With so many Raspberry Pi projects to choose from, it can be tricky to find the one you really want to build. Our advice is to find a way to marry the Pi with something you really love. One great example is TV and movie robots — iconic characters from popular sci-fi that can be rebuild at home with a Raspberry Pi built in.
Once constructed, your robot might be able to utter commands when a condition is met (perhaps a sensor detects motion). Or it might move around, learning about its surroundings, or reading information to you from Wikipedia.
Whatever you have in mind, it should be relatively straightforward to plan and execute. It may take some time, however. Here are five example projects that show how you can combine a Raspberry Pi 2 or later with your favorite fictional robot.
We’ve all wanted our very own astromech droid, haven’t we? Sure, no one on earth is (currently) operating a light speed drive, but Star Wars droid R2-D2 has far greater abilities than onboard spacecraft maintenance. For instance, he can hold torches, carry a tray of drinks, and launch lightsabers across pits in the desert.
Okay, it’s unlikely you’ll manage to get your own R2-D2 robot to do that… but don’t let that put you off. Check out this little guy, controlled by a Raspberry Pi.
While this project was based on an existing R2-D2 toy, that shouldn’t limit your ambition. You’ll find plenty of R2-D2 builds on YouTube. There’s a massive R2-D2 building community online. Finding one that has a drive unit should be ideal for integrating a Raspberry Pi (and perhaps an Arduino, which you can use the two together) and developing a more realistic R2-D2 experience.
In short, this is the droid you’re looking for.
Admittedly, Daleks are more cyborg than robot, as they have organic components (specifically, a brain), although some episodes of Doctor Who contradict this (it’s been running since 1963, so such an oversight is understandable). But that’s a trivial matter when it comes to the possibility of automating a toy or life-sized Dalek with the help of a Raspberry Pi!
Several projects can be found online that let you control a Dalek toy or self-built model with a Raspberry Pi. Our favorite is probably the RaspiMower, an accidental project whose developer started out building an automated lawnmower and ended up with an alien killing machine.
However, you’ll find many more examples of what can be done. Here’s a great video (without instructions, sadly) of a domeless Dalek head rotating, the eye stalk rising and lowering. This is made possible with a Raspberry Pi and some Python code.
Meanwhile, if you want to add some ring voice modulation (the technical name for the effect used on the actors who voice the Daleks), take a look at our guide to making sounds with Audacity.
Whatever approach you take, remember that Daleks cannot climb stairs without visual effects — or an elevator.
Classic 1980s TV show Knight Rider ostensibly starred David Hasselhoff, but all fans know that the real star was KITT. A computer fitted into a Trans Am sports car, the Knight Industries Two Thousand is essentially an AI smart computer. Think about the new car you’ve got sat outside, and the way the built in computer monitors everything. Knight Rider predicted this by around 20 years, personifying the development in KITT.
You can get started with a simple red LED KITT/Cylon swipe effect, while the video below shows what can be achieved if you attempt to recreate the in-car console:
However, you might want to go one further. The AutoPi project combines Google Assistant with your car’s OBD-II port, enabling you communicate with the onboard computer, via your Raspberry Pi. It won’t take much to dress this up with the project above.
Admittedly, to make your robot build complete, you’ll need a 1982 Pontiac Trans Am. This slightly unlikely component shouldn’t put you off, however. In the original series, KITT was transplanted (albeit temporarily) into other vehicles.
If all that seems a bit complicated, we have a tutorial on how to make your own LED scanner with nothing more than an Arduino!
4. Hal 9000
Perhaps the most notorious movie robot ever, Hal 9000 admittedly isn’t the standard walking-taking robot. Rather, he’s a sentient computer whose job is to look after the Discover One spacecraft in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968).
His role as antagonist in the movie, and his calm voice (thanks to actor Douglas Rain) has ingrained Hal 9000 in the minds of sci-fi lovers over the years. It’s now possible to recreate Hal 9000 using modern materials and a Raspberry Pi computer. You’ll find full details in this Instructable guide, but note that using Hal’s original voice isn’t possible. Several voices should be available to you, however.
One word of warning: take care when programming your own Hal 9000. It might not agree with you on a few things…
“Just what do you think you’re doing, Dave?”
Back to Doctor Who, now, and the perennially popular robot dog (it’s in the name, geddit?) who traveled in the TARDIS from 1977-1981, and briefly returned in 2006, before switching to a spin-off show and finally getting his own 2010 TV series.
With a heavily retro look, several attempts have been made to build a K-9 replica with a Raspberry Pi at the heart.
The place to start, however, should be the project developed by IBM Distinguished Engineer Richard Hopkins. He’s made his work available for you to use under The Unlicense terms, at k9-build.blogspot.co.uk.
As with Daleks and R2-D2, however, there are many building projects out there for K-9’s exterior and drive unit. You might want to check these out before getting to work on the build and integrating the Raspberry Pi.
Why Not Build Them All?!
No, you’re right: that’s a bit ambitious. But hopefully it’s helped you to focus your mind on the robot you should build. Whatever you’re a fan of, there should be a movie or TV robot for you to build your own version of. Just make sure you keep a Raspberry Pi at the heart of the project!
Have you built your own R2-D2 or Dalek? Installed a KITT in your own Trans-Am? Travelling through time and space with your very own K-9? Or are you trapped in orbit around Jupiter with a conspiratorial sentient computer?
Tell us about it in the comments below!