I’m sorry, Dave. I’m afraid I didn’t understand that command.
Ever felt the urge to replace your Amazon Echo with something a bit more … insubordinate? Mercurial? Potentially murderous? Now’s your chance: Master Replicas Group, a startup founded in 2001 by a team of toy industry veterans, this week announced the launch of HAL-9000 Bluetooth Speaker Edition, a recreation of the killer AI from Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.
They’re available in limited quantity — about 2,001 will be produced in all, Master Replicas said. They will come in two configurations: a 10.1-inch Commander Console that costs $1,200 and a smaller unit that runs $600. Both are up for preorder on IndieGogo with an anticipated ship date of early 2019, and they’ll come to the company’s website at the end of the month.
They’re quite the lookers. Master Replicas said it channeled the proto-futuristic aesthetics of Discovery One, the film’s iconic spaceship, in crafting the standalone speakers’ extruded trims, brushed aluminum faceplates, glass lenses, and glowing eyes. (The dimensions were taken from the original studio blueprints.) The larger of the two models boasts a 10-button control panel that exposes graphics modes, the settings panel, and “control various HAL functions.” And both speakers connect to televisions, phones, and entertainment systems via Bluetooth 4.0.
They do more than just look pretty, though. The HAL-9000 leverages the Alexa Voice Service, a suite of tools that allows developers to add features of Amazon’s Alexa assistant to connected products for voice recognition. With the press of a button on the speakers’ consoles and the right voice commands, they’ll play hit songs, switch between internet radio stations, warn you about inclement weather (perhaps meteor showers?), and tap into the more than 30,000 third-party skills available from the Alexa Skills Store … or, you know, disable life support systems.
The Master Replicas team plans to take advantage of the speakers’ Wi-Fi connectivity to issues updates over time, potentially with support for new voice assistants and pod bay — ahem — smart home controls.
Development on the HAL-9000 replica kicked off about two years ago, Master Replicas CEO Steve Dymszo told CNET, and a better part of it was spent procuring product licensing from Warner Bros. “We had actually pursued them for about four years on and off with a proposal to do a line of 2001 replicas,” he said. “It finally started getting some traction about 18 months ago. We finalized the details of our contract in late summer 2017.”
As it turns out, they couldn’t have timed it better. This year marks the 50th anniversary of 2001: A Space Odyssey.