Bringing Star Wars’ BB-8 to life

This is definitely the droid you are looking for

June 28, 2016

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Hulslander is overseeing user experience on the Star Wars BB-8 droid.

Amara Hulslander teaches Interactive Media in the College of Arts and Media’s Digital Design Program. When she’s not in the classroom, she is introducing the world to the ways of The Force though her work with Sphero, the company responsible for the real-life Star Wars BB-8 droid and the Force Band, a wearable technology that lets people control BB-8 through motion.

Sphero’s BB-8 droid, which is based off the popular character in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, features authentic movement, an adaptive personality, autonomous behavior and holographic communications—all of which can be controlled through a mobile device. Soon though, owners of the adorable droid will be able to control BB-8 through the Force Band. Hulslander is in charge of user experience (UX) for BB-8 and the Force Band, ensuring that both come together in a seamless experience.

CU Denver Today: How does your work with UX take shape with BB-8 and the Force Band?

Amara Hulslander
Amara Hulslander

Hulslander: The work that I do is primarily invisible, but you definitely know when I didn’t do my job correctly.

For instance, a part of my work requires me to help define what happens when someone first gets the box containing the Force Band. They open the box, but then what? There are a lot of assumptions about how someone unpackages a product and assumes it will work, but that entire experience is actually designed—just as all stages of the experience are. I work with the engineering team to help make it a smooth experience and ultimately bring the product to life.

CU Denver Today: Are there unique challenges in working with these technologies?

Hulslander: It requires imagination and thinking through the user experience in terms of how users expect a product to work. There are already things people wear on their wrists, electronic products that turn on, and things that drive forward. Experiences with those products inform what users expect in a new product, even if it is unlike anything they have used before. The opportunity for myself and the rest of the team lies in being able to improve on those experiences, while keeping it seamless.

CU Denver Today: Do you incorporate your work with Sphero in your classroom?

Hulslander: Absolutely. When students learn about my work with BB-8 and the Force Band, they want to know how they can move from digital design to a tangible work produced by a company like Sphero. What I try to do in my classes is to gear work toward UX, UI, human-centered design, design research and usability research so that it reflects some of the needs of the current job market.

CU Denver Today: What should we expect to see next?

Hulslander: We have quite a few projects in development, but I can’t reveal them now. However we have a fantastic partnership with Disney, so there are a lot of amazing things in store!