So far, BB-8 is the cutest thing to come out of the new “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” film.
But this great cuteness comes shrouded in mystery. First, he rolls, but his head stays on top? Secondly, is he going to talk like Jar Jar Binks just to piss me off? Third, he rolls, but his head stays on top?
Well for the answer to #2 is going to have to wait until December, but it looks like we can answer questions #1 and #3 now.
In fact, there is an entire website dedicated to this subject and we spent ten minutes reading it.
It turns out BB-8 is a ground-based holonomic robot – meaning it can “instantaneously move in any direction on the horizontal plane.” That is why he is so responsive. The body “uses a gyroscope to determine which way is down and two wheels to move the sphere from inside. The base plate (batteries included) serves as a counterweight to keep the wheels acting against the lower half of the sphere. There’s also a vertical bearing that helps to keep the wheels in contact with the walls.”
Good so far? Now what about the head on top? Well the short answer suggests it’s something do with magnets. “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.” BB-8 has a control system that helps keep everything in balance – particularly making sure its 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.”
So the head is that “external element.”
I promise that was the best explanation we could come up with based on the reading. Really, though, you should check out the site as it’s quite well done: www.howbb8works.com.
If you don’t feel like reading, just take my word and instead enjoy this video of the little guy in action:
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