Cracking Open: Sphero BB-8 Star Wars toy

Culture
Star Wars, the Force Awakens, opens in theaters this December. [MUSIC] But you don't have to wait until then to get up close and personal with one of the movie's new characters. Thanks to robot maker [UNKNOWN] , fans can buy their very own, albeit slightly smaller version, of BB8, one of the [UNKNOWN] featured in the movie. Now I got my hands on one of the new BB8 robots and after taking it for a test drive I wanted to find out what makes it work and what makes it different from Spheros other rolling robot. Now luckily I have my own show where I get to do just that. I'm Bill Detwiler and this is Cracking Open [MUSIC] From the outside, there are a few noticeable differences between the BB-8 and the older Sphero and the Sphero 2. This one's a spark edition with a clear shell. The BB-8 has a handy little droid head here. Has a new droid-inspired paint job, and has a different charging station. Now, like the Sphero and the Sphero 2, it measures 2.9 inches in diameter. It stands 4.5 inches tall, and weighs about seven ounces. Now, the real magic with the new BB-8 happens with the app designed just for this version of the Sphero. Using the app, you can drive the droid like you would a regular Sphero. You can also issue voice commands. You can have the unit follow pre-programmed commands such as patrol. And you can even record and play messages. [INAUDIBLE] That the app makes look like the holographic communications used in the Star Wars movies. Now what makes BB-8 so different from the older spiros on the inside? Well, to find out, we'll need to crack it open. Unfortunately, there's no way to get inside the BB-8 without cutting through the shell. Now, I could use something like this hacksaw, but that's a little slow. So instead we're going to use a rotary cutting tool and a diamond wheel but I want to be safe so we're gonna use our safety glasses and our safety gloves. Let's get cutting. [SOUND] [BLANK_AUDIO] Now that we're inside the BB8 shell, we can lift out the internal hardware which is comprised of a plastic frame to which the circuit board, motors drive gears, batteries and charging coil is attached The internal design of the BB-8 is very similar to that of the Sphero 2, with the addition of the mast which extends up from the center of the frame and contains two magnets. And these magnets are what hold the BB-8's head in place and allow it to move. To dissect the internals, I started by removing the mast and magnet. After removing a pair of Phillips screws, I also removed the main system board. Now on the board, we find the BB8's brain: an STMicro STM32F3MCU, which includes a 72 MHz 32-bit ARM Cortex-M4 core. Now, there's also a CSR-ten-ten Bluetooth chip, S-T-micro-five hundred twelve kilobit serial EE prom, and a Y-chi battery charging chip. Along with a gyroscope and accelerometer. Now, flipping the unit over, I removed another pair of screws and part of the internal plastic body that covers the motor and batteries. Flipping the unit again, I removed a thin plastic piece that covers the batteries and then the pair of 3.7 volt 350 milliamp lithium ion batteries. Next, I removed the BBH 2 standard motor FP130-KT electric motors. The drive wheels and axle came out next. Finally, the receiver coil for the inductive charger. With our BBA in pieces, the teardown was complete. Now that we know what's inside the BBA, how does it compare to its older cousin, the Spiro II? Well except for the masted magnets which move bb eight's head it's nearly identical. There is one surprising difference between the spark edition of the sphero tube and the bb eight. Besides the clear shell. The spark edition has an extra st micro mcu on the system board Now, I suspect this extra chip allows the spark, which is designed to teach kids about robotics and coding, to actually run the programs written by the users. All in all, the BB-8 was a lot of fun to crack open and even more fun to use. For more information on the BB-8, check out Michelle Starr's full C-Net review. To see more tear-down photos and read my full hardware analysis, go to techrepublic dot com forward slash cracking open. [music]

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