Tag Archives: interactive r2

Interactive Droid Spotted Testing at Disneyland!

Last week, visitors to Disneyland’s Launch Bay were treated to a new attraction: an interactive droid called Jake.

The small trashcan-sized droid is able to move on its own, interact with guests, and even sync with controls panels like R2-D2, triggering a pre-scripted sequence.

According to the droid’s handler, Jake is supposedly “100% independent and moves freely around” on his own. So does this mean we’ll get fully autonomous droids in the upcoming Star Wars Disney park?

Not quite.

There are two massive hurdles before we can get a feisty R2 that rolls on his own: cost and safety.


The reality is, having a remote operator is less expensive than developing a new autonomous system for the droid. While Tesla and Google are making huge strides in autonomous path-finding for self-driving cars (where there’s a HUGE market), Disney may not be keen to do the same for what’s essentially an amusement park prop.

There are two elements to costumed characters at Disney parks: the character itself and a handler. Notice how these pair of stormtroopers are followed by a low-key handler.

This setup is easily translated to a droid. Instead of being in costume, the “character” is a remote operator controlling the droid from a central station, while the handler ensures the safety of the prop as well as surrounding guests.

To reduce costs, Disney can even combine the operator and handler in one. Instead of controlling the droid from a remote station, the handler can use a concealed remote to “guide” it around. Rather than looking like a typical RC remote control with antenna, it could be similar to the remote for Spin Master’s upcoming BB-8:

prop master bb8.jpg


Back in 2008, Disney and Pixar debuted a full-sized WALL-E robot for amusement parks. However, the sheer weight of the 700 lb. animatronic, coupled with the feet-crushing potential of its its tank treads, didn’t make WALL-E a viable long-term attraction.

Since then, Disney seems to have learned. Jake’s small size and weight reduce the chances of bowling people over, while its Roomba-like design shields its wheels from crushed toe lawsuits.

However, the danger comes not from Jake itself but from guests. Little kids will want to hug, pat and roughhouse droids, so an autonomous droid must still be able to stop and handle these unpredictable interactions.

Having said that, how WILL a truly autonomous droid function? There are two ways:

1. Sensors – Jake and his future counterparts could be equipped with a suite of sensors to register interaction. A light / infrared sensor will allow him to “see” and navigate, an auditory sensor will pick-up sounds so he can react appropriately, and pressure-sensitive sensors on the dome and metal skin will register contact like pats and hugs.

Such sensors have long been used in Star Wars toys, like the Interactive R2-D2 and Storytelling Yoda from 2005.

2. GPS / pre-programmed navigation – Alternatively, Jake could be programmed with a virtual layout of the park. To get around, he could use either GPS to pinpoint his location, or sensors embedded in the surroundings to help him navigate. Such technology is being used in consumer drones like Parrot’s AR and DJI, enabling the drones to fly to a set of coordinates and return home autonomously.

Whatever the case, a moving, beeping interactive droid will surely make the Star Wars experience more fun and authentic. We can’t wait to see what Disney will come up with!

Meanwhile, Stormtrooper Larry will stick to his interactive R2.

interactive r2d2 droid disneyland.JPG


Why the Star Wars Saga May be a Big, Fat LIE

Back in 2003 during the production of Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, George Lucas revealed a crazy insight: R2-D2 was actually the narrator of the entire Star Wars saga.
journal of the whills
The original story of Luke Starkiller as recounted in the Journal of the Whills

According to ol’ George:

  • The Star Wars films are actually told from Artoo’s recollection, for inclusion in the Journal of the Whills, a record of notable events that shaped galactic history.
  • Artoo relayed the events of the original trilogy and the prequels to the Keeper of the Whill, about 100 years after the Battle of Endor.

From Gizmodo:

“The entire story of Star Wars is actually being recounted to the keeper of the Journal of the Whills—remember that?—a hundred years after the events of Return of the Jedi by none other than R2-D2.”

What are the implications? If the movies are actually narrated by R2-D2, and they were recorded long after they happened, then the whole Star Wars saga as we know it may not be accurate.

Here’s why.

1. Only Artoo doesn’t have flaws

The entire saga is filled with characters who are flawed in their own way. We have Luke, the powerful but brash Jedi; Leia, the headstrong but cold Princess; and Han, the con man/smuggler with a heart of gold.

Even the supporting characters are flawed. Chewie is prone to Wookiee temper, C3P0 is a chronic worrier, Obi-Wan lied, Yoda’s belief in the Jedi dogma was inflexible, and the Emperor’s overconfidence led to his demise.

Guess who was the only character not to have ANY flaw in any of the episodes? That’s right — R2-D2. The narrator of the saga is portrayed as loyal, brave, trustworthy, staunchly independent, and even adorable for a droid. If he does have a flaw, it’s only that we can’t understand his beeps and whistles.

r2d2 girls
He also got more girls than Han and Lando combined.

2. Artoo saved everyone numerous times

Throughout the story arc, everyone gets to have a turn at saving the day.

Princess Leia saved her would-be rescuers by finding a way out of the detention level. Obi-Wan sacrificed himself to allow the Falcon to escape. Han’s intervention saved Luke twice. And of course, we have the biggest galaxy savers of the bunch, the Skywalkers. The dad-son duo is responsible for winning pod races, blowing up droid control ships, and destroying Death Stars.

Out of all the supporting cast, there is only one character who can match their record for saving the day: R2-D2.

  • Episode I: Artoo successfully repaired the Naboo royal starship’s shields, saving everyone from the Trade Federation blockade.
  • Episode II: Stopped Padme from being melted to death in the Geonosis droid factory
  • Episode III: Destroyed the buzz droids that were tearing up Anakin’s fighter
  • Episode IV: Carried the Death Star plans all the way to the Rebellion, got Luke and Obi-wan together, and saved everyone from death by trash compactor
  • Episode V: Repaired the Falcon’s sabotaged hyperdrive, allowing the ship to escape from Cloud City and the Executor fleet
  • Episode VI: Smuggled Luke’s lightsaber for the pivotal fight over the Pit of Carkoon, and unchained Leia from the dead body of Jabba the Hutt before everything exploded.
r2d2 flying
And like James Bond, he has a convenient gadget for every plot dilemma.

Other than the Skywalkers, no one else comes close to saving the day in both the Clone Wars and the Galactic Civil War. Heck, when it comes to heroics, Artoo even beats Jedi Master Yoda, who only came to the rescue twice in Episode II then got his ass kicked by Palpatine in III!

Then again, it just so happens that the entire Star Wars saga, including Artoo’s numerous heroics, are told from his point of view.

3. Artoo “died” several times, but always survived

Don’t you find it just a little suspicious that Artoo was damaged on several instances, yet he always seemed to bounce back intact?

The first was when Luke’s X-wing was hit during the Death Star dogfight. A volley from Darth Vader’s fighter hit Artoo directly on the dome — Luke even says “I’ve lost Artoo”. Yet he was back up and fully functional during the victory ceremony.

r2 death 1

The second time was in Dagobah when Artoo sank in the fetid swamp. He was eaten up by a swamp monster, and then spat back out, whole and damage-free.

r2 death 2

Finally, Artoo suffered a direct hit from stormtroopers during the Battle for Endor, causing him to short-circuit. Threepio even wailed, “Why did you have to be so brave?” And yet that very same night, Artoo was back up and running in time for the Ew0k victory party.



So what does this mean? I’m not saying that R2-D2 is flat-out lying. I’m just saying that his recollection of events may not be all that accurate. After all, it’s been over a hundred years. And he always seemed to save the day. And he never seemed to die.

Think of the possibilities.

What if a different, unknown droid actually saved the royal starship in Episode I, but only Artoo survived to reap the glory? What if C-3PO played a deadly prank on snowtroopers during the Battle of Hoth, but Artoo omitted it out of respect for his droid buddy? And what if critical parts of the saga either didn’t happen at all or happened very differently, since Artoo wasn’t around to see them?

c3po wampa.gif
One of the many historical events that Artoo conveniently “forgot

Perhaps Boba Fett was actually a bad-ass, and Artoo just made him seem like a total wuss. Perhaps Porkins really survived, and died later of diabetes. Maybe Obi-Wan wasn’t dumb enough to trust the entire future of the Jedi to two babies, and sired some of his own. Maybe Darth Vader wasn’t really redeemed, but was killed by Luke before he faced off against the Emperor. Han actually did shoot first, and didn’t even leave a tip.

And maybe, just maybe, a certain Gungan didn’t really exist.

That’d be one of the upsides of having a dirty, lying astromech droid called R2-D2.

R2D2 drinking

Want more mind-blowing Star Wars insights? Then guess who killed Finn’s stormtrooper buddy on Jakku!