When this droid rolled on stage in July, the world’s collective jaw dropped to realise, this wasn’t a special effect, this was real.

Those who’ve seen the new Star Wars will marvel at how this metal ball can have such personality, be so expressive and feel so human.

What’s fascinating though is the story behind BB8.

Its hard to believe now but BB8 was originally not a Star Wars droid, nor did he have a head.

BB8 was built on a miraculous feat of engineering – a bluetooth steerable, rolling sphere made by Sphero (a profitable toy company in its own right, well before Star Wars came along).

The ‘problem’ was that the Sphero rolling sphere was in need of a story.

The search for a story for his rolling sphere led Sphero founder Adam Wilson to Disney, to Star Wars and eventually to his rolling sphere receiving a magnetic head.

“Looking back, it feels dumb that no one thought to give Sphero a head. We started with technology instead of a story. That’s the opposite of Disney. They start with a story, and then whatever you have to do to make a story come alive, you do that” – Adam Wilson, Sphero Founder

Without the story, Sphero would have survived as a company – but only Silicon Valley geeks would have heard of it.

With the story, parents the world over will now have to endure constant pestering until they buy their kid this undisputed toy of the year.

Even with the technical marvel they had created, the Sphero founders realised, it still needed a big story – something human, something for us to connect to and relate with.

You too may have a technical marvel – but don’t settle, even at world class engineering.

Keep pushing to find the big story, the human story for us to connect with.

Your breakthrough is just around this corner.


HT to David Pierce for his Wired Magazine article on the making of BB8

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