This is How BB-8 from ‘Star Wars’ Works (VIDEO)
BB-8 is the new “ball” droid from Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens. BB-8 is similar to the legend R2-D2, in that it has a lot of personality and fits in an X-Wing starfighter, but has a ball for a body.
Unlike George Lucas’ prequels which relied heavily on CGI, director J.J. Abrams wanted to go old school and use real sets and props for the latest film which opens in December.
One of those “props” of course was BB-8. So how does it work? It’s a ball with a head. You don’t normally see that in real life.
According to Star Wars fansite howbb8works, the technology is borrowed from Disney’s own Sphero ball and a patent for a “magnetic spherical balancing robot drive.”
The Sphero ball is demonstrated in a video here from 2013. The robotic ball uses “a gyroscope to determine which way is down and two wheels to move the sphere from inside.”
The head is more complicated, but Disney has a patent for doing just that: US 8269447 B2.
The patent is similar to how the Sphero ball works except that there is an added “mast” (the head). It is likely that the head on the outside of the ball is connected via magnets to this mast.
The main difference we find with the Sphero is the dynamic mast described by the patent. There is also a control system that keeps everything in balance, making sure the mast is always in vertical position. This, if you think about it, makes the whole mechanism behave like a miniature Segway. The arm can rotate and, according to the patent, magnetically interact with an external element. That means BB-8’s head is most likely controlled via magnetic interaction. Magnets at the end of the mast and roller magnets at the base of the head.
So now you know.
Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens opens Christmas 2015.