The sentient A.I. from Stanley Kubrick’s opus 2001: A Space Odyssey may soon find a place in your home reciting your favorite recipe or telling you about the weather. The malevolent HAL-9000, which recently topped our list of A.I. villains, has been recreated in loving detail by Master Replicas Group as a virtual assistant using Amazon’s Echo technology.
Master Replicas is not your typical tech startup. The original company produced a line of authentic but pricey sci-fi replica props from films such as Star Wars before closing its doors in 2008. The new company, comprised of several former employees, is launching with a line of officially licensed collectibles inspired by the 50th anniversary of 2001: A Space Odyssey.
The HAL-9000 features a Fire HD tablet as its base, and it uses Amazon’s voice assistant Alexa. At present, the device only responds to wake-up calls with lines from the movie, but CEO Steve Dymszo told The Verge that they hope to get Amazon’s approval to have it answer inquiries with HAL’s voice. “It’s the first prop replica that can be updated,” he said.
No price has been revealed, but Master Replicas will begin taking pre-orders in April, and is also launching a Kickstarter campaign. A special numbered series will be featured, from 1 to 2001. Production has already begun, and the company hope to begin shipping the devices this fall.
More and more virtual assistants are entering the market, with each one appealing to a different customer base. The most well-known are Alexa, Siri, Cortana, and whatever Google Assistant’s name is, but Samsung has its own VA named Bixby, and Mycroft promises to protect your privacy at all costs.
At its website, Master Replicas Group also promises that a new line of Star Wars and Star Trek collectibles is in the works, but not in the first wave of products. It is also teasing some electronic devices that will “literally change the collecting world forever!”
The company also releases products through a license with the Smithsonian, such as replica landscapes of the moon and Mars.
Dymszo hopes the updated high-tech focus of the company will appeal to a new generation of collectors, while still maintaining the authenticity they’re famous for. “It’s a replica that acts as your assistant,” he said. You might not want to connect it to your garage doors just yet, though, until they’ve worked out some of the kinks.
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