'Interstellar' TARS robot cosplay stomps along in real life

A feat of cosplay engineering results in a full-size walking TARS robot costume that uses aluminum and a pair of iPads to get the right look.

Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser
2 min read

TARS costume
This TARS costume walks the walk. Iain Heath

Iain Heath may be best known by his Lego artist identity Ochre Jelly. Under that name, he creates elaborate Lego parodies of popular characters and people, including projects like a Lego model of Kim Kardashian and a Lego recreation of the "="" ad"="" shortcode="link" asset-type="article" uuid="1d6a5504-a5ca-11e3-a24e-d4ae52e62bcc" slug="van-damme-epic-splits-in-space-should-be-the-final-word" link-text="Jean-Claude Van Damme Volvo " section="news" title="Van Damme epic splits in space should be the final word" edition="us" data-key="link_bulk_key" api="{"id":"c57056b8-42af-49de-9692-d6f266b949df","slug":"interstellar-robots-were-real-not-cgi-tars-and-case","contentType":null,"edition":"us","topic":{"slug":"culture"},"metaData":{"typeTitle":null,"hubTopicPathString":"Culture","reviewType":null},"section":"news"}"> . He's also an accomplished cosplayer, as proven by his build of a full-size walking TARS robot from "Interstellar."

The TARS is particularly challenging because it's not in a human shape. It's boxy and has stiff movements. It's no Honda Asimo. Heath's TARS costume is quite elaborate, consisting of a wood frame clad in aluminum. A camera, LCD screen, audio amplifier and headset help him navigate his surroundings and interact with people while staying hidden behind (not inside) the contraption.

The suit weighs 40 pounds, which is pretty lightweight compared with the 200-pound TARS puppet used for the film. That stainless-steel puppet functioned thanks to a compressed air system for moving each segment. Heath's works under his own power and moves thanks to a couple of handles and arm rests built into the back.

Heath spent three months building the costume, a process that involved over 100 hours of work. To replicate the computer readout displays on the front of the bot, he used two iPads. The result is a very shiny costume that is extremely faithful to the movie robot. Heath built the costume to take to fan conventions, where it will certainly stand out from the usual cosplay crowd.

A build video hints at the massive amount of work that went into the project, as well as how ill-suited the outfit is for use on an escalator.