Gary Taylor is a fourth year computer science student at Abertay University who came across what is believed to be an original K9 model from the TV series. The character originally voiced by John Leeson made his first Doctor Who appearance in the 1977 serial “The Invisible Enemy.”
The university bought the Doctor’s iconic companion from the BBC during the 2011-2012 academic year, when Auntie Beeb apparently sold off a dozen of them. Taylor himself came across the damaged robot in September of last year after it was neglected for years.
Being a Doctor Who fan, bringing K9 back to life became his mission. What he did was to rebuild K9 as an “autonomous obstacle-avoiding mapping robot” controlled by his smartphone with the help of an app Taylor created.
“He had a lot of water damage from a roof leak so all the electrics in him had just fried,” Taylor told The Courier in an interview. “He was literally just a shell. He was just sitting, doing nothing. I don’t think anyone had even tried really to get him back up and running. Not effectively.”
The project to rebuild K9 came about when it was pitched to him as an honours project by his supervisors.
“It all started just as an honours idea that came out,” Taylor said. “It was pitched to me by a bunch of supervisors. As soon as I heard the idea I was so keen to get on to it. Literally on that day I emailed the supervisor going: ‘I have got to do this.’ I love robotics and I love programming and I love dogs and I love Doctor Who. It’s a good mix of everything to keep me really invested in the whole thing throughout the whole project.”
To whip K9 back into shape, Taylor had to write almost 15,000 lines of computer code, fitting the robot with a gyroscope, ultrasound sensors as well as adding new boards, motors, shields and drives. “It was a lot of work,” Taylor added. “If it wasn’t for the university lecturers helping me and guiding me along the way and showing me how to do things I’d be nowhere near finished.”
Taylor also wants to make K9 speak with the character’s original voice, first portrayed by Leeson. The restored K9 model will be unveiled during today's Abertay’s Digital Graduate Show... if you happen to be in the Dundee, UK area.