After the R2-D2 took the stage during the first Star Wars Celebration panel, Force Awakens director J.J. Abrams and producer Kathleen Kennedy introduced the newest robotic addition to the fans in Anaheim.
BB-8, the ball droid that debuted in the teaser trailer last November, made a big impression. The free-rolling robot moved in every direction, and its head pivoted around just as freely, almost appearing to be floating. The advanced mobility allowed the bot to run circles around R2-D2, as the two chatted loudly.
As Abrams explained to the audience while showing off some early concept sketches, BB-8 was a character that was almost made through CGI, but the director wanted to create something that the actors on set could interact with. It wasn’t exactly clear how BB-8 was able to move so freely, but Abrams did reference both robotics technicians and puppeteers bringing BB-8 to life.
The mystery around how this thing actually works is something of a throwback to the early days of the practical tech that brought the original Star Wars to life—which is, in itself, special and in line with what people loved about that first trilogy.