HAL-9000, the malevolent supercomputer at the heart of Stanley
Kubrick’s classic 2001: A Space Odyssey, is
an icon of science fiction cinema. So much so, that if you ask
any one of the virtual assistants to “Open the pod bay doors,”
they’ll dutifully parrot HAL’s lines from the movie back at
you. Now, Master Replicas Group wants to take that step a bit
further, turning HAL into a virtual assistant that can control
The company name might be familiar to prop and costume fans:
the original Master Replicas produced a range of high-quality
props from franchises like Star Wars and Star
Trek before going out of business a decade ago. If you’ve
seen someone swinging around a lightsaber, there’s a good
chance it’s one of Master Replicas’ props, or based off of
their models. The new company is made up of several former
employees, who are getting back into the prop replica business
with a new range of products, including an interactive replica
This isn’t the first time that someone’s thought about putting
HAL into your home’s smart devices: a couple of years ago, fan
prop-maker GoldenArmor made its own
version that allows someone to mount it over their Nest
thermostat. MRG’s prop goes a bit beyond that. It recently
obtained the license from Warner Bros. to create an exact
replica of the iconic computer, and while most prop replicas
are static recreations of a movie or film prop, this version is
designed to be interactive, using Amazon’s smart assistant,
MRG CEO Steve Dymszo told The Verge that he made his
own replicas of HAL’s panel under a earlier company,
Artifactory, and had reached out to Warner Bros. to try and get
a license for the product. Initially, the studio wasn’t
interested, but with the 50th anniversary of the film this
year, they granted the company the rights to produce their own
line of replica props from the film.
One of those replicas is an interactive version of HAL. The
says that the computer will use Amazon’s Echo technology to
control your home, using a Fire HD tablet as its base, along
with additional lights, microphones, speakers, and its own
software that the company has installed.
Dymszo explains that MRG initially merged two projects: a
static prop and an interactive computer, which was planned to
run off of a Raspberry Pi with an LCD screen, only to realize
that they could accomplish the same task with a Fire HD tablet.
In a short demonstration video, a user asks the
question, getting a response in HAL’s voice, before switching
over to Alexa for the weather. The device includes the Fire HD
tablet to replicate some of the interfaces from the film, and
to display information from Alexa. Currently, the device is
only loaded with lines from the film, which are triggered with
Alexa’s wake words, but Dymszo says that the goal is to have
the device work entirely with HAL’s voice, and that they are
working to get Amazon’s approval to do so. “It’s the first prop
replica that can be updated,” Dymszo notes, saying that they
intend for the device to work less like a tablet, and more like
an object from the film. But, it’ll act just like your virtual
assistant, fetching you the news or weather, and controlling
any smart devices you might have installed in your home.
The company will begin taking preorders for the device in
April, and plans to begin shipping in August or September.
Dymszo says that the company will launch a separate Kickstarter
in April for a special, numbered series of the props — 1
through 2001, with special tiers for 1, 1968, and 2001. He says
that they’ve already begun production for the devices.
The HAL computer isn’t the only project in the pipeline: the
sells a glorified screen saver that loops through a series
of computer displays from the film, and will be releasing a
mini-HAL keychain flash drive that lights up when plugged in.
The company also has a license with the Smithsonian, and
releases a range of art products, like posters and replica
Lunar and Martian features.
Dymszo hopes that the product will appeal beyond just the prop
replica community, while staying true to those roots. “It’s a
replica that acts as your assistant,” he said.