HAL-exa. Here's a replica of HAL 9000 with Alexa inside

Commentary: Is this a portent of the true future? Welcome to a replica that has real world uses. Perhaps too real.

Chris Matyszczyk
2 min read

 Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.


So authentic. So promising. So scary.

Master Replicas Group/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

Tech companies think they're so clever.

They build these artificial intelligence assistants and (try to) make them sound friendly, so that we don't suspect a thing.

When these machines are really descendants of HAL 9000. 

You know, the slightly less friendly intelligent assistant from "2001: A Space Odyssey."

Now, a company called Master Replicas Group has re-created HAL, but added Alexa functionality. 

Think of this as HAL-exa.

A short demonstration has already made its way to YouTube. And it's perfectly chilling.

Imagine one day asking Alexa to play you some Britney Spears and she says: "I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that."

Master Replicas Group CEO Steve Dymszo told me that even though the movie is 50 years old in April, Warner Bros. only began consumer product licensing in 2016.

"We had actually pursued them for about four years on and off with a proposal to do a line of 2001 replicas. It finally started getting some traction about 18 months ago. We finalized the details of our contract in late summer 2017," he said.

Of course, what's touching with this version is that this fine replica uses a Fire HD 10 tablet to drive it.

"We later decided to use a Fire HD tablet as the main processor, since everything is already in there, including the Amazon Echo platform," Dymszo told me.

He insisted, however, that HAL-exa was an authentic HAL 9000 "minus the killing-people-while-they-are-sleeping part."

I take his word for it, of course. For now.

"I would like to think that Alexa and Siri are the precursors of the HAL 9000 technology.  Unfortunately, a bit later than the movie predicted," Dymszo told me, somewhat worryingly.

Preorders for this fascinating item will begin in April. But is the ultimate goal to have HAL's voice replace Alexa's entirely?

"We are exploring options with Amazon to work with us on this product, but that is still in the very-early stages, so we can't comment much about that yet," said Dymszo.

Hey, HAL-exa, is it OK if I go to the store now?

Yes, Chris. But only if it's a Whole Foods.

Updated, 3:30 p.m. PT: An earlier version misidentified the Space Odyssey computer. The correct name is HAL 9000.

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