Count computer science Ph.D. candidate Lingxiang Xiang as the latest tinkerer to tap the potential of the cheapcomputer.
The enterprising student fixed a broken R2-D2 toy replica using a Raspberry Pi computer and other off-the-shelf electronics bought online. The toy was meant to be a birthday gift for his girlfriend.
The end result: a robot with face recognition; motion and distance detection (to avoid bumping into obstacles); and the ability to understand voice commands in both English and Chinese.
Like the movie version, the R2-D2 can also record and play back audio messages, though obviously holographic messages aren't in its repertoire.
More importantly for Xiang, R2-D2 turned out to be a hit with the girlfriend.
For those who wish to build their own R2-D2 replica, Xiang plans to make the instructions available next month. Below is a video of the Raspberry Pi-powered R2-D2 toy.