Star Wars Celebration kicked off yesterday with the first panel, where several actors from Star Wars: The Force Awakens appeared on stage, and fans finally got to see the first full-length trailer. Perhaps the most memorable moment of the whole panel, though, was the reveal that lovable ball droid BB-8 is an actual, practical robot. When BB-8 was introduced in the first teaser trailer last year, many fans thought and/or assumed that the droid was a digital creation, since it is literally a rolling ball with a head somehow attached. But many fans looked on in wonder as BB-8 literally rolled out onto the stage. How is this possible? Forbes reveals the company that developed the technology behind BB-8 is called Sphero, a Boulder, Colorado start-up company.
Producer Kathleen Kennedy teased during the panel that Disney CEO Bob Iger discovered the company himself. The company describes itself as a, "connected play company, fusing digital and physical play by creating toys and robots that you control with a smart device." The startup company, lead by CEO Paul Berberian, was actually selected for Disney's Accelerator program, one of nine companies selected by Disney, who gives each company up to $120,000 in investment capital. As it turns out, the program matches each company with a mentor inside Disney, and Sphero's mentor was Bob Iger himself. After seeing their main product, also called Sphero, a rolling ball that is controlled by an app, Bob Iger connected the company with the filmmakers.
As for how BB-8's head manages to stay on top of a rolling ball, Popular Mechanics theorizes that magnets are used both inside the ball and at the bottom of the head, and while that has yet to be confirmed, it seems to be the only logical explanation. We have a graphic from Sphero below, that explains the mechanics inside the Sphero ball, along with a marketing video for the company itself, where you can see how their much-smaller Sphero balls really work. There is also a 2008 comic from XKCD that proposes how this technology would really work. In addition, Forbes mentions that Sphero "appears to be working with Disney on a Star Wars-themed toy," which may mean that fans around the world can own their very own BB-8. What do you think abou these new developments? Take a look at the images and videos below, along with the video of BB-8's appearance at yesterday's panel, and stay tuned for more on BB-8 from Star Wars: The Force Awakens.