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How One Man Made a R2-D2 Robot Powered by a Raspberry Pi

What proud nerd or nerd-lover wouldn't want to own their very own droid? With the latest instalment of the legendary Stars Wars franchise, The Force Awakens flooring critics and ripping up the box office, and Valentine's Day only just around the corner, there surely couldn't be a better time to retell the tale of the man who gave his girlfriend the ultimate geeky gift.

R2 D2 Robot

Surely the coolest birthday or Valentine's present

Yes, that's right - computer science PhD student Lingxiang Xiang wooed his honey with nothing less than a voice-controlled R2-D2, powered by the humble Raspberry Pi. Not only can the R2 that he created respond to voice commands in both English and Chinese, but it can also track faces and movement and even has a motor enabling it to do a fair bit of exploring itself.

Xiang's feat is all the more impressive given R2-D2 wasn't even 'the droid he was looking for' - at least at first. As he explained at the time the news of his marvellous creation went viral in January 2013, "My original plan was to build a Wall-E robot, which seems more cute and therefore might be more attractive to my girlfriend." Alas, the Wall-E toys that he could obtain weren't large enough to be hacked with Raspberry Pi, which necessitated his switch to - befittingly enough - one of the most beloved robots of all.

An amazing range of capabilities

However, the student still needed to deploy Jedi-like stealth to make the real-life droid a reality, adding: "It was a secret project. My girlfriend didn't know anything about it until her birthday. The first word I heard was 'WOW'. Then I came out from another room, told her it's her birthday gift, and taught her how to play with it. She said it's the best gift she ever received."

The R2-D2 is aided in its navigation by distance detection capabilities that help to avoid it colliding with obstacles, and even shares with the movie version of the droid the ability to record and play back audio messages, although sadly, it isn't able to produce holographic messages. Nonetheless, such a creation is yet another demonstration of the considerable potential of the credit card-sized Raspberry Pi single-board computer. At the very least, it is surely the coolest.

Now, it's your turn to create your own R2-D2

All of this will undoubtedly raise just one more question for many of our readers... how, exactly, can they create their own? Les Pounder of the Techradar website recently obliged with a useful tutorial, for which you will require a Raspberry Pi Zero or other Raspberry Pi such as the A+, B+ or Pi 2, plus various other equipment and software. Give it a go yourself - who knows, maybe you'll do an even better job of amazing your recipient than Lingxiang Xiang, if you don't end up keeping it yourself.

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