It's Finally Here...
If you tuned into the news recently you may have witnessed a strange, spherical machine perusing the red carpet. This wonderfully odd sight signalled the launch of the newest entry within the Star Wars trilogy, Episode VII: The Last Jedi.
Interesting to Star Wars fans and tech enthusiasts alike, BB-8 is the pint-sized android created for the film industry. Contrary to common assumption, BB-8 is not a product of CGI, but instead a fully-operative robotic prop. Since its debut at the Star Wars Celebration convention in Anaheim, California, many articles have been written as elaborate speculations into how the mysterious BB-8 might operate, including the use of live hamsters!
The truth is, BB-8 works similarly to Sphero; the remote controlled globular robot launched by the robotics manufacturer Orbotix in late 2013. Both robots utilise holonomic motion - meaning they have multi-directional ball-bearing supports, which allow movement on a horizontal plane with the assistance of omni wheels connected to internal motors. Multiple magnets hold the lightweight head in place near the vertical axis, allowing the body to roll freely.
The main alteration of the two robots is that BB-8 has a dome shaped head, of which subtle side-to-side rotation is controlled by magnet interaction of an inner plate connecting the body and head; multiple magnets hold the lightweight head in place near the vertical axis, allowing the body to roll freely. However, an obvious difference between BB-8 and Sphero lies within BB-8’s on screen character as an Astromech Droid.
As part of the resistance, BB-8 assists Poe Dameron on various intergalactic missions within the X-wing. He now holds a vital clue to the location of Jedi Master Luke Skywalker, swiftly becoming an integral part of the continuing interplanetary trilogy.