BB-8 is real! But how did they do it?

BB-8 the new droid in the star wars franchise made his first public appearance (YouTube link) at Star Wars Celebration last week. While cast and crew of the movie have long said that BB-8 is real, seeing it up on stage, driving circles around R2D2 takes things to a whole new level. The question remains, how exactly does it work?

new petOur (and probably any other tech geek worth their salt’s) immediate reaction was to think of xkcd’s “New Pet” comic. All the way back in 2008, [Randall Munroe] suggested omnidirectional wheels and magnets could be used to create exactly this kind of ‘bot. Is this what’s going on inside BB-8? No one knows for sure, but that won’t stop us from trying to figure it out!

BB-8’s family tree may actually start with Sphero. Fortune reports  that Sphero was part of Disney’s accelerator program in 2014. Each company in the accelerator program gets a mentor from Disney. Sphero’s mentor was Disney CEO Bob Iger himself.

The Head

So if BB-8’s body is based on a Sphero, how does the head work? The Disney crew has been mum on this so far, but there is plenty of speculation! If you watch the video in HD, several flashes can be seen between the body and head gap. These might be status LEDs on BB-8’s electronics, but they could also be IR LEDs – possibly part of an optical mouse style sensor. Sensor fusion between gyroscopes, accelerometers and the optical flow sensors would make for a robust solution to the inverted pendulum problem presented by BB-8’s head.

How do you think BB-8 works? Is it magnets, motors, or The Force? Let us know in the comments!

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Tablet-controlled disco Droid


We have seen a few neat Google ADK projects pop up since its announcement a few weeks back, and this one is already on the list of our favorites.

YouTube user [chrisjrelliot] has put together a great hack demonstrating the ADK’s power and how easy it can be to control devices in real time with an Android-powered device.

He hacked apart an Android figure (naturally) and fitted it with some LED eyes as well as four servos. The servos are used to rotate the head, body, and arms of his Disco Droid, all of which can be controlled via his Android-powered tablet. As you can see in the video below, he is able to control the Droid’s actions in real time with a few simple swipes of his finger. One thing we did notice is that his tablet is not connected to anything via wires, so we are assuming that there’s a Bluetooth module hidden away somewhere in the mix.

While the video is a bit short on details, [Chris] promises that source code and build plans will be published in short order.

CNC-built R2-D2 brings childhood dreams to life


As a kid, [Wes] always dreamed of building a full-size, functional R2-D2 droid from Star Wars. While most youthful aspirations such as this fall to the wayside amid adult responsibilities and commitments, he did not allow his dreams to disappear along with his childhood.

He began his droid-building journey armed only with his dreams and some assistance from the friendly folks over at R2Builders. The entire replica was built using MDF, wood, and styrene sheeting, along with just one tool: a CNC machine. He walks you through the every step of the construction, stopping to give recommendations on CNC hardware, software, etc. along the way. He also provides Gcode files for each of the pieces he has constructed, which should be a huge help to anyone looking to build a R2-D2 clone of their own.

It looks like he is just getting around to fitting motors into the leg housings of his R2-D2 replica, but we can’t wait to see what it looks like once he has all of the electronics and other details finished.

If you are interested in more R2-D2 coverage, look no further than right here.

CNC milled docking system for Droid

[Steve] wanted a dock for his Droid phone but couldn’t bear to put cheap-looking parts in his nice BMW. He decided to build his own in order to satisfy his functional and stylistic needs. His main goal was to have a dock with no wires showing, but it also needed to be removable and have the ability to work with different devices (GPS, Droid, etc.).

The hardest part of a build like this is matching the bracket system to the car’s interior. [Steve] sidestepped the problem by starting with a commercial mounting bracket made specifically for the BMW E90 series. From there he added the female half of a mounting bracket he milled himself. The male half connects to this part using an edge connector, passing signals and power between the car and whichever device is currently installed. This way he can design brackets for different devices and not change what’s in the car.

To get a closer look, check out the video after the break. The system he came up with looks wonderful and works great.

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DroidX gets a custom recovery image

[Birdman] has managed to push a custom recovery image to the DroidX. This previously impossible action opens the doors to all kinds of fun hacking. While you can’t just drop a custom Rom on the phone right now, this is the first step in making that happen. You can find the directions in the post, but they’ve got a while to go before they become as easy as something like a jailbreak.

[via phandroid]

Using iPod docks with Droid via an adapter

Standard connectors in portable devices would be great for the consumer, but then you wouldn’t purchase separate peripherals for ever portable you buy (lining the pockets of the companies licensing said peripherals). [Thijs] isn’t taking it lying down any longer. Realizing that the shape of the connector is one of the only things standing in the way, he built an adapter to use iPod docks with Droid. The hardware consists of a USB connector, audio jack, iPod connector, and a magnet. After working out the wiring it was just a matter of building a chassis using polymorph material. As you can see above, his expensive dock has no problem playing nicely with Droid because of his handy work.

USB host mode for Droid

There’s a simple hack to use your Motorola Droid phone as a USB host. It is a hardware-only hack that doesn’t require you to crack open your phone, root it, or even to change firmware (although device drivers in the stock Android image may be quite limited). The dongle above is used as a key to enable the mode while the phone is booting. This was repurposed from a car charging cable by removing the wires and resistor and shorting the resistor pads. Once the phone is in host mode the dongle is swapped for a simple USB-mini to USB-A socket adapter, built from two cables you probably have lying around. Now you can plug in any device you want.

[Thanks Freezer90]