With Valentine’s Day quickly approaching, a dozen roses may look like a lackluster gift for the robot-lover in your life after seeing what Lingxiang Xiang built to woo his girlfriend — a Raspberry Pi-powered, voice-controlled R2-D2.
Funnily enough, it turns out this actually was not the droid he was looking for. “My original plan was to build a Wall-E robot, which seems more cute and therefore might be more attractive to my girlfriend,” says Xiang, a computer science Ph.D. student. “Unfortunately, Wall-E toys available in the market are too small for Raspberry Pi hacking. The R2-D2 toy is larger and I happened to find that one guy was selling several unworkable R2-D2 toys for a low price. So I bought one immediately and started to hack it.”
Like Anakin Skywalker, Xiang knows how to tinker with droids. His Artoo tracks faces and motion, is motorized for movement, and has the ability to respond to voice commands — but sadly doesn’t have a spring-loaded lightsaber or holographic projector.
Xiang executed the project with the stealth of a Jedi. “It was a secret project,” he explains. “My girlfriend didn’t know anything about it until her birthday. The first word I heard was ‘WOW.’ Then I came out from another room, told her it’s her birthday gift, and taught her how to play with it. She said it’s the best gift she ever received.”
A detailed tutorial and blueprints are coming in February for bot builders interested in making a RPi2D2 droid of their own.
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