Spin Master's BB-8 is still cute and you can get one this year

A robot sidekick you don't have to join the Resistance for.

Kris Naudus (AOL/Engadget)

The cute spherical BB-8 was one of the many highlights of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and Spin Master's near life-size replica of him was one of our favorite things about last year's Toy Fair. Unfortunately, 2016 came and went without seeing the adorable robotic companion on the silver screen -- or this particular toy on store shelves. That looks to change later this year with the announced release of the $230 Hero Droid BB-8, just in time for the bot's appearance in the next episode of the Star Wars saga.

On the surface, BB-8 appears to be the same droid from last year, with a plastic build modeled after its cinematic counterpart, even down to the traces of wear and tear. It's composed of two distinct pieces -- a round ball of a body and a half-sphere head. It gets around by rolling around, while the dome with all its sensors and smarts stays perched on top, only shifting position when BB-8 is expressing some sort of emotion.

Its emotional range is certainly expansive, with a few new reactions added to its repertoire over the past year. BB-8 still expresses curiosity about what it sees, and reacts in delight when you ask about friendly characters like Rey. (And it still doesn't like Kylo Ren.) But now, if you muster up your best Harrison Ford impression and growl "Move, ball" at the Hero Droid, it will roll away in dejection.

The remote control aspect of BB-8 has been completely revised, with Spin Master switching from infrared to RF for better signal, and reworking the joystick as well. The controller has been redesigned as a gamepad sporting two thumb sticks, which should make the bot much easier to control for kids raised on Xbox and PlayStation.

You can also get the droid to follow around whoever happens to be holding the controller, and it will do its best to keep up with your movements, getting confused if it loses track and expressing a burble of satisfaction when it locates you again.

BB-8 consumes a lot of power to get around, so the bot charges in two sections. The round body plugs directly into the wall, and 45 minutes of charging will yield you about half that time of active play; longer if you leave BB-8 on autonomous mode. The head charges via micro USB, so you can plug it into any computer to top it off.

We should hopefully see the BB-8 Hero Droid in stores some time later this year -- hopefully in time for the premiere of The Last Jedi in mid-December. The $230 price might seem a little steep, but it is the closest most of us get to having a life-size astromech droid to follow us around on adventures.