This Animatronic BD-1 Makes for a Fantastic Star Wars-Themed Companion Robot

Dave Darko decided to create an animatronic version of the BD-1 droid from Star Wars: The Fallen Order as a shoulder-mounted bot.

I’m going to catch flak for this statement, but the Star Wars franchise is likely only as popular as it is because of the droids and those sweet lightsabers. Other than those and the stellar special effects, there really wasn’t a lot to separate the first Star Wars movie from all of the other space operas of the era. But, as luck would have it, lightsabers turned out to be the coolest weapons in the history of sci-fi and droids make for lovable and memorable characters. Those droid characters are even an important part of video games like Star Wars: The Fallen Order. Dave Darko decided to build an animatronic version of the BD-1 droid from that game as a companion robot.

The BD-1 model droid hasn’t appeared in any of the Star Wars films, but it is an important character in the Star Wars: The Fallen Order video game. It was reportedly inspired by Snoopy and Woodstock, characters from Charles Schulz’s Peanutsseries, and is predictably adorable. It resembles a mix between a tiny AT-ST and the titular robot from Pixar’s WALL-E, and has the cute personality to match. Basically, it’s the perfect companion robot. Darko put the effort into bringing BD-1 to life, complete with many of the droid’s capabilities from the game.

This BD-1 can’t walk around, but it can sit on your shoulder — a companion robot feature popularized by Hackster’s own Alex Glow. The robot’s functions are controlled by a Raspberry Pi 4 single-board computer, an Arduino Leonardo, and an Arduino Nano 33 IoT board. The body is almost entirely 3D-printed. The LED display was made with a custom circuit board containing a large array of WS2812B individually-addressable RGB LEDs. It’s capable of moving its arms and the antennas on its head. It can “speak” like a BD-1 should via a speaker. It can even launch a prop med pack up into the air. But this robot’s best feature is the small projector that is built into an eye, which lets it display holograms (okay, just regular video). This project was a frankly massive undertaking, and we’re really impressed with what Darko was able to achieve with his BD-1 companion robot.

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