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Sphero's newest toy is a Pixar character come to life

by Joseph Rascon (2020-08-30)

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Shop for Sphero Ultimate Lightning McQueen

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$600 at Amazon

My kids touch Lightning McQueen's hood, and it rises up on its tires to meet their hands. My son, หวยเด็ด after a few minutes, says he's figured out how the touch zones work. They start trying to ask Lightning questions; it can't answer. But Sphero's new remote-controlled animated "Cars" replica does nearly everything else.

It better. Sphero's Ultimate Lightning McQueen feels like a robotically powered animated movie collectible, and it's priced like one -- at $299, £299 or AU$499, it's hardly a kid's toy. It's also a lot more expensive than the Sphero BB-8 ($149 at Amazon), the company's last big splash in branded robotics. But it feels more expressive by far. Lightning feels like a miniature piece of animatronics that escaped from Disneyland.

And that's the idea.

Lightning has its own touch-sensitive surfaces, moving mouth, animated eyes and bouncing wheels.

Sarah Tew/CNET
Car collaboration

Lightning McQueen was designed with frequent meetings between Disney's Pixar animation team, which gave Sphero tips on how to animate Lightning properly to feel movie-real. The car has a lot going on: a trapezoidal screen with moving animated eyes, touch sensors on its body to make it seem alive and an ability to raise and lower on all four wheels. It also has a moving mouth and a speaker to talk with.