Some people are just more crafty than others. Fortunately, some of those people are also Star Wars fans.
Meet Patrick Stefanski, a robotics expert, 3D-printing mage, and bonafide DIY artist. Now meet Patrick’s latest creation: an Alexa-powered L3-37 desktop droid. She can perform all the tasks of your everyday Alexa bot, but with the uppity sass of Lando’s Solo: A Star Wars Story co-pilot/love interest.
As you can see in the mind-blowing video below, this Amazon Voice Services controlled L3-37 answers to “Elthree,” responds with an apathetic “whut,” and even makes terrible dad jokes in an accusatory British accent.
The fact that Stefanski calls this a “simple project” at the beginning of the video is not just a testament to his intellect and skill, but also to his prior builds. Check out his YouTube channel, PatchBOTS, to get a sense of his other 3D printed robots and props, including functional BB-8 and C1-10P (Chopper) builds.
“If you check out my YouTube channel you'll see I LOVE making 3D printed Star Wars droid projects. To me they are the perfect subject matter for fun robotics experimentation,” Stefanski told SYFY WIRE via email. But while he initially was drawn to L3 (not in the Lando way, presumably), he didn’t think she would be a viable option for his DIY skills.
“I originally wrote off the idea of doing a 3D printed L3 project when I first saw her in a teaser trailer. Here is a 6- or 7-foot walking humanoid robot with tons of articulation and a ton of personality. What could I possibly do with that? Some builder's tried to tackle K2-SO, a very similar droid from the Rogue One movie, and ended up with a 6-foot static mannequin,” said Stefanski. “That's cool and all but, me, I'm all about the motors and the electronics and the motion.
"Then as luck would have it, the first time I heard L3-37 talk (a British female voice), it happened to be on the same day I saw a random YouTube video about someone hacking together an echo dot and one of those old ‘Billy the Bass’ novelty fish,” he continued. “My daughter is 3, and just starting to really get comfortable with Alexa. 'ALEXA PLAY FROZEN!!!!' is something you'll hear yelled in my house a lot! So, I started thinking of something fun to do with our Echo, and the idea of turning it into this new female robot from Star Wars kind of just fell into place.”
Granted, it takes a lot of work for something so complicated to fall into place. But the real trick was making his L3 more functional than Alexa. “The hardest part was making this robot something better than just an Alexa stuck inside a 3D printed model,” said Stefanski. “I wanted it to have it's own character, and I wanted that character to resemble the movie character as much as possible. The real 'a-ha!' moment was when I realized I could ditch the commercial Echo Dot and use a Software Development Kit from Amazon. Amazon gives away this development kit for free for people to build Amazon powered products.”
You can hear all about the impressive technical side of things in the video, but to get a sense of how Stefanski went about giving L3 character, look no further than the fact that though he started the project just based on the trailer, he made specific changes after seeing the film. “After I saw the movie, and realized this bot had some sass, I added in a "What?" response every time I asked her for something. Like she couldn’t be bothered with me. NOW it feels like L3. Alexa is long gone.”