Despite a less-than-stellar box office, Solo: A Star Wars Story is still making waves across the cultural universe. For many viewers, one of the highlights is the quirky, enlightened L3-37, the self-made droid and navigator to Lando Calrissian, played with gusto by actress Phoebe Waller-Bridge. With a habit of speaking her mind and her heartfelt advocacy for mechanicals, it would take a special kind of Star Wars fan to keep her around full-time.
That is where designer Patrick Stefanski comes in. In an ambitious custom-built project on his Patchbots channel on YouTube, Stefanski managed to run Amazon Alexa through a remarkably lifelike, 3D-printed customization of L3’s head.
With technical workarounds — L3 can “converse” with people via a Raspberry Pi3 mini-computer running the Alexa software — Stefanski managed to create a clever and cool reproduction of the droid that some are calling “the soul of Solo.” The animated robot even manages to retain some of the character’s impetuous attitude. Stefanski set the grumpy robot’s wake word to “Hey, L3,” to which a British-inflected Alexa snaps back, “Whut?!”
In addition to walking viewers through his creative process, Stefanski also helpfully lists all of the devices, products, servos and other ingredients of his sassy robot, as well as links to Alexa language and LED tutorials.
Some of Stefanski’s other projects have included a working, mobile BB-8 droid, a replica of Chopper from Star Wars: Rebels, and cosplay items related to Star Wars: The Clone Wars.
While he’s a huge Star Wars fan in general, the inspiration for his animated droid came when he stumbled upon a random YouTube video that depicted an Echo Dot paired with a novelty talking fish.
“I originally wrote off the idea of doing a 3D-printed L3 project when I first saw her in a teaser trailer,” Stefanski told SyFy Wire. “Here is a six- or seven-foot walking humanoid robot with tons of articulation and a ton of personality. What could I possibly do with that? Some builders tried to tackle K2-SO, a very similar droid from the Rogue One movie, and ended up with a six-foot static mannequin. That’s cool and all but, me, I’m all about the motors and the electronics and the motion.”
One of the coolest things about Stefanski’s robot is the obvious affection he has for the character, a notion that made him work hard to make his L3 more operational than Alexa.
“The hardest part was making this robot something better than just an Alexa stuck inside a 3D-printed model,” Stefanski said. “I wanted it to have its own character, and I wanted that character to resemble the movie character as much as possible.”