McQueen has a real sense of personality — enough so that after we’d been charging him for a few minutes in the corner of the TechCrunch New York office, we had to put him to sleep because of his constant demands for attention.
In the iOS app, users will be able to drive Lightning around at speeds of up to 6 mph, with controls enabling reverse and drifting options. The app will allow users to directly interact with Lightning as well, with Sphero saying that there are "more than 150 animations for Lightning to perform."
Users will be able to string together various animations and voice lines into scripts with an "acting studio," creating their own miniature Cars storylines. He'll even offer his own commentary when a Cars movie is playing, thanks to the connected iPhone's microphone that will pick up the film's audio. The launch of Ultimate Lightning McQueen coincides with the upcoming release of Cars 3 in June.
Those interested can purchase their own Ultimate Lightning McQueen from Sphero's website today for $299.99.