It's not supplanted R2-D2 in the "cute robots we wish were our best friends" stakes just yet, but The Force Awakens' BB-8 is getting close. Sadly, we're at least a few years away from the kind of artificial intelligence that'll let us create a race of real-life droids. Until then, we can either with Sphero's smaller version of the Star Wars robot, or — like 17-year-old engineering prodigy Angelo Casimiro — take matters into our own hands.
Angelo's version of BB-8 is life-size, controllable with an iPhone, and built from just $120 worth of parts. For the body, Angelo took a low-tech approach, slathering a beach ball with paper mache to build the central sphere, before topping it with a domed styrofoam "head." Inside, Angelo has used an Arduino Uno — an open-sourcemicrocontroller board — as the "brains" of the robot. That controller is wired up with other boards to control a set of wheels inside the body, allowing the home-made BB-8 to move around just as the movie version does.
BB-8's head is made of styrofoam and is held into place by magnets
Most impressively, Angelo's even managed to rig it so that BB-8's head stays in place on top of its body, remaining upright as it navigates corners and picks up speed. The 17-year-old maker cracked open a set of speaker magnets to fix the head in place, relying on their magnetic force to keep BB-8's shape in a way that even Sphero's official BB-8 toy can't always manage. Once complete, Angelo uses a free Arduino controller app — designed for remote-control cars — to steer BB-8 around, connecting to a Bluetooth board also placed inside the droid's body.
You'll need a few tools, a bit of confidence, and some space to tinker if you want to copy Angelo's design, but his extensive tutorial should make the process much less painful than trying to build a robot from scratch. You might even learn something about engineering along the way, but at the very least, the result — a BB-8 as big as the movie's — is something we all want.
Verge Video: You could also just buy a ready made BB-8 toy
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