Build An Easy Replica Of HAL 9000

Adafruit’s PropMaker Feather is a microcontroller board designed specifically for building props with electronic features. Thus, what better way to show it off than by building a nifty replica of the most menacing AI ever to roam this solar system? That’s right, it’s the Adafruit HAL9000 build!

Following the 80/20 rule, this version is intended to be reasonably authentic while remaining affordable and easy to build. It’s built around Adafruit’s existing Massive Red Arcade Button, which looks like a decent simulacra of HAL9000’s foreboding, perceptive lens. It’s placed in a case assembled from laser-cut acrylic, with a neat inkjet-printed label on top. Where previously, sound effects were courtesy of an Arduino Uno with a Wave Shield, this version uses the PropMaker Feather, based on the RP2040, instead. It’s actually possible to assemble with zero soldering thanks to quick-connect wires and screw terminals on the PropMaker Feather.

Fundamentally, if you’re building a simple prop that needs audio or LEDs, the PropMaker Feather could be a useful tool for the job. Alternatively, consider building a HAL replica with more capability, like controlling your home. Just don’t give it too much responsibility—we all know how that ends. Video after the break.

31 thoughts on “Build An Easy Replica Of HAL 9000

  1. Lovely gadget! I’m always impressed with the stuff Adafruit comes up with.

    I certainly understand why they want the gadget to change light intensity while speaking as it is otherwise rather dull and boring … it is just that the original HAL 9000 *was* rather dull and boring (effect-wise) with only the domed lens and the red ring of light around the yellow centre — and absolutely no change in intensity. (Sorry to be a spoil-sport.)

    1. That’d be the greatest thing – have it as a voice assistant but respond to literally every request with “I’m afraid I can’t do that Dave”. Especially if you’re not Dave.

  2. I remember, in the 2001/2010 books, Dr. Chandrasekhar(not Dr. Chandra in 2010 movie), mentioning the specs of HAL-9000, and how our mobile phones of today exceed these specs. The same is true of the ships’ computers described in the Star Trek Technical Manuals. I’m waiting for the Majel Barrett AI voice for our stuff. Kind of like the Arnuld Braunschweiger car GPS voice. “Torn left, DO IT! DO IT NOW!” “You have uhrived at your destunashun, get to duh choppah!”, or the guy that did the Alec Guinness’s Obi Wan Force-ghost character talking to Luke about the “good old days” with Ashoka. Good stuff!

    Of course, they also left out a whole plot point of a rival Chinese mission in the movie, so…

    1. Yes, we’ve come far since.
      Though the smartphones shouldn’t be overestimated, maybe.
      There are other factors than raw speed (throughput).
      Just take the human brain. It’s very slow, yet incredibly powerful.

  3. Adafruit may be fine for hobbyists. They have shown themselves multiple times in my own development process to be completely unconcerned with professionalism, delivery dates, or anything else that someone attempting to use their stuff for anything other than personal toys would be concerned with. The last straw came when I called to find out when my order would ship and was told it had been cancelled. I’ll never use them again. YMMV.

  4. This is a great build. I wish the voice was smoother and more Hal like but this is still good. Now the next one would be to build the “ball speaker” with the voice of Colossus/Guardian. Or we can wait for AI to assume the role of “the voice of world control”…

    1. Props are items created for a movie, that ‘look’ like a computer, motor, panel, warp drive, switch, door, etc. They try to add ‘realism’ to a movie set, but don’t really do anything.

  5. Neat! Simple fun build! Thanks for sharing.

    Mine is sitting on my work bench. I scaled the prop to match the 3″ arcade button so quite large. The face and sides of mine were designed in freeCad and plywood cut with my son’s laser cutter, so each face is one piece. Back left open. Sits against the wall on bench. I used a fine mesh screen to fill the bottom cutout. Edged with balsa stringers. Then painted. The hal-9000 tag at top was 3D printed (the files was got of Thingiverse) . The arcade button was painted. The difference from above is I painted the button with Clear Smoke (transparent), so gives it a dark ‘lens’ affect. I then cut a LED sized hole in the back of button’s white defuser plate to hold a red LED. Came out really really well. Simply powered with a RPI Pico W of course placed in a screw down terminal block breakout board made for the Pico. There is a ‘lot’ of room in the box (12″ x 5″ x 4″ ), so I also added a relay to control the room lights from it. Still tons of room for other purposes if I can come up with ’em :) !

  6. Why not raise the stakes plus make the vocal responses widely variable?
    Build HAL into your restroom/toilet door.
    Then crowd-source the decision making to the internet!

    “Open the poo bay door please HAL”

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