Go interstellar and build your own replica TARS robot

Interstellar fan Charlie Diaz would argue that TARS is one of the most iconic movie robots in the history of cinema. He was so inspired by its design that he set about making his own mini replica.

TARS rolling across the water in the movie Interstellar
TARS can walk on water

TARS is one of four former U.S. Marine Corps tactical robots. It was programmed to be the witty one in the foursome, making it a well suited, if sassy, companion for the humans in the crew.

A sleek shiny TARS trotting along a dark corridor
But this jaunty gait is my favourite

Iconic design

It may look like four shiny cuboids just trotting along, but in his project post, Charlie explains the secret genius behind the seemingly simple design:

“At a glance, TARS appears to be a rather simple walking robot, consisting of only two legs, each with a single joint. Upon closer inspection one can find a hidden translational degree of freedom near the leg joints, responsible for creating clearance for the legs as they rotate past the center torso, or vice versa.”

It’s this element that allows the robot to propel itself forward without getting stuck on its own feet.

TARS version 1 sat on a desk under a lamp. This one is more shiny and has TARS written in big yellow letters down the side of its centre panel
TARS 1 featuring Raspberry Pi 3

While the real TARS can separate its central torso block into two pieces, Charlie kept his replicas more simple, featuring just the one torso piece supported by two legs.

Replica hardware

Alterations

Version three (pictured below) appears to have a more matte finish than Charlie’s first attempt. The first one has sheet aluminium wrapped around the 3D-printed parts, which he notes were very heavy, making it difficult for the robot to walk very far. Version one also housed heavy NiMH batteries, which were swapped out for a lighter LiPo battery pack.

TARS version 3 replica on display at Open Sauce 2023
Turns out Charlie was at Open Sauce too!
Here is TARS 3 having a walk around its playpen at the event

This latest version has dual robotic arms which it can use to interact with its environment. No word on how many more iterations Charlie has in mind, but he has made all the CAD files and code available to anyone else who wants to build their own replica.

Full-size fun

Charlie is so serious about this TARS business that he also built a full-sized replica. That is quite the Halloween costume.

Charlie operating his human-sized TARS replica like a pupeteer
Charlie’s elbow peeking out on the left of the full-scale replica gives you an idea of its size

The original robots were operated on the film set just like Charlie is puppeteering his full-size replica above. Fun fact: the actor Bill Irwin, who voiced TARS, physically operated the 200-pound robot throughout filming. He also happens to play Mr. Noodle on Sesame Street. We call that range, dahling.

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Heron avatar

Fantastic work, Charlie! The engineering prowess behind your TARS replica is genuinely impressive. Swapping out heavy NiMH batteries for lighter LiPo ones is a smart move for mobility.

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