The Future of Robotics, Part 1: Why haven’t we built C-3PO yet?

13 07 2010

I found an interesting article on about robotics and artificial intelligence. The article uses C-3PO as what we should have achieved. The article is an interesting read and I have copied it below:

The Future of Robotics, Part 1: Why haven’t we built C-3PO yet?

Science fiction has been teasing us with robots for decades. From Isaac Asimov’s tome-like novels filled with law-bound robots to the helpful or menacing ‘bots on the big screen, many of us grew up with the idea that a robot-filled future was an inevitability rather than a likely outcome.

So where the hell are they? True, in a way, we do live in a robot-filled future. Robots are teaching classes in Japan, and you could wake up as a cyborg yourself in as little as three years.

Still, we want a real walking, talking, thinking robot. A heavy-duty metal-man such as C-3PO would do nicely. He’s articulate, expressive and can operate in ways that approach a human’s aptitude. Will we see anything like the gold-colored protocol droid in our lifetimes? In the first of a three-part series, we talk to James Kuffner, an assistant professor at robot-friendly Carnegie Mellon, and get deep into the heart of the matter with what it would take to construct a robot like C-3PO.

James Kuffner, associate professor at the CMU Robotics Institute, is a specialist in the field of motion planning. His work at Carnegie Mellon University is all about getting robots to move around more efficiently — something that C-3PO did with far more ease than today’s robots.

The core of his research is his team’s approach of building a “search-based” AI, or giving a robot a brain like Google, that can rapidly search through its knowledge for the appropriate entry.

DVICE: What do you do that would help us build a protocol droid today?

Kuffner: Basically, my group is focusing on motion generation — in particularly motion planning. We’re trying to apply these search-based AI techniques to practical problems: loading a dishwater, walking up stairs and so on. Imagine the brain of a robot being driven by a search algorithm that allows it to learn things very quickly — like how it could bend its leg if it wanted to step over a branch, and then be able to reason about its connectivity to the space around it and employ the right actions.

It turns out this search-based AI is pretty general. You can give it general parameters like how long its legs are and how far it can bend and then it could quickly reason how to use its legs.

How does a search-based AI work?

Just like with the Internet and Wikipedia and databases like that our search-based approach allows us to keep building. At first engineers had to hard code actions and responses into robots and build a database each time — and who wants to do that? The goal is for a robot to be able to search back through its memory and know what it’s learned and what the robots before have learned and continue to pass on that searchable database onto the next robot, so that it keeps learning.

Every human child has to learn to pick up a cup and do it over and over to learn how much force is required or how slippery glass is. The great thing about a robot is that it learns what actions to take and what not to do — and if I can just copy that and propagate it and disseminate to future robots, then future robots will already know what to do with a cup.

What benefits are there to giving a robot a humanoid shape?

ell, if the only thing I wanted my robot to do is mow my grass, then I could just stick a radio-controlled receiver on it and drive it around. But the whole idea is that if we design a robot that has a human form, then it can use tools and navigate stairs and buildings and do things that we have designed for the human form.

I remember we were demonstrating our robot to a bunch of Japanese school children and they all came in and bowed to our robot – which isn’t something you’d normally do and we weren’t ready for that. But the important thing is that this humanoid form allowed our robot to interact in a specific emotional way.

C-3PO was just as much of a humanized character as Han or Luke. Is a ‘bot like him an improbable dream?

The idea is he really looks like an English butler-robot who is able to give advice and translate and be a really well-mannered robot. In some ways a lot of robot researchers are threatened by Hollywood because Hollywood shows all of these very advanced robots and it really raises expectations on what a robot should be able to do. You often hear, “Gosh, well your robot really isn’t all that interesting!”

I believe the next big thing is robots — just like with computers in the ’50s that were bulky and unreliable and only the biggest research institutes could have one, robots are like that now. I’m betting within maybe, you know, the 2020s or so we’ll be able to mass produce for a market demanding robots and I believe people will see robots transform more in a way that they’ve come to expect. At least I hope so. I could eat my words of course, but I’d really like to see robots that early.

Which robot is your fave?

Actually, because I grew up watching C-3PO and R2-D2, that pair is my favorite. We’ve actually got a CMU robots hall of fame and they were inducted two years ago. But that peaceful design is something I aspire to. I think in the US we have a fearful relationship with robots because things like the Terminator movies and the idea that technology will turn on us.

I spent quite a bit of time in Japan and there it’s much more natural to accept robots. It’s an entirely natural thing to think that robots will be our friends and that they can help us.


What Would C-3PO Do?

12 07 2010

A new blog added to the universe of C-3PO, titled “What Would C-3PO Do?”

The purpose of this blog is to set up some hypothetical situations, and place C-3PO in that situation, and to discuss how he would react in the given situation.

This blog has a good premise and is showing some promise, we will see where it goes from there. I am excited to see where it goes, and sheds some more of the spotlight on the golden protocol droid!

You can view the blog at the following address:
Check it out and show some support.

C-3PX – the Bad ass C-3PO

5 07 2010

For years I remember a comic from the Droids series where it featured a C-3PO look alike who was brandishing a large gun, and had an “X” mark on his forehead.

I wanted to find the issue of the comic I am talking about and see who this character was. I felt it necessary since in a past post I brought up the Silver C-3PO found in The Empire Strikes Back (Happy Anniversary) Thank you to the Internet for providing the information necessary.

I found an article on Wookieepedia explaining who this charachter is. Below is a direct copy of the entry, taken from the following source:


“No matter what I do, I’ll come to the same end…termination.”

C-3PX was a Cybot Galactica 3PX-series protocol droid reprogrammed to be an assassin droid.

Production information
Date destroyed

5.5 BBY[1]


Cybot Galactica[2]


3PX-series protocol droid[2]

Technical specifications

1.67 meters[2]


Masculine programming[1]

Sensor color


Chronological and political information

Rise of the Empire era[2]



C-3PX’s beginnings

C-3PX started his operational style as a simple 3PX-series protocol droid in one of Cybot Galactica’s many factories. Initially built as a protocol unit for Outer Rim usage, C-3PX, as well as the entire 3PX series, faced difficulty selling against Cybot Galactica’s more successful 3PO-series protocol droid.[2]
C-3PX had a number of different masters, as well as a number of different rebuilds, from his creation date to his acquisition by Darth Maul, a Sith Lord.[2]

Service under Maul

Maul came upon the droid soon before 32 BBY. Darth Maul, not entirely interested in the prospect of having a partner, much less a droid partner, originally planned to utilize the protocol unit simply as a method of dealing with distractions such as customs stops, port authorities, and other things Maul preferred not to deal with. However, after some consideration, Maul discovered that, with some extensive modifications, C-3PX could become a competent droid ally and a form of protection or a way to spread his influence. Using this plan, Maul completely rebuilt the droid, installing defensive lasers, stronger droid plating, and other protective measures. While an exterior view revealed nothing more than a reassembled chassis and plating resembling a 3PO-series protocol droid, eighty-three weapons were concealed within the droid’s recesses in its joints and arms. The Sith apprentice also reprogrammed the droid to only bother Maul when an important matter came up, or if an issue was reported in one of the starship’s systems; as such, the droid stayed mainly silent under the Sith apprentice.

During his missions, Maul would leave the droid aboard his heavily modified starship Scimitar, confident in C-3PX’s abilities in guarding the transport. On one such mission to the Esseles system and the main planet in the Darpa sector to engage the Bartokks responsible for pirating Trade Federation interests, C-3PX and Maul infiltrated their operations.

Transitioning period

After Maul’s death on Naboo at the hands of Jedi Padawan Obi-Wan Kenobi, C-3PX, along with Scimitar, were confiscated by agents of the Republic investigating squad. Supreme Chancellor Palpatine, however, protected Maul’s secrets stored inside the 3PX unit by ordering C-3PX’s memory wipe. After the wipe, Palpatine gifted the droid to budding technology genius Raith Sienar.[2]

Under Sienar, C-3PX was rebuilt into a stealthy espionage droid. Utilizing a fresh set of plating, Sienar refitted the spy droid to appear again as a standard 3PO unit. C-3PX’s photoreceptors also garnered a few upgrades: they were outfitted to see in infrared, allowing C-3PX to become even more skilled as an infiltrating unit. These photoreceptor upgrades also changed the tint of the 3PX unit from the original yellow to a menacing reddish glow. A large number of smuggling compartments, each of different sizes, was also incorporated into the droid. Sensor-baffling material lined these compartments to conceal any contraband or weapons the droid possessed.[2]

Raith first utilized the droid’s new programming as an agent for Sienar’s starship company, Republic Sienar Systems. Later, the droid would fall into use by the Grand Army of the Republic at the outbreak of the Clone Wars in 22 BBY. There, his programming as a spy was utilized further.[2]

After the War’s completion and the emergence of the New Order and rise of the Galactic Empire, C-3PX became Imperial property, under command of Imperial Admiral Terrinald Screed upon the planet Roon. There, he served under different odd jobs. C-3PX became tired of this new role, and left the admiral, looking for a new way to utilize himself. Soon after, he found himself in the service of the Intergalactic Droid Agency. The agency utilized him as a rental unit, where he served a number of masters who rented the droid for a variety of work. His memory was wiped after each rental, meaning he forgot of any of his prior dealings with Sienar, Republic army, or his service under the Imperials.[2]

Service under Olag Greck

One such renter, Olag Greck, would discover C-3PX in the Intergalactic Droid Agency building. Greck noted that the outward protocol droid appearance was a facade, and felt that the droid had possessed another hidden, illegal function in the past. Claiming C-3PX for himself, Greck made his way to Hosk Station, a space station encompassing the largest of Kalarba’s moons, where he contacted a local technician to fully outfit the droid with various assassination tools. Among these new fittings were multiple retractable lasers, dart shooters, and fusioncutters;[4] Olag Greck even had the outlaw tech install a small laser device in the droid’s head.[1] Adorning the faceplate of the droid was a large black “X”, whose nature beyond identification was unknown.[2]

Greck also reprogrammed the droid to become a merciless bounty hunter and assassin, unaware, due to his frequent memory wipes, that the same programming had been installed several decades ago by Darth Maul. His new programming installed, C-3PX completed a successful attack on the world of Bonadan, utilizing his multiple secret shielded compartments to sneak a weapon on the planet, as it was illegal to possess one anywhere on planet. His target was the brother of Vojak, a man of unknown importance and species on Bonadan. Another unknown target, this time on the planet Rampa, was also successful. Greck would then claim the bounties as his own, and reap the rewards for each.[1]

Unfortunately for C-3PX, the completion of these killings forced the Empire to post their own bounty on the assassin droid. One such poster was hung on Hosk Station; however, C-3PX was still able to walk the streets undaunted because of his ruthless reputation.[1]

Meeting his match

On Hosk Station, the droids R2-D2 and C-3PO, and their current master Baron Pitareeze, made their way to the largest city on Hosk station, where the two droids were to meet Nak Pitareeze, the baron’s grandson. Pitareeze utilized the fastest, and, much to C-3PO’s chagrin, the roughest route to reach the city; once there, however, C-3PO’s attempt to disembark the speeder left his internal gyroscopic system hazy, and as a result 3PO took a tumble onto the ground, cracking the droid’s faceplate. C-3PO insisted on the repair of the damaged plate, and the baron relented and supplied the funds to find a respectable repair shop.[1]

However, the business C-3PO chose made repairs consisting of a very crude patch in the form of a black “X” over the puncture. While the repairs were performed, however, R2-D2 was stolen, unknown to C-3PO, by Greck who had owned C-3PO and R2-D2 in the recent past. When C-3PO left to attempt to find his counterpart, he was shocked to find people running away from him when he attempted to ask a question. Also unknown to C-3PO was that the repairs made caused the protocol droid to bear an uncanny resemblance to C-3PX.[1]
On his way to see his master, Olag Greck, C-3PX met with Nak, who incorrectly identified the killing machine as C-3PO, to which C-3PX responded angrily and left.[1]

C-3PO in trouble

Around the city, C-3PO had experienced multiple instances of panicked fleeing from the sight of him; the protocol droid was still unaware of the connection between his repairs’ appearance and that of C-3PX. Nak managed to make contact with him, and, after retrieving C-3PX’s wanted poster, told him of the visual connection between the two droids. It was at this time that Greck tracked down the two, and, not knowing that the droid with Nak was C-3PO and not C-3PX, disabled C-3PO with a suppressor tube and took the droid to the illegal droid death matches held by Greck (under the alias Mollo), leaving a confused Nak in his wake.[1]

C-3PX, in the meantime, encountered Vojak, angry over his brother’s death. Vojak correctly assumed that it was indeed C-3PX’s fault, and pinpointed the assassin droid’s ability to hide weapons within himself as a key fact in the death of his brother. Unfortunately, all Vojak’s detective work was for nothing, as Vojak decided to confront C-3PX. C-3PX was retreating the inevitable battle, hoping not to cause a violent altercation; however, he was forced to blast the angered sibling with his concealed rear-facing head-mounted laser, effectively disintegrating the being, leaving a smoking pile of ash in Vojak’s stead.[1]

Almost immediately after, Nak approached the assassin droid and asked for his assistance in recovering C-3PO. The droid, eager to exchange payback to his master, agreed, and led Nak to Greck’s lair. There, the two confronted Greck, still masquerading as the mysterious figure Mollo, who had sent a reconditioned R2-D2 into battle in a Mandalorian battle harness. R2-D2 was refraining from battling any of the droids Greck sent. In order for the spectators to get their money’s worth, a less-than-willing C-3PO, whose true identity had been discovered by Olag Greck as nothing more than a standard protocol droid and not his former droid C-3PX, a fact uncovered by the same tech that had worked on the droid earlier that day, was sent into the arena. R2-D2, under orders and a threat from the droids’ former owner, attacked C-3PO.[1]


C-3PX arrived shortly thereafter, however, and confronted Olag Greck about his motives in using yet another droid, forming it into a killer like himself. He continued to assert his displeasure in becoming the assassin droid Greck had programmed him to be. However, in the middle of his talk with his master, C-3PO was thrown into the room, presumably from a strong blow dealt by R2-D2 in the battle harness. C-3PX realized the futility in living further, as, he realized, no matter what course of action C-3PX attempted to travel, each would lead to his eventual demise. Instead, the assassin droid took the place of C-3PO in the droid arena. After revealing each of his weapons and putting on a slight show, C-3PX stopped and waited for his destruction by R2-D2. A massive blow from one of the Mandalorian battle harness’s large hammers smashed C-3PX into the arena floor, effectively ending his operational period.[1]


C-3PX’s showmanship in the battle confused Olag Greck, who couldn’t believe that the droid refused to defend itself in the slightest when faced with destruction. Hosk Security forces surrounded the arena; however, Greck managed to escape, promising to Nak that he’d repay the boy and the two droids for their actions. C-3PO was not terminally damaged from the battle with R2-D2, and was repaired, while an apologetic R2 unit attempted to explain his actions. The arena was presumably shut down with Greck’s departure and the involvement of security forces on the station.[1]


C-3PX was created as a stock 3PX-series protocol droid manufactured by Cybot Galactica some time before 32 BBY. He appeared identical to any other stock 3PX unit, until his acquirement by Darth Maul. Maul originally utilized the droid as a simple interface with people whom Maul viewed as “distractions”; however, Maul saw the usefulness of a well-armed and equipped droid assassin. He added eighty-three weapons to the frame of the droid, all concealable, replaced the original 3PX plating with 3PO-series type plating, and programmed the droid to become an assassin capable of working autonomously. C-3PX’s photoreceptors’ color were changed to a red hue rather than the stock yellow, in an effort to make the droid appear more menacing. After Maul’s death at the hands of Jedi Obi-Wan Kenobi, however, the droid’s memory was wiped and his weapons and assassination programming disabled under orders from Palpatine. The droid was also restored to its original stock profile; C-3PX’s photorecptors were readjusted to transition back to their original yellow coloring, and the 3PO plating was replaced by the stock 3PX style.

Raith Sienar would acquire the droid as a gift from the Supreme Chancellor. A fresh set of 3PO-series plating adjusted C-3PX’s look again. Raith Sienar would adjust the droid’s chassis and settings to become a droid spy; specifically, C-3PX’s photoreceptors were adjusted to see in infrared. The upgrade changed the tint of the photorecptors to red, as happened with Maul’s modifications. In the droid’s recesses, shielded smuggling compartments were added for further espionage options. After the Clone Wars, C-3PX began work for Admiral Screed, and later escaped service from him and made his way to the Intergalactic Droid Agency as a rental droid; during this time, many memory wipes as he went from owner to owner caused the droid to completely forget his service with the Republic and Imperial armies.

It was while C-3PX was serving as a rental droid that he came into the service of Olag Greck, who stole the droid and reprogrammed him to serve Greck as a contract killer. Olag reinstalled the hidden weaponry C-3PX had previously, including a laser in the rear of his head, multiple guns and blasters hidden within the joints and recesses, and other implemented tools of the trade. A distinctive black “X” adorned the assassin droid’s headplate as an identification marker, and he retained his red photoreceptors. The droid would retain this configuration until his death.


C-3PX would suffer multiple rebuilds throughout his droid life. At the conclusion of each ownership, the droid would often be dismantled and any hidden systems, such as the weapons or assassin programming, would be removed, and the droid would return to its semi-stock nature, until his destruction in 10 BBY.

  • Original stock model: C-3PX’s original stock model
  • Darth Maul’s ownership (c. 32 BBY): 83 retractable weapon devices installed, 3PO-series droid plating installed, assassin programming implemented.
  • Raith Sienar’s ownership and role in the Clone Wars (c. 32 BBY – 19 BBY): Memory wiped, new 3PO-series droid plating, photoreceptors upgraded to allow sight in infrared, smuggling compartments installed in recesses, espionage programming implemented.
  • Imperial service and Intergalactic Droid Agency rental service (c. 19 BBY – 10 BBY): Memory wiped, espionage systems dismantled.
  • Olag Greck’s ownership (c. 10 BBY): Assassin programming implemented, hidden weaponry installed (including concealed blaster in the rear of the droid’s head), black “X” appears on forehead.


C-3PX was a cold, calculating droid, who dispatched those he was commanded to kill easily. While serving under Darth Maul, the droid spent most of his time in silence, due to Maul’s modifications to his programming. Not much was known about his personality after his memory wipe and service under Raith Sienar, his company Republic Sienar Systems, and later the Grand Army of the Republic; however, as his mission profile dealt mainly with his ability to go about unnoticed, it might have been such that C-3PX shared many personality characteristics with other protocol droids of his day.

Once the Clone Wars had ended, and the Galactic Republic became the Galactic Empire, C-3PX went on to serve Imperial Admiral Screed. C-3PX did not enjoy the work he was given, so he left the company of Screed and sought out the Intergalactic Droid Agency, where he served many masters as a rental unit. During this time his memory, as well as much of his hidden armament, was dismantled and removed, leaving C-3PX unaware of his past mission profiles as well as owners.

When Olag Greck met the rental droid, he determined that C-3PX was no ordinary droid, and decided to claim the droid as his own. After the acquiring, Olag hired a technician, who reprogrammed the droid to become a killer. As such, C-3PX became a droid capable of working alone to complete a bounty, while protecting himself with the large amounts of weaponry installed into his frame. He felt no remorse toward his bounties; the rogue protocol droid claimed that it was nothing personal, but instead he was merely programmed that way. He went so long without a memory wipe under Olag, though, that he had developed the abilities to hide, utilize unconventional methods to dispatch a target, and to think, which the assassin droid regretted. He began to resent his master, disliking his methods. Olag posted a bounty on him to remove the threat of him rebelling against his master.

When the droid encountered Nak and his two droids C-3PO and R2-D2, who both were commandeered by Olag to fight in the illegal droid death match arena, Olag was admonished by a spiteful C-3PX, who did not like Olag’s attempts to cause another droid to become a killer. However, C-3PX realized the futility of his options, which all likely ended in termination for the protocol/assassin droid. A sullen 3PX unit gave himself up in the droid arena, so that R2-D2 and C-3PO could be free.

Behind the scenes

C-3PX first appeared in the comic Star Wars Droids: The Kalarba Adventures 3, where he saved the droid R2-D2 and C-3PO, in turn sacrificing his own life. C-3PX has been retconned on many occasions, starting first with his appearance in Episode I Adventures 3: The Fury of Darth Maul. However, these retcons have proven to be confusing, as none describe how he returned to the Scimitar and Maul’s service in time for Maul’s death on Naboo, and some avoid the middle time period between his owners completely. Ultimate Adversaries places the acquiring of C-3PX’s dismantled shell without mentioning Raith Sienar, his Republic/Imperial service, or his service under Screed. However, The New Essential Guide to Droids states that C-3PX somehow returned to the Scimitar and was aboard the infiltrator after Maul’s death, and was handed over to Sienar. After some service as a spy in Republic Sienar Systems, C-3PX worked under the title of the Grand Army of the Republic and later the Galactic Empire as Admiral Screed’s property, but grew tired of this work, and as such escaped and inserted himself as a rental unit in the Intergalactic Droid Agency, where Olag found the droid. As such, some information presented is contradictory, and none of the retcons offer any explanation beyond that given in the article.


  • Episode I Adventures 3: The Fury of Darth Maul
  • Star Wars Droids: The Kalarba Adventures 3 (First appearance)
  • “Mr. X”—Star Wars Gamer 3