BB-9E is a great new addition to the RobotFun collection. It is made by Sphero Inc, the same people that build Ollie, various flavours of Sphero, Lightning McQueen and so on. Just like BB-8 the robot consists of a sphere, about 8cm in diameter, with a freely moving head magnetically attached on top.Just like BB-8 and Sphero before it, the robot is completely sealed and hence waterproof.
BB-9E is even more cleverly built than BB-8. Unlike the older robot, there are a couple of nifty LED lights in the robot’s head, but the head is completely sealed and it doesn’t contain a battery! If the robot’s head gets knocked off while it is moving about, the lights go out. This is because of the way it is powered. Inside the robot, surrounding the magnet that holds the head on, there is a small coil of wire. There’s a similar coil inside the robot’s head. When electricity is passed through the coil inside the robot, a small current is induced in the coil inside the head, and this is enough to light up those LEDs. Brilliant!
BB-9E is controlled by Sphero’s new Star Wars robots app, so you need a tablet or phone to use it. The robot connects to the controlling device over low energy Bluetooth. The usual facilities, like patrolling, draw and drive and just belting around under user control are provided by the app. Also provided is a cool new autonomous mode. In this mode, multiple Star Wars robots are controlled simultaneously by the app, and they interact with each other as they go round. Great fun, if a little creepy.
It isn’t currently possible to program BB-9E. Although the box says ‘works with Sphero Edu’, their Scratch like programming app, the actual support to do this isn’t yet built in to that app.