In the original Star Wars trilogy, Yoda was a singular entity — it was never shown whether other members of Yoda’s species even existed. Then, when the prequels came along, we found out that there were indeed others when Yaddle, a female of the Yoda species, appeared in The Phantom Menace. Still, we were never told what that species is called, how many Yodas have lived, where they come from, or what their lifecycle is like. With the release of The Mandalorian, we were introduced to Baby Yoda. Even if Baby Yoda’s existence didn’t explain anything, it instantly became a fan favorite. To celebrate the second season of The Mandalorian, Manuel Ahumada built a robot Baby Yoda that uses AI to follow him around.
Baby Yoda’s primary draw is, of course, its absurd level of cuteness. Naturally, many Baby Yoda toys have been produced since the release of The Mandalorian. Ahumada started this build with one of those toys, which appears to be one of the officially-licensed variants that are sold through many retailers. That toy has a rigid plastic head and hands, with a plushy body covered by Baby Yoda’s adorable little cloak. It was perfect for building a robot, because Ahumada could mount the head and hands to a motorized frame and cover the mechanical bits with the cloak. That frame was designed in Autodesk Fusion 360 CAD software and then 3D-printed. The base has an RC car-style four wheel drive system, as well as actuators to move Baby Yoda’s arms, to pivot its body, and to tilt its head like a curious puppy.
Those motors are all controlled by a Raspberry Pi through an Adafruit motor driver board. Sensors are monitored by an Arduino Pro Micro. A wireless gamepad can be used to control the Baby Yoda robot manually, but Ahumada also integrated two other control modes. The first is a record and playback mode, which lets Ahumada perform a series of actions that can be stored and repeated later on. The second is an autonomous mode that works using artificial intelligence machine learning models that work on a smartphone through Intel’s OpenBot software. In this mode, a camera is used to recognize and track a person. The appropriate movement commands are then sent to the motor driver so that Baby Yoda will follow that person — just like how the real Baby Yoda follows around the eponymous Mandalorian. It is just as delightful as it sounds and this build is a fantastic homage to the best Star Wars TV show in history.