TARS Replica

Students in Sweden made a version of Interstellar's TARS robot that actually walks

Contributed by
Jun 1, 2018

Christopher Nolan's Interstellar is a film full of big ideas, from relativity to the enduring connections of family across time and space, but it's also a film full of intriguing details. Even if you're not a huge fan of Nolan's attempt at ambitious 2001-inspired science fiction, there's a good chance you came away from the film with at least one memorable image, and there's a good chance that one of the things you remember most is the robots.

For the voyage to save humanity at the heart of the film, Nolan and his crew designed a pair of bots — TARS and CASE — to accompany Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), Brand (Anne Hathaway), and the other astronauts, but rather than constructing something humanoid, they took  a more minimalist approach. The robots often appear to be little more than giant metal rectangles with display screens on them, but when it's time for them to move they have several joints that allow them to pivot into segments. It's a rather elegant take on advanced robotics that's so removed from typical C-3PO-style designs that it's hard to forget, so much so that a group of students decided to see if they could replicate it.

According to Make, the TARS replica you're about to see was designed and built by a group of students working on their bachelor project at the Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden. While it doesn't talk like TARS, and doesn't share many of the robot's convertible abilities, the goal of the project was to see if the robot's method of walking — shifting weight between two outer sections and two inner sections — could be replicated. The students started with a computer simulation, then constructed the robot. Though they admit that they wish they would had more time to implement a proper control system so TARS would have a smoother gait, they still managed to create a very close approximation of the film version. Check it out.

Yes, it's a bit wobbly, it has some exposed machinery, and it's smaller than the version in the film, but these students still gave us the closest thing we've seen in real life (the TARS and CASE robots in the film were movie magic) to Interstellar's take on robotics. Now we just have to give them time to modify it so it can quickly and seamlessly maneuver across water.

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