Australian technology news, reviews, and guides to help you
Australian technology news, reviews, and guides to help you

The Wrap – September 1, 2017

Sphero makes every sci-fi geek’s dream come true, and everything IFA with Samsung, Dell, Fitbit, and more. It’s your Force Friday Wrap.


For the first of September also known as Force Friday, you’ve jumped into into The Wrap, Australia’s fastest serving of technology wrapped into a neat little droid-served package.

And this week, The Wrap arrives with a special guest, because it’s Force Friday, the geekiest of geekiest days, where everything that is Star Wars is announced for the year.

Much like there was last year, there’s a new film on the way, as “The Last Jedi” is set to arrive on December 15. Before, it however, electronics companies are looking for ways to bring the magic of Star Wars to the home, and one company may have pulled it off, with a gadget that will bring sheer delight to the faces of every geek that has ever seen a single Star Wars movie.

Because aside for lightsabers, the one thing every Star Wars movie has had in them has been droids, and one droid stands out.

That’s right, R2D2, who just so happens to be joining The Wrap this week because Sphero has partnered with Disney and Star Wars to release a small robotic version of R2D2.

Now aside for making R2 do some cute noises, which he certainly does

R2 feels built in much the same way as Sphero’s other major 2017 release, Lightning McQueen, with a design that is more like a robot than say a robotic ball, and you can see that in the track-equipped feet, the rotating head, and the extra third leg that pops out from underneath R2. More in line with Sphero’s other droids, R2 can be controlled remotely and can even do a lot of the noises from the films. He can also be programmed, and he’ll talk with the other Star Wars Sphero droids.

That includes BB-8, but it also includes one newbie we haven’t seen.

That’s BB-9e, the sort of Imperial version of BB-8 that does similar things, but looks a whole lot more menacing, and will be featured in the new film.

And while they’re obviously very much like toys and clearly automatically on the holiday buying list for parents of kids and kids at heart, they’re also potentially programmable, making the Star Wars characters something you can learn with.vv

Alongside Force Fridays features, this week also heralded the announcement of many a gadget, and that’s because it was IFA, also known as the mid-year consumer electronics show.

That means manufacturers were doing their best to promote everything new and exciting, and there was quite a bit of that.

First you’ll have new computers very shortly, as Dell, Alienware, Lenovo, and Acer all made products known that were on the way thanks to that Intel refresh we spoke about last week. That includes faster computers for more or less the same money, as manufacturers replaced chips and started delivering just a little more bang for your buck.

Next up were wearables, and both Fitbit and Samsung had something for that, the former with a redeveloped square smartwatch that features a blood oxygen meter in the Fitbit Ionic, while the latter will provide both the Gear Fit 2 Pro smartband and the Gear Sport smartwatch, and the cool thing here is that neither run Apple’s Watch OS or Android Wear, making them totally different.

LG also has a very impressive looking phone on the way, coming in the form of the V30. This one will feature Qualcomm’s latest processor, either 64 or 128GB of storage, and some impressive 32-bit sound technology making it one of the first phones to support Master Quality Authenticated, a high resolution audio format for what is practically lossless audio. Think very high-end sound, and you’ll nail it, basically giving you more reason to pick the best headphones to carry with that phone.

And speaking of amazing headphones, Sony will have a few on the way based on what are arguably some of the best noise cancellation headphones around.

Last year’s MDR-1000X were easily some of the best around, so much that we still use them today, and come October, Sony’s 1000X headphones will expand that range. There’s a disconnected WF-1000X that is kind of like the AirPod equivalent — but good — the WI-1000X that is made for walking around, and the WH-1000XM2, a mouthful of a name which is true sequel with some improvements to the sound and bigger battery life.

Sony will also have a new speaker arriving in December providing a Google Assistant built in, and it’s basically Sony’s take on the Google Home and Apple HomePod (Editor’s note: we said “AirPod” and meant to say “HomePod”, and only picked up on it after recording; apologies).

There were also new cameras, projectors, vacuum cleaners — seriously, it’s a pretty heavy show, and we’ve tried to cover as much as possible, so check the website to see if there’s anything we missed.

Until then have a great week and we’ll see you next time on The Wrap. Take care.

Star Wars droid noises of R2D2, BB-8, and BB-9E recorded from the Sphero Star Wars robots. Sounds belong to Disney and Sphero, of course.

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