Unless your name’s Michael Winslow (no? Watch Police Academy, kids), it’s unlikely that you can bend your tongue enough to sound like everyone’s favourite chirping droid, R2D2. With the help of the Droid Translator Helmets, though, not only can you speak like a Star Wars astromech, but you can understand the tonal language, too. Kind of.
A Canadian electronics engineer, working under the name AE Innovations, developed the Droid Translator Helmets as an entry into a Star Wars competition on Hackster.
So, how can two people communicate with each other in droid beeps? Well, they can’t, but the helmets effectively give the illusion that they can. Each helmet contains a two microphones and an earpiece. Two helmet wearers, connected via WiFi, can speak to each other through one of the microphones and the ear piece, with their voices masked by the astromech language.
But wouldn’t an un-helmeted observer hear the pair’s voices from beneath the masks? Nope. Unlike official Star Wars voice changer helmets – which filter the user’s voice, meaning that both filtered and unfiltered voices can be heard together – the droid beeps are created via a throat microphone (Laryngophone), which picks up on the tiny vibrations of the larynx and translates them into a loud series of beeps and bleeps. It is the secondary microphone, mounted near the mouth, which transmits the human voice to the other helmet’s earpiece. Because the secondary mic is independent of the droid output, the wearer can speak quietly to ensure their voice is not heard over Droidish chiming.
While the helmets are not commercially available, AE Innovation details their creation over on his blog, for anyone who wants to imitate the design.