This is kinda cool, and timed just right with the launch of Star Wars Episode III – The University of Pisa (no, it’s not a training ground for Dominos!) have been working on a prototype of R2D2. This will be presented in Livorno on May 19th during the presentation of Episode III.
It's somehow taller (1.5 mt – about 4.5 ft) but walks (with 2 or 3 legs) and beeps like the original, and flees from people holding light sabres! Oh, and comes with bluetooth and usb. (ed – surely the original also had Bluetooth and USB ??)
The robot actually is the resulting prototype of a research project in creating a kind of slave or companion robot with a friendly interface. What's better than a worldwide icon that in 28 years of honored service ingnited the imagination of at least two generations?
In the mind of the researchers, this kind of robot could be used in to be used in museums, hospitals, or maybe even at home. The budget for the whole thing was about 50k euros.
More information is available here – Interestingly, this was being discussed by one of the Microsoft Research guys recently, so I wouldn’t be surprised that the robot is running on Microsoft technologies…