Sphero, the company behind the innovative Sphero robotic ball, programmable stunt-bot Ollie and BB-8 RC Robots, announced the release of the Ultimate Lightning McQueen. This Cars 3 app-enabled remote control car is not just a remote control vehicle. Per Sphero, it is the most advanced robotic toy they have designed so far. More on that later.
Obviously the video below is a promo video they made, smartly edited and with (confirmed) sound effects added, but JUST LOOK AT THAT LIGHTNING MCQUEEN GO! There are parts in the video where it is hard to believe that the car is NOT animated into the video, but an actual physical toy car. Be amazed:
Holy smokes, no wonder they dubbed it the Ultimate Lightning McQueen.
Some of the technology packed into Sphero’s pièce de résistance:
- 3 processors and 6 motors for suspension, driving, steering and mouth
- The windshield is an LCD screen that renders eye-movement on the fly based on what is Lightning McQueen is doing
- Five capacitive touch panels built into the chassis. Touching the hood, sides, and roof causes McQueen to respond in different ways
- Ambient Light sensor. When the car drives into a dark area, its head and tail lights will turn on automatically
- Animatronic mouth that is synchronized with the speech patterns. Almost creepy to watch but rather awesome
- More than 300 Owen Wilson voiced phrases
- “Movie Mode”. Watch either of the first two Cars movies with him and he will comment on the movie (like the BB-8 watch with me feature)
- Ability to ‘drift‘ and do ‘doughnuts‘
- Emotive suspension This basically makes the car behave like the animated character, like hanging into turns, the wiggle when he talks etc
- Speed of up to 6Mph
That’s a lot of tech built into such a small package.
Here is a piece from a local TV station in Colorado (Sphero’s headquarters are in Boulder), in which the company’s Senior Director of Marketing & Communications, Claire Tindall, explains some of the features of the toy. It’s morning TV, so not very in-depth, but interesting to watch anyway.
The car does not come with a remote. Instead, it’s what they call app-enabled. What this means is that the car is controlled via an app on a compatible iOS or Android device. The application is not limited to just driving the car. There are several games included, such as Pit Stop Panic, a quick reaction / skills based game, and Acting Studio, which allows you to combine any of the 300+ phrases and then have Lightning McQueen act them out.
The nice thing about apps is that they can be updated. It would not surprise me if some updates and enhancements to the app are already in the works.
We needed to have him come alive, be able to talk to you, interact, have personality and yet perform as well. To hit an animation level that Pixar is happy with, is not the easiest thing in the world. So for Sphero to do that … our confidence went way up
Jay Ward, Creative Director, Disney-Pixar Cars
Sphero worked closely with the Disney-Pixar team during the development of the toy, which apparently took about a year and a half. Lightning’s personality and movement were important requirements. Sphero most definitely pulled it off and then some. Here’s Jay Ward, Disney-Pixar’s Creative Director for the Cars franchise, discussing the development of the Ultimate Lightning McQueen.
The elephant in the room, which I’ve ignored so far, is the price. Sphero slapped a $299.00 price tag on this toy. I almost choked on my breakfast when I saw that. But, OK, 300 bucks, for a very sophisticated, technologically advanced, personality-laden, app-enabled robotic remote control car – is it worth it?
If you or your kid is a die hard Cars fan – probably so because owning one of these is like owning your own little pet Lightning McQueen. It is so ‘realistic’, as in it completely looks and acts like the animated character (which is not real, but ‘animatedlistic’ is not a word) that it seems to have teleported right out of the movie. Just awesome.
If you or your kids are really into robotics, technology and the Cars franchise, then sure, this toy may be worth it because it is indeed the most technologically advanced piece of Cars-related equipment out there. In terms of code-controllable robotics however, this toy does (currently) not allow for any kind of programmatic interaction, such as with the other Sphero products. So there’s that.
Lastly, if you are just looking for a decent remote control Lightning McQueen, then the price tag will probably make you giggle nervously and mumble something like “Please don’t let my kids see this“. As for Cars 3 RC toys, there are plenty of other options available, most under $50.00. Disney has a new set of remote control cars based off of the Cars 3 movie, and they are $19.95 each.
You can buy these plus an Xbox One console with the Cars 3 game and pay about $300.00 total as well. But obviously, you’d not have a pet McQueen then. Apples and oranges…
In the box: the car, quick start and legal guides, wall charging cable and charging wall adapters (region-based). Charging takes about 2 hours and allows for approximately 40 minutes of play time. The Ultimate Lightning McQueen is available in the Sphero Web Store, on Amazon, or can be purchased at major retailers like Best Buy, Target etc.
Apparently Sphero has several other products in the pipeline this year, and if this amazing new product is a precursor to go by, then Sphero most likely has some nice things in store for us. An ‘Ultimate Jackson Storm’ would be interesting. I think he’s the best looking Cars 3 vehicle of the lot and it could interact with McQueen etc. We’ll have to wait and see.
In conclusion, if you look up ‘most awesome Cars 3 toy‘ in the dictionary, you’ll see the Sphero Ultimate Lightning McQueen, and I am sure it will do well despite its hefty price tag. I would love to have one (for the kids, cough), but at $300.00 + tax, it’s going to have to wait.
Compare to: Mattel’s Tech Touch Lightning McQueen Review