Consumer-focused robots have been having a bit of a hard time in recent years. Just last week, Anki, maker of the adorable Cozmo and Vector bots, was the latest robot maker to go under as consumers hesitated to spend $250 on an automaton that didn’t really do anything. Lego’s latest creation also won’t vacuum your floors, but who hasn’t fantasized about building and commanding their very own Star Wars droid army?
The Lego Star Wars Boost Droid Commander set is the first from the toymaker that connects a licensed property to its Boost robotics platform, which is a more kid-friendly version of the company’s highly technical and capable robotic Mindstorms kits. We fell in love with the Lego Boost Creative Toolbox when we tried it last year, but being able to take it one step further and build interactive versions of some of the most famous robots of all time is as good an excuse as any to play with Lego again.
At $200, the Star Wars Boost Droid Commander set (available starting September 1, 2019) is actually slightly more expensive than Anki’s Cozmo, but it comes with instructions and 1,177-pieces for building three of the franchise’s most recognizable bots including a Mouse droid, a Gonk droid, and R2-D2. Each droid is powered by the included Lego Boost Move Hub which can be swapped between each robot to bring them to life with movements, sound effects, and music from the endless film franchise.
The Move Hub connects to an accompanying mobile app over Bluetooth allowing each robot to be controlled wirelessly. But there’s also a level of autonomy that can be added to each droid, as they can be augmented with a color and distance sensor that helps make them somewhat aware of their environments as they roam. Will R2-D2 wander around your home serving drinks or sharing holographic messages from a Princess all on his own? No, not even close, but the Lego Boost Star Wars app does allow you to program custom movements using a drag and drop coding interface that’s kid-friendly, and more importantly, technologically-challenged-adult friendly.
Using Star Wars to covertly teach kids’ STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths) concepts is not a new idea, toy companies like littleBits and Sphero have already tried their hands at it. But the basic nature of Lego gives the company a big advantage because once you tire of R2-D2 or a Gonk droid stumbling around your living room, they can be rebuilt into an infinite number of other robotic creations. Lego just might be exactly what the consumer robots space needs right now. When a Lego robot vacuum is done cleaning, you could rebuild and reprogram it into robotic puppy, or a robot sentry, or whatever random thing you’d want a robot to do for you.