My Lil’ TARDIS: It’s Bigger On The Inside. No, Really.

By Greg Kumparak

As I used roughly a zillion words to explain yesterday, I’ve spent the last few months tinkering with all sorts of little projects in an effort to learn to build awesome things. Most of the projects were intended to be scrapped from the get-go, meant primarily to help me wrap my head around some concept – brain fodder, if you will. With others, I was testing the water with ideas I might want to flesh out into proper ventures down the road.

With a few of’em, I was just putting things I’d learned together for the sake of just making something cool, viability be damned. This is one of those.

I built a TARDIS. With the help of some augmented reality trickery, it’s bigger on the inside (as any proper TARDIS should be.) Check it out:

(The Augmented Reality stuff starts just after the 1 minute mark)

The Outside:

I had a few hours to kill back around Thanksgiving, so I wanted to build something I could put on my desk. I had been watching a crazy ridiculous totally reasonable amount of Doctor Who that week, so it took all of about nine seconds before my brain settled on building a TARDIS. It’s fairly simple structurally, so it seemed like a good afternoon project.

I grabbed some wood and a couple bottles of roughly-the-right-color paint, and sharpened my crappy ol’ Xacto knife (if I did this again, I’d use a laser cutter. Cleaner cuts in less time with far fewer calluses. Plus, you know, lasers.)

photo 2 photo 4 photo 5

After a few hours of choppin’ away and feeling like I was living out this scene, I was done. Or so I figured. I put her up on top of my desk and went off to tinker with other projects.

Half a week later, I realized it’d be pretty straightforward to make the light up on top function. A quick trip to RadioShack and another hour or three of cutting later, she was shinin’ bright. Back on my desk it went. I was totally, positively done this time. For real real.

Then my stupid brain went and thought “Hey… wouldn’t it be cool if it had an interior?”

The Inside:

There’s a running gag in Doctor Who, wherein new characters are always dumbstruck by the TARDIS being bigger on the inside than it appeared on the outside. Once I realized I had a rough idea of how to pull that off, I couldn’t not do it.

The catch: I would have to do some 3d modeling work, which I hadn’t done before. At least, not for years — and certainly not with any modern modeling tools.

So I grabbed a copy of Blender . I know plenty of people who used Blender for work each day. It couldn’t be that tough, right? El. Oh. El.

A couple days of stumbling my way around the massive learning curve that is Blender, I had things mostly figured out. I modeled out a rough likeness of the TARDIS’ interior, based on how it appeared in the series from 2005-2010.

Tardis Render
An early clay test render of the TARDIS interior model

Putting It Together:

With the outside built and the interior model complete, I needed some way to bring the two together.

I had some experience using the truly fantastic Unity game engine along with Qualcomm’s Vuforia API, so I started there. Perfect choice. If you’re messing with AR stuff, I can’t recommend that combination of tools enough.

I originally wanted to use the TARDIS’ front surface as the marker which the companion app would recognize, but non-flat surfaces (even ever so slightly) just really, really don’t work well (mainly because of shadows and what not.) Then I tried using the little “Free for use of Public” sign from the TARDIS’ front as a marker, but it was just too small. Eventually I just hacked off the front door and put in the big timey-wimey space-warp-lookin’ marker you can see in the video up above.

One tricky part was figuring out how to render the TARDIS’ interior only where the empty space of the open doors would be. That was, after all, the basis of the entire illusion. I ended up using a technique called “depth masking”, wherein you actually do render the entire object — but you also render an invisible object with a specialized shader that keeps the camera from actually displaying the parts that shouldn’t be shown. It’s the same technique game developers often use to put boats in their game without the water plane clipping through the hull. The water often is there, you just can’t see it.

And that’s that: my tiny, desktop-sized TARDIS that just so happens to be bigger on the inside.

tardis pan
This entry was posted on December 21, 2012 at 3:47 pm

  • Julien

    Wow, that looks great! So is there any chance of making another one and selling it?

    • http://twitter.com/Grg Greg Kumparak

      Thanks Julien! No plans yet, but I’m looking into ways to let other folks in on the fun.

      • http://www.facebook.com/abimaelleon Abi León

        Create a virtual model of the TARDIS at Shapeways and sell a sticker of the timey-wimey door separately here on your blog! Kickstarter, maybe?

      • Nicholas Gendron

        Hey, I realize that it has been quite a while since you’ve probably check on these comments and have been bombarded with requests for this to be put on sale, but is there any way to have even just the 3 model to be shared. I don’t mind figuring out the rest of the work, but I have been trying and no matter what, I cannot figure out how to create a 3D image

  • http://www.facebook.com/kaci.elise Kaci Elise Champion

    i don’t know who you are, i don’t know what you want, but i will find you, and SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY

    • http://twitter.com/Grg Greg Kumparak

      This comment has now made me laugh out loud not once, not twice, but *three* separate times.

      • disqus_8mJAc9Qn1I

        Hey, any chance you could share your files? Maybe on github? I’d like to make one of these for a Dr Who (absolute) fanatic, I believe she’s currently knitting her 4th Doctor who scarf! lol.

        She lives in the USA and it would be amazing to post this to her (I have a unity license and would really like to give this a try!) (though I’m no good at Blender) PLEASE, please please!!! :) :) :)

      • Roney Belhassof

        I would like to give you some money to ;)

        • http://twitter.com/Blasphm Blasphem

          I want it now :(

    • http://profiles.google.com/endykun.siffredy Stephane Rivoire

      oh lol i was going to say exactly the same thing. seriously i need one

    • Rachel

      Ditto.

  • http://www.facebook.com/michael.morton.963 Michael Morton

    You might be suprised at how big a market is out here…begs…follow up on it, please. With alternate old fashioned interior for us old folks would be nice :-)

  • http://www.facebook.com/trekkie1701 Andy Thomson

    I also would love to have one!! Well done, I wish I had the talent to pull it off.

  • G.

    zomgzomgzomg this is so awesome I won’t be able to sleep now! (it’s 2am as I type this) #squeeee!

  • http://www.facebook.com/tuturoong Kes Tuturoong

    Omg! I want one for xmas pleeease…

  • James Churchill

    Wow – any chance of releasing the app (and source code maybe if we’re good??) so we can play with this? It’d work even with a 2d tardis printed on a piece of paper! :)

  • dirtygreek

    Gahhhhh could you please release the source and/or the apk???

  • Alex Soe

    What you have coded has so much possibilities; not just in mobile Apps market, but also in TV/Movie/advertising/toy/office-desk-scenery world. Hopefully, you will network with the right people to commercialize it and make some money or get some fame. Awesome hack!

  • http://www.facebook.com/brian.brown.5283166 Brian Brown

    C’mon – publish the app online and give us a PDF of the black and white sheet so we can all make our own! We wanna buy it NOW!

  • http://www.facebook.com/brian.brown.5283166 Brian Brown

    There must be opportunities for shop and outdoor advertising – you need to sign up with one of the major tech stores or fashion chains ASAP before someone pinches this!

  • http://www.facebook.com/paul.kilmer1 Paul Kilmer

    That is just awesome!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/Wutdaflux Neil Royal

    Seriously dude, market this. It might not make you a millionaire, but it’ll definately bring in some decent spending cash…some of it mine. ;)

  • Assaf Tzur-El

    A suggestion (that you might have heard a thousand times by now, but still): Write the app, sell it (I’ll buy one!), and just link to this for a DYI TARDIS:
    https://www.google.co.il/search?q=tardis+paper+model

    Please?

  • http://www.facebook.com/gvaldiserra Giovanni Valdiserra

    I want this really bad *_*
    Please, put this app on Android Market, together with the paper sheet to be printed and put inside the tardis.
    You can also recreate multiple variations of Tardis insides… It would be great!!

  • dtb200

    I have an idea re use with TV. Happy to discuss.

  • http://www.facebook.com/tfer42 Tfer Newsome

    Want want want… I just built a gingerbread tardis… imagine the possibilities…

  • http://www.facebook.com/paul.harris.353 Paul Harris

    Could you make a version for computer that works off a webcam?

  • unclejed27

    I hope you have partnered on youtube, your view count is climbing like mad. And you shouldn’t let that money get away from you.

  • http://twitter.com/mattfondevilla Matt Fondevilla

    Really interested in the augmented reality part and wanted to implement those into some future designs. How was the application process for the dev tools for Vuforia?

  • http://www.facebook.com/paul.harris.353 Paul Harris

    Anyway to do the same thing on a pc with webcam?

    • Auragar

      Likely yes. Make a program that reads the design and shows the model. But instead of for Android for PC/Mac.

  • http://www.facebook.com/andrew.payne.75054 Andrew Payne

    Awesome job.

  • EcclesFan

    Fahntastic! Could you post up a guide or at least dimensions on your TARDIS? Would love to work on this over the holidays.

  • Oneiros42

    Just throwing my name in with the people saying MARKET THIS. Talk to BBC, whatever you gotta do, but I WANT ONE.

  • http://www.facebook.com/AmandaLRoberts Amanda Roberts-Anderson

    That is amazing! Do a paper version, make the app available in the apple store, and do a kickstarter to get funding. People would buy this! http://www.kickstarter.com/

    • http://www.facebook.com/lpletzers Lee Pletzers

      I would buy this

    • Troy Younts

      I will sell other so-called magnificent things to buy this! IT’S FRKN COOL!

  • http://twitter.com/rcossebo Ronald G. Cosseboom

    OH/MY/GOD!!! You know how many people WANT THIS!!!! Dude, as they are all saying… market it and you will be a millionaire! I WANT IT NOW… PLEASE !!!!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/elise.boucher Elise Carole Boucher

    Not many things make me say “This is awesome! This. Is. AWESOME!” out loud. Ohhh! THIS IS AWESOME!

  • http://www.facebook.com/sistina.sypher Sistina Sypher

    Thank you! How truly fabulous.

    sis

  • http://www.facebook.com/brettellis84 Brett Ellis

    Congratulations sir!
    you have won the internets!
    completely!!
    throughout all of time and space!

  • Marin Domjanovic

    I believe this goes for everyone here… How much money do you need to make this a reality for all of us.. and where do we have to send it? :)

  • http://twitter.com/benwerd Ben Werdmuller

    This is super cool.

  • http://www.facebook.com/djcatsgc David Cairns

    After nearly 50 years ( I remember that far back) The dream is nearly here.

  • http://www.facebook.com/lauren.eliot.372 Lauren Eliot

    Honestly, just take my money. I would love to see this would changeable variations of companions and Doctors. That would be so cool. Start a Kickstarter and do it. You’ve struck gold. Every Whovian is going to want one to play with.

  • http://www.facebook.com/johncfish John Fish

    You are brilliant. It will take me awhile to get to your point, but when I do I hope to show you some wonderful things to return the favor of your brilliance.

    Professor Fish

  • chanhdat

    I don’t know if I should hate you or love you. Now I’m not sure, what should be my next project: building a hexacopter or doing this. Urgh, I’m confused and hurt myself in my confusion.
    PS: Nice work.

  • disqus_YOdn8Rd9f4

    ok, really. you need to sell this WORLD WIDE PLEASE. I’m sick of having no doctor who merchandise in my country! that’s why I want to get out of here so badly! /not really

    but really, you would pay all the money I have to get one of these. WHEN YOU START SELLING THESE PLEASE SEND SOME TO BRAZIL. I’ll be waiting -almost- patiently.

  • http://www.facebook.com/razor386 Jeremy Gillespie

    Nintendo would hire you in seconds to help with 3DS AVR stuff I’m sure. You just made your resume here :)

  • MogulAzam

    Awesome Impressive Great Stuff!!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/DestriJosh Josh Greenwalt

    Whip up a Kickstarter. Say $20-50 each? Get a manufacturing contract, etc. I’d like one, and most of my friends would like one.

  • kruelt

    Where can I buy one????? Or get blueprints to build one??? I want to build/buy one for a friend of mine :-)

  • hocu

    Loved it, a lot. Sharing your models and blueprints would be a great idea!

  • http://www.facebook.com/kahht Kat Dornian

    This is amazing! I’d totally pay for a copy of it to play with! Commendable work. Your efforts totally paid off.

  • http://www.facebook.com/marie.kovar Marie Kovar

    That is awesome!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/isharp12 Ian Sharp

    That might be the most important app ever written for the iPhone.

  • Helene

    could you make a toutorial on how you made the interior? Please c:

  • http://twitter.com/MartiMcKenna Marti McKenna

    I’ve had a pretty bad couple of weeks, and this just cheered me up a bit. You rock. <3

  • http://twitter.com/Carolcdt Carol Terry

    What Kaci Elise Champion said!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/geoffrey.gould Geoffrey Gould

    This is a FANTASTIC achievement! Of course, now y’have the new
    console room (and/or previous and classic era console room/s)… I
    agree, I’d buy this as well, even if “only” the scan-able sheet at the
    front; what you should figure is how to have it at the back, so the
    doors can open inward (you already have an interior light with which to
    illunimate it)…
    Congratulations!

    • http://www.facebook.com/geoffrey.gould Geoffrey Gould

      P.S.,: As the BBC is aware of your achievment…
      http://blendernation.com/2012/12/27/doctor-who-augmented-reality-tardis
      … perhaps they may help you market it, e.g., the BBC license it from from you and they sell it through them (as opposed to their buying you out; your acquiring ongoing royalties per purchase)…

  • http://www.facebook.com/jane.mccourt Jane Mccourt

    Great:thanks for posting! ;-)

  • http://twitter.com/stephenaxlscott Stephen Scott

    You are a GOD – A GOD I TELL YOU.

    I will have a sex change so I can bear your children if I could get one of these.

    • http://twitter.com/arletterocks Arlette

      May I suggest adoption and some very small pinstriped suits and those kid-sized Chuck Taylors?

  • http://www.facebook.com/hailey.greer.14 Hailey Greer

    could you make me one?? how much $$ do you want for it??

  • Lindsay

    I just have to say that this right here? Most. Awesome. Thing. Ever!

  • easement

    Great work! Do you have plans for a unitly/vuforia tutorial? If not, do you have any good tutorial links?

  • Richard Nilsson

    This is how you think outside the box while still inside it, literally.

  • Peter Plotko

    Круто!Зачёт!

  • EllRowe

    I(like most people) would pay GOOD money for this. Please. PLEASE make this

  • Katie Eberhardt

    You are totally my HERO! I now know what to do with my long weekends… Not as good with the computer-y stuff though… :( Ooohhh…. Idea… Now you can make models of all the other TARDIS command rooms… The new one looks pretty cool! Ooohhh…Ooohhh… Another idea… Rig up more electronics to your TARDIS and have a button to push to make it play the “TARDIS noise” all on it’s own! Maybe even make a fun interactive phone graphic to make it look like the TARDIS is flying through timey-wimey spacey-wacey stuff… Yay! Fish Custard! :)

  • http://twitter.com/fabrice_s Fabrice starzinskas

    You definitely could make it through kickstarter and get rewarded for this crazy work !

  • http://www.facebook.com/stopinvading.myprivacy Mo Watchman Storrar

    Yes please, I’ll take one! Could you make one big enough for me to stuff my head in though the door so I can wowee to my hearts content…………?!! :)

  • http://twitter.com/Blasphm Blasphem

    I suffer cuz i don´t have it

  • Silmiriel

    I just saw your YouTube video and I’m completely floored by what you’ve created! You are so talented and I love your Tardis! Please count me in if you decide to make these available… I want one NOW! Excellent work, Greg! :)

  • http://profiles.google.com/sprunka Sean Prunka

    I love this. (I hate how everyone assumes your phone is an iPhone, the heathens!)

  • http://twitter.com/arletterocks Arlette

    Yay, I’m not the only one feeling inspired after watching crazy-ridiculous-totally appropriate amounts of “Doctor Who”! I’m glad to hear you’re bearing the “serious innovation” standard while I’m putting different funny hats on my Tenth Doctor standee.

  • http://twitter.com/GoldHoarder Adrian Morgan

    One reservation: in the real TARDIS, you don’t have to take the doors off to look inside…

  • http://www.facebook.com/sasha172 Sasha Azad

    Can we get the code for this by any chance ? I have this image of the Time Wimey image on all my cupboards or cabinet drawer thingys, and then when you look at them through the app, they (atleast) appear to be “Bigger on the Inside” (as I very very badly wish they could be)

  • Drake

    Dude you are awesome!!! I know maya so I’m sure I could figure out blender. But I have nooo idea with Unity and all the other stuff. It would be awesome if you could make a tutorial, or be a bit more specific on how to do it. Is that a possibility?

  • recklesswells

    I am new convert to the church of the doctor, but I have to say this is the best thing I’ve seen all week.

  • Jess

    Do you realize how close you are to becoming a millionaire? I’d buy this, I would. Everyone else would give you their money too. If nothing else at least tell us how to make one of these amazing augmented reality apps.

    Please.

  • http://www.facebook.com/scott.fellowes.94 Scott Fellowes

    Could this work with a full sized police box?

  • http://www.facebook.com/jon.shearing Jon Shearing

    Hey, I was researching an article on AR when I googled upon your video. It is waaaaay the best thing I’ve seen on the subject. And being a Brit and a Dr Who fan it really made me smile … several times. Excellent job!!

  • Jonathan Morris

    Could you post plans on how to make the wood outside? Maybe the light too?

  • Alex Thompson

    I think the world would be immensely greatful if you were to create an instructables on the project, or perhaps release just the app.

  • lucy clare

    hey i would beeee very happy if u could make me one i will give u what ever u want

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=642438763 Sergio Aguirre Reyes

    I want one D: you can made one for me, ill paid for it

  • http://www.facebook.com/AmsterdamRon Ron van Rijswijk

    Awesome! I love the Doctor’s adventures and would certainly buy this if it was on sale.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=642438763 Sergio Aguirre Reyes

    Can you upload the app code? i really want one

  • http://www.facebook.com/jennifer.fain Jennifer Fain

    I’m a new Doctor Who fan…like BRAND new and I have to say after seeing this….I like you almost as much as David Tennant. Almost :) Speaking of…you should really make and send him one, big fanboy that he is. I’d love to see his reaction.

  • Michael Russell

    Do you have instructions on how to do any of this / did you ever make the app available to the public?

  • griefermania

    GIVE IT TO ME

  • Jessica Jones

    Umm this for sale anywhere??? I want it!!!!

  • Cammy M.

    Seriously, I want to this for Christmas. Extra shiny points if it can be an alarm clock a well.

  • Jackson B.

    if you can pleas leave the blueprints, color’s, app api, and app images. I think this is a vary cool project and would like to build one myself.

  • Blessy Alto

    Question, how long did it take for you to model the interior in Blender?

  • Heather Julius

    Fantastic!!! Love it!!! Is there a way of getting this as a live background for my Android phone?

  • Brandi

    I Really want THIS !!!!! 😩😩😩😩😩

  • JM Lee

    Before you start marketing this product, seek some licensing contract from BBC and Telefilm Canada + Universal.
    They might run after you if the product becomes a smash hit (which is something apparent, so far). B)

  • Mathias Norman

    Now, patent this thing and sell it. Because you would make a LOT of money…. probably almost enough to build a real T.A.R.D.I.S. And when you DO make em to sell, better let me know, because im buying a few of them for prezzies

  • disqus_APshEfyKYG

    please sell these…please

  • Katy Rossiter

    Hi there :)
    Would you make and sell these? And if so how much would you charge?
    Thanks

  • Missy Tammi

    can you release a copy of the pattern to the public??? take my money if you need to!

  • Child_of_the_TARDIS

    Watching the video: “Where’s this guy going with this?” Sees where you’re going with this. Takes out wallet and throws cash at computer screen.

  • Child_of_the_TARDIS

    Okay, just gonna make this 100% clear. All you posers thinking you want this: you got NOTHIN on me. I have no life, so if anyone is gonna shove their money at this guy, it’s me.

  • northierthanthou.com

    Cute!

  • Kamil Furmann

    Is there any chance for getting this android app and printable version of “timey wimey” pattern?

  • Brent Rygh

    Just over one year ago you showed us this beauty. We’ve waited, begged, and offered our money. Even a simple progress update would have helped us to try and believe. After one year all I can think is – lies and vaporware. Prove me wrong, please!

  • Stephen Cronin
  • Emmy

    I know I’m pretty far behind but I’m really hoping that this hasn’t quite ended. Is there any further information on how to make the inside model? A paper cut out of the pattern maybe? This is still really popular as far as I know and I don’t want it to be forgotten

  • Ellis Almond

    you should be selling these.

  • http://rawrrbot.com/ Nicole

    If you sold these (or kits for them, maybe) with the companion app, I’d probably buy one for myself and several more for friends.

  • Dean Aaron Meyers

    you DO realize you can basically make timelord art with the right combination of materials and a computer screen…?

  • Alyssa Delude

    Where can we buy one of these?

  • Kurt Von

    Just came to your blog after reading an article by you on TC.

    This is awesome! Really cool work. Is there a link to the app? Or a tutorial?

  • Jasmine Kato

    DUUUUDE.
    I was so impressed after watching that video that I choked on my tea. Utterly amazing. Everyone must see this!

  • Kmilocho

    Me encanta, leeré con más detalle luego, por el momento no sé si liberaste el código, luego me fijaré mejor, muchas gracias.

  • Stephen Cronin

    So lots of people would like to be able to see inside a Tardis but how many of them have a full sized Tardis to house their full sized Dalek (based on a kids motorised wheelchair) Now imagining being able to show the kids the real inside using a sonic IPhone. Please! I’d be a beta tester. I’d pay. I have photos.