Facebook Just Patented a Secret Robot That's Basically R2-D2

Thursday, 08 March 2018 - 11:21AM
Thursday, 08 March 2018 - 11:21AM
Facebook Just Patented a Secret Robot That's Basically R2-D2
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Image credit: YouTube/Outer Places
Star Wars and Mark Zuckerberg fans rejoice: Facebook has patented R2-D2.

Admittedly, this robot isn't quite the same as the classic droid that once got in a fight with Yoda, but the description of the patent sounds exactly like an astromech from George Lucas' Galaxy Far, Far Away.

According to Brad Bennett of MobileSyrup, the patent describes "a self-balancing robot that transitions from three wheels to a standing two-wheeled position". Sound familiar?

Unfortunately, it seems that this droid won't be designed to slice computers or fix broken X-Wings - instead, the sturdy tripod design will be used (initially at least) for lifting heavy loads. There's been an ongoing tech race between companies like Segway and 90fun to create a two-legged wheeled robot that can carry heavy stuff, but Bennett claims that Facebook's solution essentially sidesteps the challenge of having a wobbly robot balancing while lifting cargo:

Opening quote
"Companies like Segway and 90fun have had moderate success trying to create two-wheeled robots that can carry things, but Facebook's tactic of adding another wheel for stability could be the breakthrough needed to make this use case work."
Closing quote

Admittedly, the diagram in Facebook's patent doesn't look an awful lot like R2D2, which does feel like a wasted opportunity, but, then with Disney owning Artoo's likeness, the company can't exactly copy the famous astromech exactly.

Just imagine this somewhat slender robot covered in the Facebook classic colors of blue and white, and the R2D2 appearance shines through.

Of course, not every piece of tech that's own by Facebook is necessarily launched with the social media company's branding. The Oculus Rift, for example, was purchased outright by Facebook following a successful Kickstarter (apparently that's a backer reward that wasn't listed on the initial project page), but the device didn't come in Facebook's signature colors (not that this would have helped its sales figures).

There is one more thing that tech fans and sci-fi nerds should know about Facebook's new robot which makes the project feel a little more concerning.

According to the official patent, the Self-Balancing Robot that totally isn't R2D2 (but kind of is) was initially conceived and created by Scott C Wiley.

A man named Wiley making a new robot? What could possibly go wrong?