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Meet R2-J1: R2-D2’s Japanese Cousin

Richard Napier Inoue had a dream. He dreamt that he had built a fully functioning R2-D2 robot. When he told people about this dream, however, everyone laughed at him (after all, the first R2-D2 was not a real robot, but a man in a robot suit). Thus was born Richard’s determination to build his own R2-D2, called R2-J1.

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We caught up with Richard, an American residing in Fukuoka, when he took R2-J1 for a walk in Tenjin (much to the delight of the Saturday shoppers!).

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He told us that it took $30,000, 110 kg of aluminium, and four years to build R2-J1, but he was finally finished on Nov. 20, 2014. And not only can he move and beep just like the real R2-D2, but he can play and dance to over 400 sounds and songs (like Peanut Butter Jelly Time).

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This last fact was particularly exciting for the children lucky enough to be passing Iwataya that day, and they crowded round the dancing robot, touching him and chasing him.

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But Richard says that despite all the attention his robot is receiving from fans of Star Wars, robot-lovers and kids both young and old, his best memory of their journey together is R2-J1’s first steps. The process was long, and he even had to design his own technology (including “stealth controllers”, which are drawing interest from several tech companies), but seeing the little mechanical guy finally begin to maneuver was a moment of pure joy.

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To stay up-to-date with R2-J1s movements, you can follow him on Twitter @D2R2d2japan.

Art & Culture
Published: Oct 20, 2015 / Last Updated: Apr 1, 2016