Not CG: Star Wars' BB-8 Soccer Ball Droid Appears IRL

April 17, 2015


This is a video from Star Wars Celebration 2015 yesterday of the franchise's new loveable droid, BB-8. Apparently they discussed using an entirely computer generated droid before realizing that would suck and be a George Lucas prequels move and decided to build a functional robotic version instead. I'm not even sure how the hell he works and keeps his head on. My guess is gyroscopes and magnets. One thing's for sure though: BB-8 definitely just rolled his way into my heart. Well, technically over my foot and into my shin, but still.

Keep going for a video of the droid in action.

Thanks to Jordan, who really wants to see BB-8 roll down the stairs.

  • Greg Gallacci

    Circus animal trick, SW style.
    A donkey can balance on a ball, walk that ball up a ramp, take a right, go down a ramp and then back around another corner.
    If you can teach a critter, you can teach servos, motors, gyros and processors.
    The seams on the big-ball are painted, no slot to run a rod in.
    Watch in particular how the head turns and the 'body' counter-rotates.
    The head has to 'lean into' every turn or start.
    This action shifts the center of gravity for the big-ball, so it rolls.
    Think of the head as crawling on the big ball.

  • milan8888

    #1 Spot on my xmas-wishlist…

  • HackTheGibson

    It looks like a self-balancing robot on top of a large sphere. The bottom one moves and the top one adjust

  • The noise that came from the audience!
    I bet they had to hose that place clean.

  • Luka Mlinar

    As long as there's no Jar Jar.

  • Richard H Sanford

    Jar-Jar Abrams is directing.

  • Gary Guillot

    And this is what makes practical effects, and animatronics, better than your biggest, greenest screens with bad CGI backdrops. This is what makes you go, "Wow, how'd they do that?" It's more satisfying than watching a CGI space battle scene and going, "Oh, a bunch of people on computers just rendered that."

  • WronglyRabbit

    Well I know what magnets are so, no I don't wonder how they did that. The problem with CGI isn't that the effect wasn't hard enough to create. If the film doesn't suck you'll have enough suspension of disbelief. The problem with CG is that it is not convincing enough to the human eye, especially on smaller screens, for the viewer to not become cognizant of the fact they are looking at a CG image super imposed onto a non-CG image. Basically, CG just hasn't been good enough to date to not be able to see the virtual string holding it up.

  • Eric VanSickle

    OMFG! Nerdgasm! BB-8 is a perfect edition to the SWU. I can't wait to see how the two astromechs interact in the movie, and how Threepeeo officiates between Artoo and Beebee.

  • Shegs

    Not unlike this:

  • KLanD

    Now that's freakin cool.

  • xolifer

    They better make a mini radio controlled version for the consumer or imma throw a hissy.

  • ZerglingPack

    Damn now I really want to buy one.

  • Eric VanSickle

    Just think of all of the sales of Beebee RCs, being out just in time for Christmas.

  • C-Basstian

    I can't tell if the ball his head sits on is a shell with seams or if its a smooth ball painted to look as though it has seams. I would assume it would be smooth to keep him rolling. Anyone have any ideas?

  • Guest

    I think there is a support rod coming up from the central motor that controls the head, and moves along a concealed track (along the outer edges of the circles on the hull, and the black lines that connect the circles). The head is probably very light, and has ball bearings around its perimeter to keep it rolling smoothly on the ball, and to conceal the support rod.

  • Jeremy Tilton

    I think in one of the angles I saw wheels or rollers under the head. I think strong magnets keep the head on, rollers help it roll over the surface of the bottom and some sort of gyroscope keeps it from going to far over the sides? Pretty impressive though.

  • KaPOW

    I imagine there's mechanisms/magnets/magic placed in the ball, so it's likely not completely seamless, but perhaps not along the lines the paint job would suggest.

  • disqus_k2QxOV9H7Z

    I think they are two separated parts that work together. The ball is a robot on its own with the head being another robot working on top

  • palpable ovaltine

    I doubt most of the work is being done by the head. For that to be the case, the ball would have to be pretty light, but that would make it top heavy and it would fall over.

    My guess is that the ball does the driving, probably by moving weights inside. To keep the head on and make it moveable, put a magnet on a stick inside the ball, with a gyroscope and motor so the magnet is always near the top of the ball (where you want the head to stay). Inside the head there would be another magnet to keep it attached, rollers so it doesn't stick, and motors for rotating the head left and right.

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