The SXSW Film Festival is obviously best known for being a venue where up-and-coming filmmakers and their work can get exposure to a cinema-hungry audience, but this year’s festivities also include an extremely close-up view of one of last year’s biggest movies: Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar. The blockbuster is on the verge of arriving on home video, and to celebrate, the production has brought both the awesome robot TARS as well as a very special Oculus Rift experience to the city of Austin, Texas.

Set up in a big white dome, the Interstellar event is small, but definitely provides a lot for fans of the movie to see – including one of the film’s most popular stars, the witty and sarcastic TARS, which was on display in the middle of the room:

Tars SXSW

He wasn’t just off by his lonesome, however! Helping to promote the special SXSW event, actor Bill Irwin – who played the role of TARS in Interstellar - was also on hand at the event, and was even kind enough to pose for a photo with his rather ingeniously-invented character.

Tars and Bill Irwin SXSW

What may surprise you to learn, though, is that Irwin wasn’t merely just the voice actor who helped provide TARS with a personality in the film. The actor was also on set operating the machine, and was simply digitally edited out in post-production. This may seem strange, and bordering on hard to believe, but the evidence could be found on TARS’ back, as the robot has both arm and foot-holes that the actor used to manipulate it.

Tars SXSW

From there I had the chance to jump into the Interstellar-themed Oculus Rift, which used virtual reality to transport me to the interplanetary spaceship from the movie known as Endurance. The simulation was set in the movie right before the vehicle makes its way through the wormhole, and I had the opportunity to not just walk through the vessel’s insides, but actually feel like I was floating in zero-gravity. While not the most interactive of experiences, it was still rather thrilling, and the technology remains mind-blowing.

Tars SXSW

If you happen to be in Austin in the next few days, the Interstellar experience is open to the public - located at 604 Driskill St.- and is open between 11am and 7pm until March 17th (the same day the movie is released on Digital HD. Meanwhile, you’ll be able to catch Christopher Nolan’s film on Blu-ray, DVD and On-Demand March 31st.

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