If you’re looking to strike fear into the hearts of some “Rebel scum” while simultaneously raining down laser-fire and carrying loads of Imperial troops across harsh terrain, the AT-AT is the giant, four-legged ground transport for you. The AT-ATs (or All-Terrain Armored Transports) first appeared in Episode V during the snowy Battle of Hoth, and now, thanks to software engineer and tinkerer Dave Stein, you can build a functioning (albeit quite scaled down) version of your own.
The goal of Stein’s AT-AT Project was to “take [his] old beat-up AT-AT Walker and make it walk.” Which essentially means that he wanted to use his tech know-how and some prosumer-friendly software and hardware components to take one of his childhood Star Wars toys, a 1981 Kenner AT-AT, and bring it to life.
This is why we love engineers.
Stein accomplished his goal using, among a handful of other various hardware and software components, an Xbox 360 controller and an Arduino Uno. For those who aren’t familiar with it, the Arduino Uno is “an open-source prototyping platform based on easy-to-use software and hardware.” In other words, the Arduino Uno is a computing board that takes inputs, like a light on a sensor or the push of a button or even a tweet, and turns them into outputs, like activating a motor or LED light.
The result of Stein’s handiwork is an AT-AT about as large as a medium-sized dog, which can walk and move its head (presumably scanning for the “main generator”) based on commands given by the Xbox controller wired into it. And although these seem like simple operations for a machine to perform, retrofitting a toy from 1981 to allow its four legs to move in the proper sequence is probably no easy feat (pun, as always, intended).
Moving forward, Stein would like to make further improvements to his AT-AT by making it wirelessly controlled, mounting a camera on it, and adding movement to the cannons on the sides and underneath its head. You can check out the most up-to-date version of Stein’s AT-AT in the video above, or various stages of its construction in the videos below. All of the parts (including an original 1981 Kenner AT-AT) can be purchased for a few hundred bucks. Or you can buy something similar from Toys “R” Us if you’re in a hurry to transport some very tiny Stormtroopers.
What do you think about Stein’s functional AT-AT? Do you think the AT-AT will make an appearance in The Force Awakens, or does it fall too easily to the tripping nuisance of power harpoons? Let us know in the comments section below!
HT: prosthetic knowledge
Images: Dave Stein / The AT-AT Project