Incredible, accurate design
Very fun to operate a vehicle
Great, comprehensive app
Good battery life
Awkward charging cap
Review Price: £299.00
Custom-built trapezoidal screen
Five capacitive touch panels
Ambient light sensor
Owen Wilson’s actual voice
What’s the Sphero Lightning McQueen?
If you’ve heard about Sphero, you’ll probably understand that they make spheres. Awesome – but expensive – robotic spheres that you may make whizz around your floor by using a smartphone app.
Sphero has finally taken this idea of tech-powered toys and applied it to an automobile, especially Lightning McQueen from the Cars movie franchise. It’s the company’s first handy remote control car, and took a year . 5 to build. A big part of this time, Sphero CEO Paul Berberian informs me, was spent going right through numerous reviews with animators at Pixar “to be sure he’s as true to character as possible”.
That work has paid; the automobile looks and drives as an animation, showcasing Sphero’s incredible focus on detail and the company’s clear passion for toy-making. With playful handling, real voice scripting, and a bevy of features and easter eggs, that is an excellent testament to the colourful Cars universe.
However the crunch comes by method of its huge £299 price, which many parents will battle to justify. Can a toy car ever really be worth that much money?
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Sphero Lightning McQueen – Design
So far as design goes, Sphero’s latest creation is hard to knock. The automobile is founded on Cars protagonist Lightning McQueen, which first arrived on screens back 2006 as a rookie race car hoping to compete in the Piston Cup. We’re soon to see Cars 3 (June 16, 2017) and Lightning is, arguably, as beloved as ever.
So far as authenticity goes, this is actually the real deal. Sphero and Pixar have ensured that each detail about the automobile is accurate. All of the paintwork – and it’s all paintwork; no cheap stickers here, folks – is specifically as you’d view it in the movie, from the racing red chassis to the ‘Rust-eze Ointment’ sponsorship logos and the Lightyear tyres. There’s no mistaking it – that is Lightning McQueen.
Although the car is made from lightweight plastic (and rubber, for the bumper), Sphero went a step further to improve realism. This originates from the custom-built trapezoidal screen that renders animated eyes in real-time. These eyes dart around in several directions, making Lightning feel truly alive. There’s also a motorised mouth on leading bumper that’s synced with speech, so when Lightning deals a classic quip, it appears like he’s actually saying what.
It isn’t only the car’s looks that may pull you in to the Cars universe though; it’s the way the car moves, too. Lightning boasts six independent motors that permit the vehicle to bob and tilt while stationary. He’ll sit there wiggling and searching, as though he’s eagerly waiting so that you can play with him. Unfortunately, sometimes he shuffles a touch too much, as I then found out when I heard him falling off your kitchen worktop while charging and crashing onto the ground. Avoid where you set him down.
However, there are a good amount of other details that breathe life into Lightning too. For example, the charging cable plugs straight into Lightning’s petrol filler hole. The downside to the, however, is that the rubbery filler cap is seriously awkward to unplug and re-plug, and I even were able to tear somewhat off trying to open it. Nevertheless, it’s still fun to see him sitting there looking like he’s being pumped packed with gas.
Another quirky feature may be the lighting. The red tail lights seem to be to be fired up all the time, however the headlights are activated thanks to an ambient light sensor. This signifies that if you drive Lightning under your sofa, his headlights will start – as being a real car.
The chassis of the automobile features five capacitive touch panels that react to your touch, prompting Lightning to tilt from your finger.
Even the instructions – usually jettisoned at the first instant post-unboxing – is carefully crafted to appear to be a service manual. An excellent touch that increases the excitement when first unboxing the toy.
So apart from a few minor niggles, there’s nothing to essentially complain about in relation to Lightning’s design. He’s certainly the most lifelike toy I’ve ever used, blowing the still-impressive Sphero BB-8 toy (of Star Wars fame) straight from the water.
Sphero Lightning McQueen – Setup
In my experience, I came across Lightning’s setup a slick and quick process. Once you take the lid off the box, you’ll find the automobile just pulls right out – no wires or cables tying it down. Under the car you’ll find the service manual and the charging cable – and that’s it. Simple and efficient; it had been nearly the same as unboxing an Apple product.
The app, too, is quick to begin with. It’s sizeable at 215MB (iOS), which is approximately exactly like Crossy Road (225MB), and heavier than Messenger (186MB), LinkedIn (178MB), and Uber (161.MB). But it’s packed packed with features, which I’ll detail later.
Once installed, you just activate Bluetooth on your own phone, and place the handset near to the car. After some time, the automobile will sync with the telephone, and install any necessary firmware updates – which I’ve only had to suffer one, which took about 5 minutes.
The moment you’re in to the app, hit the ‘Push to start’ button and you could start driving – no faff, just play. It’s also worth noting that in the event that you haven’t had time to charge the automobile fully yet, you can still play with a number of the additional iphone app features while Lightning is charging.
Sphero Lightning McQueen – App Features
Beyond the driving, which I’ll tackle next, the iphone app is chock-full of features. For example, there’s a casino game called Pit Stop Panic, where you have to make certain a virtual Lightning McQueen (and friends) is preparing to race by selecting appropriate tools from a rolling conveyor belt. There are numerous difficulty modes, as well as your Lightning car will say relevant phrases aloud while you’re playing.
Then there’s a scripting feature, which enables you to create custom scripts for Lightning to state. There are a lot more than 300 phrases which were all recorded for the merchandise by Lightning’s actual voice actor, Owen Wilson (the marriage Crashers actor). You can assemble a few within an interesting order, and roll Lightning up to friend and launch the script.
There’s also a ‘Drive In’ mode, which is comparable to the Sphero BB-8’s movie viewing feature. When you activate Drive In, you can stick on the Cars movie and set Lightning up nearby. As the movie continues on, Lightning will react to scenes in the film. He’ll even feel awkward about just how he acted in earlier movies, because he’s shifted so much because the first film.
Sphero in addition has built a race mode in to the app, where you get the opportunity to win the Piston Cup. However, this feature didn’t seem to be to be working when I reviewed the merchandise. Similarly, the Achievement Centre -ffor prizes earned while racing – was also inaccessible. I’ll update the review if that changes.