Lost In Space Gets 3D Printing Right

When it has become so common for movies and television to hyper-sensationalize engineering, and to just plain get things wrong, here’s a breath of fresh air. There’s a Sci-Fi show out right now that wove 3D printing into the story line in a way that is correct, unforced, and a fitting complement to that fictional world.

With the amount of original content Netflix is pumping out anymore, you may have missed the fact that they’ve recently released a reboot of the classic Lost in Space series from the 1960’s. Sorry LeBlanc fans, this new take on the space traveling Robinson family pretends the 1998 movie never happened, as have most people. It follows the family from their days on Earth until they get properly lost in space as the title would indicate, and is probably most notable for the exceptional art direction and special effects work that’s closer to Interstellar than the campy effects of yesteryear.

But fear not, Dear Reader. This is not a review of the show. To that end, I’ll come right out and say that Lost in Space is overall a rather mediocre show. It’s certainly gorgeous, but the story lines and dialog are like something out of a fan film. It’s overly drawn out, and in the end doesn’t progress the overarching story nearly as much as you’d expect. The robot is pretty sick, though.

No, this article is not about the show as a whole. It’s about one very specific element of the show that was so well done I’m still thinking about it a month later: its use of 3D printing. In Lost in Space, the 3D printer aboard the Jupiter 2 is almost a character itself. Nearly every member of the main cast has some kind of interaction with it, and it’s directly involved in several major plot developments during the season’s rather brisk ten episode run.

I’ve never seen a show or movie that not only featured 3D printing as such a major theme, but that also did it so well. It’s perhaps the most realistic portrayal of 3D printing to date, but it’s also a plausible depiction of what 3D printing could look like in the relatively near future. It’s not perfect by any means, but I’d be exceptionally interested to hear if anyone can point out anything better.

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Take Robby Home

Ok, we’ll stipulate it right up front: this isn’t a hack. But you have to admit, it would make a fine starting point for a truly epic one. Robby the Robot — the robot from the 1956 movie Forbidden Planet is up for sale. Well, technically he isn’t so much a robot as he is a suit with some animatronics. The auction lot includes Robby, his (non-functioning) vehicle, a control panel, and some other accouterments. If you have deep pockets, you’ll need to bid before November 21.

MGM reportedly spent $125,000 on Robby which was a crazy amount of money in the 1950s. In today’s currency, that would be well over a million bucks. They got their money’s worth, though, as Robby appeared in movies and TV shows including Lost in Space and several episodes of the Twilight Zone. He even made a motionless cameo on The Big Bang Theory.

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Danger, Will Robinson: Sweet B9 Build

3If you’ve ever seen “Lost in Space” in Portuguese, you’d definitely recognize the phrases that [Everaldo]’s B9 robot reads off of the SD card inside its belly. If not, you can check out the video below and learn such important phrases as “Warning! Alien approaching.” or “The planet’s breaking up” (we presume). Or head over to [Everaldo]’s website and check out the great model build log. And while you’re there, check out his model TRS80 too.)

There’s a lot of solid model-building going on here, but hidden inside the pretty exterior is some good old-fashioned hacking. Once the audio was stored on the SD card, [Everaldo] simply soldered it straight into the project. There’s also an IR daughterboard that drives the robot, while blinky lights and servo motors bring it to life. We want one for our desk!

If you haven’t made an IR-remote-based project, you really should. It’s still among the most hackable of methods to transmit data to or from a microcontroller, while making use of one of those superfluous IR remotes you have kicking around the house. If you’re short on inspiration, and not a model-builder, check out this Hacklet dedicated to IR, or our favorite smart-home(r) device of all time.

Are you thinking what we’re thinking? This would make an excellent entry in the Hackaday Sci-Fi contest which is accepting entries through March 6th.

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BAMF2010: Look Sir, Droids!

Ask any engineer what originally sparked their interest in technology, and almost universally the response will be a Hollywood film or TV robot — Star Wars’ R2-D2, the B9 robot from Lost in Space, or Short Circuit’s Johnny 5, to name a few. Engineers need a creative outlet too, and some pay homage to their inspirations by building elaborate reproductions. At this year’s Maker Faire, droid-builders had their own corner in the center hall, their work ranging from humble craft materials to ’bots surpassing their film counterparts in detail and workmanship.

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