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Sphero Revs Up For ‘Cars 3’ With Smartphone-Controlled Lightning McQueen

Sphero, perhaps best known in the connected toy space for its adorable BB-8 replica robot, is bringing smartphone control to the next Disney superstar: Lightning McQueen.

Timed to dovetail with the June 16 premier of “Cars 3,” Sphero’s Ultimate Lightning McQueen is an app-enabled smart toy with an animatronic mouth and an LCD screen for eyes. The Bluetooth-capable car features capacitive touch panels on its roof, doors, hood and rear windows that cause the car to move and speak when the user presses them.

It also has the ability to interact via the free iPhone and Android app, enabling users to drive the car and perform tricks.

Ambient light sensors in the headlights and taillights will adjust to the lighting in the room. The car can reach speeds of up to 6 mph and will operate for 40 minutes on a single charge. (A full charge is said to take two hours.) Range is about 100 feet, and built-in Wi-Fi will deliver firmware updates.

Toy sales in the U.S. grew 5 percent last year, totaling $20.4 billion, according to The NPD Group. The overall youth electronics category rose 3 percent, the research firm said, with the robotic/interactive playmates sub-category — where Sphero’s products are classified — growing 14 percent for the year.