GRIP, the Group for Interdisciplinary Psychology at the University of Bamberg have put together a couple tutorials on hacking the Pleo. For those unfamiliar, the Pleo is a small robot shaped like a dinosaur. Their goal was to make it cute and simulate emotion at a higher level than previously attained by consumer robots. Ugobe, the makers of Pleo encourage hacking of the unit and the controlling software. Look at the “developers” area of their site to download all kinds of tools to work on your Pleo.
The two tutorials released by GRIP cover adding wireless communication with a PC and adding a higher resolution camera to the unit. The goal was to make the platform capable of doing facial recognition.
The first tutorial is to replace the web cam. GRIP did a fantastic job of documenting this upgrade. There are tons of pictures, covering every step, 15 pages of them actually. The people at Ugobe have done a good job as well, its hard not to feel a tinge of sympathy for the poor guy as its getting disassembled.
They have a few areas that have been updated as well, such as the fact that they later came back and built in a new power supply to avoid interference. The updates are in line with the instructions, as opposed to tacked on the end. That’s nice. Its always such a pain to get to the end of a tutorial to notice that the author posted a different and better way of doing an early step.
The second and much shorter tutorial is where they add the communication with the PC. Using an XBee RF module, they patch into the Pleo’s serial port. This installation doesn’t require any modifications to the structure of the Pleo and only involves 2 wires being soldered. Once it is connected, you can send commands to the Pleo using Dino-MITE by BAUER Independents.
GRIP has done a fantastic job on this tutorial. They ask that we also help them research our hopes and objections for future robotics by taking their survey.
[thanks Martin Diruf]