Back when Star Wars first hit theaters in 1977, a trash can on wheels and a man in a gold-spray painted tin suit looked like impressively futuristic technology. But it’s 2015 and people are still obsessed with the lore of George Lucas. The new Star Wars: The Force Awakens film set to release this December requires new, imaginative on-screen technology. We have drones in real life, after all.
Enter BB-8, the adorable little droid that debuted in the November 2014 teaser trailer. The basketball-shaped bot wheeled its way on screen with its free-rolling body and pivoting head that appeared to hover atop its torso, which can move 360 degrees. It’s an advanced-looking design that definitely looks like it’s been brought to us thanks to CGI… except it’s not.
On stage at the Star Wars Celebration panel held Thursday, The Force Awakens director J.J. Abrams and producer Kathleen Kennedy brought BB-8 out on stage and revealed that it is a real robot. Abrams explained that it was better for the actors to have a physical prop to interact with.
BB-8 and the more familiar R2-D2 chatted through beeps and chirps while on stage together—which for enthusiasts, is endearing and exciting. For others, it probably sounds like a fire alarm and carbon monoxide detector arguing.
The physical existence of BB-8 should have fans excited, harkening back to the days of the original trilogy and its practical tech that made the Star Wars universe feel real. At the very least, it won’t give anyone Jar Jar Binks flashbacks.