back to article Rebels defeat the Empire (again) by giving BB-8 an API

When I was fourteen, the Personal Computer didn’t exist. Even the famed ‘microcomputer’ only existed in the hands of a few hobbyists who laboriously soldered chips onto boards communicating over an S-100 bus. But a friend’s father ran a data centre and when he went in on Saturdays to run the backups he brought us along. We spent …

  1. thomas k


    Sometimes, dreams *do* come true. Cheers, mate.

    1. RubberJohnny


      Dreams indeed.

      When I was fourteen I really wanted a girlfriend. Instead I got an Amateur Radio licence which meant I had no chance of getting a girlfriend.

      Now after many years of marriage and two children I can see myself playing with a BB-8 droid, though as my children are both teenagers I can't use them as the excuse for getting one. But I will.

      Having sat through the film wondering how I could make a thing that rolled like a BB-8m thanks for the information!

      Edit: OMG they are £130 !!!

  2. david willis

    Its not just an API.

    V2 could do with a camera in the little floating head :-)

    1. mathew42

      Re: Its not just an API.

      I've been resisting buying one and this article made me tempted again, but no camera might help me resist a little longer.

  3. x 7 Silver badge


    got bored after the first paragraph.

    1. Mark 110 Silver badge

      Go back to bed. Then get out the right side next time you utter c*%k!!

    2. sabroni Silver badge


      Got as far as "Yawn, got bored" then lost interest in your comment....

  4. x 7 Silver badge

    "Go back to bed. Then get out the right side next time you utter c*%k!!"

    Considering reading the drivel in the article is enough to make me fall asleep, going back to bed is a serious consideration.

    1. g e

      Off you pop, then

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    “Go play with the cat,”

    so what EXACTLY can your droid do NOW, before siri and the other woman battle for its voice control? Other than move this or that way, play some sounds and, presumably, blink some lights? It can ALSO record and stream video? Oh.

    1. DropBear Silver badge

      Re: “Go play with the cat,”

      Yup. Got bored with "robots" in general as soon as I realized they can't possibly hope to be more than basically glorified RC cars any time soon, lifeless without a puppet master (no, ability to follow a line or somesuch makes no difference to this, sorry). Physical versions of a tamagotchi - at best. What makes people fall in love with the idea of a robot (yeah I'm refusing to use the Lucas-patented term deliberately, sorry George - I like mr. Čapek more) would require consciousness, and we're precisely as far from that today as we were when the first Star Wars came out. What people want is their very own loyal sidekick and friend; well, bad news kids, Santa is still as imaginary as ever - but hey, at least Barbie is there for you, right...?

      1. sisk Silver badge

        Re: “Go play with the cat,”

        would require consciousness, and we're precisely as far from that today as we were when the first Star Wars came out.

        Further away, in some ways. Neurology has progressed far enough and taught us enough that we've had to discard quite a lot of notions we had about exactly what consciousness is in the last 37 years. We've progressed to the point today that we can quite confidently say that we have absolutely no idea what causes consciousness nor even the vaguest notion of where to begin to recreate it.

    2. VinceH Silver badge

      Re: “Go play with the cat,”

      "so what EXACTLY can your droid do NOW"

      And that there is the exact problem with this article:

      "Much of my precious downtime over the last few months has been dedicated to writing little programs for my BB-8. It’s just the beginning of what’s possible, now that I can program my own droid."

      Where are the examples of what you have done? What about a Youtube video or three of your BB-8 running your little programs?

    3. Bleu

      Re: “Go play with the cat,”

      To me, this design for BB-8 (which will never be an icon, just a merchandise-pusher) *must* be being based on the Murata cheerleaders (look it up).

      I have many great photos of them, wanted to make a short vid. at the last CEATEC, but the vid. cam. had flat batteries.

      I am hoping that Murata is able to extract big fees from Disneycorp, because the Murata cheerleaders were clearly the inspiration for this 'droid'.

      Adding, even the Reg. also had an article on Murata cheerleaders well before this clone of the first Star Wars movie was using the idea. The Murata cheerleaders performance is very impressive.

      I have an old talk-and-response robot from Tomi (supposed to be USB progammable, but they never did anything with that, AFAIK, never released the specs, not that I would have the time to do anything with them right now), also a little insect controlled by Wonder Swan, nice toys. The later PC-controlled version may have been a better choice, but still have a working Wonder Swan, so no complaint.

      1. VinceH Silver badge

        Re: “Go play with the cat,”

        Well, since the BB-8 (the toy aside) is a fictional robot, I'd have gone with it being a rip off of something described in Sliding Void 2: Transference Station by Stephen Hunt.

        "A small robot swung up to Zeno, rolling across the deck like a unicycle on a single ball."

      2. Haku

        Re: Murata cheerleaders

        They both use rubber motorized wheels on the main sphere to move around, but the cheerleaders are balance robots that sit on a hollow ball, BB8 has all the electronics inside the ball which makes for far easier programming of the control.

  6. jake Silver badge

    Timeline adjustment ...

    "When I was fourteen[0], the Personal Computer didn’t exist. Even the famed ‘microcomputer’ only existed in the hands of a few hobbyists who laboriously soldered chips onto boards"

    In 1975, I joined The Homebrew Computer Club. I was really curious about actual computing, at home. They were called "Personal Computers", even back when the Altair 8800 was king, and the IMSAI 8080 was a close second.

    In late 1977, Dad & I bought & built one of the first LSI-11 based Heath H11A kits. We first fired her up between Xmas & NewYears 1977, and she was functionally complete in late January 1978. 16-bit computing, at home, long before IBM introduced the 8-bit, so-called "original" Personal Computer in mid-1981.[1]

    [0] 1977, according to the OA.

    [1] Talk about a brilliant bit of marketing! People still believe it!

  7. Peter X

    Not the droid I'm looking for

    Is Tickle available for, you know... 'droids?

  8. Rosie Davies

    More H2G2 than SW

    Sorry but that sounds more like your plastic pal who's fun to be with than plucky droid saves universe.


  9. Dan 55 Silver badge

    That's your trouble right there

    If only you'd waited a couple of years for the Big Trak then that itch would hace been scratched.

  10. dajames Silver badge

    An API is OK, but ...

    ... you need hardware for it to drive.

    The Sphero toy is certainly cute, but as the article points out almost everything that's 'smart' about it is in the smartphone app that controls it. The droid itself is just a Bluetooth-controlled ball with a magnetic hat -- it doesn't even make noises (it has flashing light or two, that's all). The promotional literature talks about projecting a hologram, but apparently all that 'feature' does is show the droid projecting an image on the screen of the smartphone.

    I'm sure it's fun to play with, but it's a lot less interesting than I thought it might be at first glance ... no proximity sensor to stop it running into things, no camera to relay images back to the phone, no on-droid sound, no microphone to let it eavesdrop on any unsuspecting carbon-based lifeforms it may meet on its travels ...

    There is another BB-8 toy on the market, made by Hasbro. Theirs is about half the price of the Sphero, about twice the size, but is just your basic remote-controlled toy with a dedicated infra-red controller. It does make authentic droid sounds that actually come from the droid, though, and doesn't require a high-end smartphone to control it, so is probably a better buy for the younger market.

    I'm sorely tempted to make my own, and stick a Samsung Beam phone (with data projector, for the all-important "Help me, Obi-Wan" hologram) in the head to control it. It'd cost rather more, though, even if I could get a damaged phone (I wouldn't need the screen) at a bargain price.

    1. Ben Boyle

      Re: An API is OK, but ...

      I have the Hasbro version, and it's actually fun to play with for short periods of time. The dog figured out quite quickly that if he bops the demon just the right way his head will fall off, but that's part of the joy....

      1. Pedigree-Pete

        Re: An API is OK, but ...

        You sir have a smart dog. :)

      2. Synonymous Howard

        Re: An API is OK, but ...

        You mean the ~£50 infra-red remote control BB-8? I got that one as well (Argos keep discounting them) and it is great fun.

        I have a plan to capture the IR codes and play them back via a Raspberry Pi equipped with a camera to monitor where the 'droid is in a room and get it to move around etc.

        There is enough room within the shell to put in an ESP8266 + accelerometer + LEDs to pimp it up a bit and get more feedback for the RPi to work with.

    2. Gordon 8

      Re: An API is OK, but ...

      Do not waste your money.

      I got one for Christmas and after 5 mins I put it back in the box....

      All it does is roll around the floor.

      The rest of the family think it's cute.......

      Much like the movie it's disappointing.

  11. Teddy the Bear

    Missed opportunity

    It's a great start - but Sphero have missed an opportunity here. They've been properly tight with the kit on the droid itself - given the cost of this stuff these days it's not going to make much difference to add a camera, accelerometer, even a speaker for goodness sake.

    Maybe the second gen BB8 will be worth a punt...

  12. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

    xkcd did it years ago, and did it proper

    xkcd: New Pet

  13. Captain Boing

    dude. you need to grow up

    grown men playing with toys have issues. in another world you would be one of these odd chaps with a cap riding behind a tiny little train just trying to fulfill a childhood dream. let it go.

    I hope your BB8 treads in dog poo

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: dude. you need to grow up

      "grown men playing with toys have issues" says the man who goes on to quote "Frozen"

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: dude. you need to grow up

      @ Captain Boing

      I suggest you change your handle to Captain Boring...

      A life without play, is a dull life indeed, and psychologically speaking, an adult who doesn't play with toys once and a while, likely has more issues to worry about that could be discussed here.

      1. Captain Boing

        Re: dude. you need to grow up

        "I suggest you change your handle to Captain Boring..."

        ooh, my aching sides! you are very late to that party. Your wife will be overjoyed you aren't a 15 second wonder at everything.

  14. Diogenes

    dude. you need to grow up

    I am not odd, nor do I wear a cap

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: dude. you need to grow up

      I am odd, but I don't wear a cap. An 'at, occasionally, but not a cap.

      1. Jagged

        Re: dude. you need to grow up

        What's wrong with wearing a cap all of a sudden?

        Just because it has a cap and a beard doesn't make it a hipster :(

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: dude. you need to grow up

          "What's wrong with wearing a cap all of a sudden?"

          It ain't t' 'ead-gear. Tis t 'terminology.

          Southern England (north-east of Somerset and Dorset, and south of Cheshire/Lincolnshire) prefer the "cap" word, from the Latin "cappa". In popular culture, see: Andy Capp.

          The rest of England seems to prefer "hat", from the Old English "hæt". In popular culture, see "On Ilkla Moor Baht 'at"[0]

          Cornwall, Wales, Ireland & Scotland are on their own. I don't speak Bretton/Celtic/Gaelic ;-)

          [0] Been there, done that. Not recommended.

  15. Captain Boing

    not intentionally, tubby. Haven't been near a Jizney product since Aladdin

  16. Jagged

    BB8 is cool and all, but I'd rather have Rojaws :)

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