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Toys and Games

Sphero just made the best R2-D2 robot ever

Artoo is ready to roll across your living room.

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I know the drill by now: Sphero, makers of adorable and sometimes expensive robotic toys, can make adorable Disney characters come to life. The company's app-connected BB-8 wowed everyone, and this year's Lightning McQueen was even more impressive (but not everyone's a "Cars" fan).

Sphero's two newest robots tie into "Star Wars: The Last Jedi," and R2-D2 is a corker.

Unlike the rolling BB-8, R2 feels more advanced. It rolls around on treads, or sprouts its third leg and leans back for movement on tougher surfaces like carpets. It can wobble with its feet, too. R2's head turns and lights up, and it makes all of R2's beeps and noises with its own speaker, something BB-8 couldn't do.

The app handles remote controls, as well as specific actions and effects. The head can be turned separately with a slider bar. You can also draw paths with your finger for R2-D2 to navigate. I also found the "freak out" button (I'm not sure what it's called), where Artoo acts like he's short-circuiting and falls over.

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Sphero's R2-D2 next to the new BB-9E (left) and BB-8 (right). All are in scale proportion to each other, and 12-inch action figures.

James Martin/CNET

Sphero's planning a few ways for all its Star Wars robots to interact with each other. R2-D2, BB-8 and the new BB-9E can all watch Star Wars movies together and interact along with them via scripted cues in the app, which listens to the room in which you're watching the movie. "Rogue One" and "The Force Awakens" are supported first, but all Star Wars movies will eventually be unlocked.

Sphero's Star Wars robots will be able to interact with each other, too, by sending packets of info back and forth using Bluetooth LE technology. (All three also use the same app to connect to iOS or Android devices.) Sphero says this way of making connected devices interact will continue in future products, and the goal, if possible, is to have multiple toys and brands work, too. (Imagine Spider-Man and R2 hanging out!) But smartly connecting toys could also point to a future where smartwatches and other things work with these robots. It's an interesting idea.

R2's also programmable, and works with Apple's Swift Playgrounds. Sphero's eventually going to update its own educational programming app, EDU, for R2-D2 support, but for now Apple's app will be the gateway for Artoo coding.

R2-D2 costs $180 (£179 in the UK, or $AU300), which is less than Lightning McQueen, but more than BB-8 and BB-9E. But he's adorable.

(CNET's Ian Knighton contributed to this story)

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