2017 is the fortieth anniversary of the release of the original Star Wars film. What better way to celebrate than to build a version of possibly the most iconic robot ever designed – none other than R2-D2? Those brilliant people over at Sphero.com have gone and created a really faithful interpretation of the classic robot. Only this one doesn’t require a very small actor to be on the inside in order to make it work!

The new R2-D2 has loads of really cool features, including multiple lights on its head and body, a third foot that descends when R2 goes in to rolling mode, a fully rotating head and lots of neat sounds and lighting effects. The robot runs on tracks, just like in the movies. Its third foot is not driven, but is just there to provide a bit of stability.

Just like BB-8 and BB-9E, it is controlled mainly by the Sphero Star Wars robots app, so you need a tablet or phone to run it. The app is quite cool, in that there are several pre-programmed moves that are easily selectable. My favourite such move is in the video over on the right. The sound in the video isn’t up to much but the visuals more than make up for it.

In terms of programmability, R2-D2’s box indicates that it should be programmable by the Scratch based Sphero Edu app, but this ability is not yet available. However, it is already programmable using Apple’s spiffy new Swift Playgrounds app. I’ve had a bit of a play with this and it works really well, up to a point. It starts off doing stuff like making R2 waddle, drive and light up various lights. Great. Then suddenly we’re in to the realm of escaping from the Death Star, which requires the use of sensors and event driven programming to accomplish, yet neither of these concepts have been previously introduced in the playground, and in typical fashion, the online help is really not any help at all. So, for a Swift newbie like me, it all suddenly becomes rather a struggle.

I guess that R2 ought to be controllable by the Tickle robot programming app as well, in the fullness of time, as this supports most of the other robots in the Sphero range. Unfortunately, that app isn’t currently available at the time of writing, at least in the UK app store.

I’m really looking forward to getting in to programming this amazing new robot. In the mean time, R2 will happily attend our Adventurer robot parties 🙂