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I just watched, for the fist time in many years, The Making of Star Wars, and I noticed something about one of the minor droids. I have always really liked the appearance of the hemispherical droid that the Jawas on Tatooine have for sale (shown on the far right below).

Droids on sale

In part, I like it just because it is so abstract. It rolls around, and it has a couple small things protruding from its apex, but we are generally left with no clue whatsoever what its function might be. However, when I watched The Making of Star Wars, I spotted what was located under that hemispherical dome.

Underneath, there is actually quite a bit of decoration, which is obviously never seen when the droid appears with the dome in place. What's the story behind this? Was this a dual-use prop that was, without the dome, going to appear as a different droid elsewhere in the story? I don't recognize that prop from the final 1977 release, but it might be in the background somewhere, or it might be in footage that was shot but not used.

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    If it only went “gonk gonk” then it would be clear what it does! Oct 11 at 16:50
  • @ToddWilcox Well, I love the gonk droind too.
    – Buzz
    Oct 11 at 18:04
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    It's clearly an advanced Roomba. Oct 11 at 20:36
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The dome was translucent

This droid appears to be LIN-V8K, a "LIN demolitionmech". By Googling variants of "lin demolitionmech droid inside", I ended up finding an image of its interior schematics from what a forum user described as "an Aussie electronics mag back in the day":

enter image description here

This matches the interior as seen in the behind-the-scenes video, and identifies the functions of the visible pieces, but doesn't explain the more cosmetic-looking pieces, such as the "mirror domes". However, it does provide a possible rationale in the form of the "Perspex dome", a brand name of plexiglass. If this was transparent or translucent plexiglass, the interior would need to be decorated. Supporting this, the fan-made LIN droid from the forum linked above has the "flashing beacon" light visible through the dome:

Image of fan-made LIN droid with visible light

Doing a reverse image search for the article page revealed that this is the December 1977 issue of Electronics Today International, which has a scan here. The article doesn't explain why there's an interior, but does include a transcription of an April 1978 article in Interface Age called "Star Wars Special Production and Mechanical Effects", including an interview with effects pioneer John Stears.

From the interview (emphasis added):

The Dome Robot as seen with the others by The Sand Crawler is really, in my view, the power source for the others to re-charge themselves by. Inside the smoked perspex dome is a rotating solar panel by means of which it collects solar energy and stores it for the other robots to plug in and recharge their own batteries.

Going back to the original making-of video, you can just see one of the mirror squares through the dome as they lower the dome onto the prop:

Still of Star Wars making-of video showing a translucent droid dome

So, it appears that that's the answer - the prop makers added a detailed interior because they thought the interior would be visible onscreen through the dome.

Update: I've confirmed that in the Disney+ version of A New Hope, you can see the LIN droid's lights blinking through the bottom of its dome at 00:18:36.

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    I love it when questions that make me think like "no possible way somebody knows this" has such detailed answer Oct 12 at 6:34
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    One advantage is that with internals it makes a more interesting toy. Or that would be an advantage, if the internals of the toy would in any way resemble the internals of the prop: rdogadabuan.com/… Oct 12 at 11:42
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    A solar panel underneath a smoked glass dome? I'm not an engineer, but... Oct 12 at 12:48
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    @MichaelSeifert Given that Tatooine has two suns, the amount of incident energy a solar panel would have to deal with is almost certainly higher, so I could see explicitly filtering certain frequencies out as something they might do there to keep the panel from getting too hot. Oct 12 at 13:13
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    @EikePierstorff There seem to be competing designs for the droid within official media. The New Essential Guide to Droids shows a barely-translucent dome with what appears to be the same inside as the action figure, but also says that the dome is durasteel (not transparisteel). The effect is subtle though, I had no idea it was meant to be anything but a big metal dome until I dug up the schematics.
    – Milo P
    Oct 12 at 16:57

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