Sure, Sphero might be making some Bluetooth-enabled novelties, but when it comes to the droids found in the Star Wars universe those toys are sorely lacking.
So the latest episode of Lucasfilm's "Science and Star Wars" came through and built their own working astromech droid, completely to scale, powered by IBM's Watson AI. The clip is not embeddable from Facebook, so click here to watch the video.
Host Anthony Carboni spoke about creating a new helper droid in the vein of the lovable R2-D2, mentioning helper robots like manufacturing arms and security units that are already prevalent in the modern age.
Robots are already helping doctors eliminate menial tasks at the University of California San Francisco, aiding astronauts in maintaining spacecrafts, and transporting riders around in a driverless taxi.
Carboni was joined by Michael McMaster and Mike Senna of the R2 Builders Club, who help Disney and Lucasfilm with their droids.
The two create a frame for the droid, housing a Raspberry Pi console utilizing Python to communicate with the Watson API to program its functions. A Raspberry Pi is a tiny computer system, and Python is an advanced programming language.
Along with a mounted camera that allows it to process images, it also understands vocal commands and manages to respond via Watson. It does not respond in bleeps and bloops, which may or may not upset the Star Wars purists. Your mileage may vary.
The video streamlines the intricate components involved required to actually create a working droid. There's a car battery, various switches and circuit boards, and the cameras required to process the images.
But the end result is impressive considering the time-lapsed nature of the video.
The droid responds to commands, rotates its head to scan its surroundings, and travels around the floor. Utilizing Watson's analytic capabilities, it also responds to questions about various Star Wars logic problems. Best of all, it can send emails!
The Science and Star Wars show is shaping up to be pretty entertaining, though the second episode seemed less practical than its first outing. Sure, a lightsaber might be even more impractical than a droid, but the show managed to explain how to make one.