Techthelead chat with Matt Denton, one of the brains behind the real-life, working version of BB-8 that you will have seen gracing red carpets around the world since 2015.
TTL: The BB8 robot you created for the Star Wars red carpet was most likely a dream come true for you, since you said that you have seen Star Wars as a source of inspiration. Back then, no one knew how you made the robot a reality – what were the biggest difficulties you faced while building it?
MD: The red carpet BB-8 was a huge challenge for myself and Josh Lee, who was the principal mechanical engineer for the project. We both had some idea of how it might work, but had not tried anything in practice, so we decided to just start making it and see where it led.
There were other ball-based robot around at the time, but none with an external head! The more we got into the project the further we pushed our initial goals.
For example, our first version was not going to have any lights within the body, and it wouldn’t be able to turn on the spot, but during the design process we had a couple of eureka moments in which we thought we could add these functions in.
The closer the functionality our red carpet BB-8 had to the film BB-8 the better, as it would help to sell that magical moment when it appeared on stage for the first time. In the end we created something that was so close it could be filmed on!