Hacking a radio controlled spy device for overly attached girlfriend.

This is the first in our series of videos meant to spread the hacking goodness far and wide on the net. As you can see, it is a pretty silly video, hopefully you enjoyed the humor.  This wouldn’t be hackaday without an appropriate writeup though!

Initially the idea was to make this as a device that my boss could deploy from his Tesla Model S. Ultimately, we missed the release of SkyFall, so the whole 007 theme seemed a little flat. However, we did just happen to have a wonderful woman in the office that agreed to be an “overly attached girlfriend”. Here’s a link to the meme for those who are unfamiliar. Even though we made her look like a crazy person, she was a great sport about it (Thanks [Stephanie]!).

The Goal was to have a radio controlled device that would send live video and audio to someone and had the ability to plant a small GPS tracker on the undercarriage of a car.

My first thought was simply to pick up a spy Trakr since it already handles the audio/video portion and has a documented interface for adding your own attachments. Before I bought this, I did what I usually do when I need cheap radio controlled stuff, I went to Toys R Us. While I was there, I saw the Intruder.

iphone 270

This seemed like it could be much faster than the similarly priced Trakr and touted some of the same features. It would connect to your cell phone and allow you to drive it, switch between night vision and regular mode, turn the headlights on and off, and hear what its microphone picked up.  I immediately liked the feature of turning on/off the headlights as this would give me a channel I could devote to an external device without any modification.

When I got it out of the box and played with it for a while I was pretty let down by the “car” part. It sent live video just as it promised but the car itself was sluggish and horrible to steer. This is mainly because it uses a goofy system for its drive train. The front wheels are fake. They’re completely smooth and have no function in turning. All driving and turning is done by the rear wheels, acting like treads on a tank.  This was going to be the slowest spy car ever if I didn’t take another route.

Here are some pictures of the guts

I ultimately decided I would get a very fast and small radio controlled car to use as a platform, and I would use the guts of the Intruder as the spy portion. This worked very well. Then, I took a trip to one of the nicer hobby stores in town, Hobby Town. I explained my project and the guy there was excited to help me find something that could work. I really needed something fast and strong, but really short. At the point I was buying this, I was still planning on putting this underneath the tesla roadster and had to consider ground clearance. I found the Losi 1/24 scale micro truck, which was small, had 4 wheel drive, and independent suspension. No modifications were necessary to this. I simply made the spy part capable of snapping on where the stock body would attach.

To create the spy portion I started with a sheet of plexiglass and laid out the internals of the intruder in a neat and orderly fashion. I now needed to add my gps delivering arm. To make this happen, I used a Teensy attached to a standard servo. The teensy would watch for the headlights to turn off. When they did, it would rotate the servo 90 degrees. When the lights turned back on, the arm would drop. Simple as can be.

I’d like to take a second to talk about the teensy. It was pretty awesome. Small enough to not add much weight and still hand standard pin spacing and on board USB. The fact that it can be seen by a computer as an HID device is something that will be quite useful in the future. Unfortunately, I left mine in the office in California, so I’ll just order another for the next project.  It is hard to beat at $19.

The arm was constructed from scrap I had lying around. There is a light PCB from a cheapo piano, a slot cover from a computer case, and a magnet. The fake GPS (yeah, there was no need to buy a real one for 3 seconds in a video), is just a battery holder with some magnets on it. When it is lifted, the strong magnets on top stick to the frame of the automobile. They are stronger than the magnet that holds it to the arm, so when the arm is lowered, the tracker stays on the new location.

Here’s the sample video I sent to my director [Jay] so he could plan before we shot the video:

Ultimately, it was a success. I ran into some strange issues during filming where it would completely stop responding. I’m not sure if it was a distance issue, or crosstalk between it and something else. We ultimately made it work though. The only problem we had was when we told [Stephanie] to drive it right into the camera, she did exactly that and knocked the little pins off that hold the top to the bottom.  A zip tie fixed it and we were ready to continue.

If you would like to follow along and possibly help with future video projects, you can by subscribing to the email list in the right column, or by watching our forums. I’ve posted a few that I’m working on right now!

Comments

  1. Sheldon says:

    I’ve not the read the entire article but if the openning video is anything to go by, I take my hat off to you (but while keeping my face obscured incase the GF is watching). Loved the video even with the slightly disturbing laughter at the end.

  2. Ren says:

    There’s a blank spot in the 2nd video from 1:12 to 3:00 (or so).

  3. xorpunk says:

    It’d funny how obvious it is that they all work in marketing…

    • Caleb Kraft says:

      because it is a reference to a meme? I don’t get it.

      [Stephanie] is a graphic artist, [Jay] is a video editor, and me… well I do hackaday (the “boyfriend” is a video editor as well)

    • f00 says:

      It does have that feel to it.

      • Caleb Kraft says:

        The feel of an infomercial? I hope so. We were trying really hard to make one.

        • Steve says:

          oh yea it worked.

          • Caleb Kraft says:

            the hard part is going to be doing fun videos that AREN’T infomericals! Every idea we come up with we start brainstorming and the first idea to pop up is an infomercial :/

            I plan on doing several that aren’t.

        • RoadWarrior222 says:

          I’d like to see an infomercial that’s “hacked” … an informercial aimed at informercial makers advertising a specialist agency that supplies “complete idiots” … the ones that demonstrate “the old way” product… “Our selection process is rigorous, we reject applicants that actually manage to kill themselves during the initial screen test…. “

          • Caleb Kraft says:

            That would be hillarious. I can almost see this as a division of aperature science. I don’t think it is a video that hackaday will be making though.

          • Cave Johnson, with the lemons says:

            @Caleb Kraft.
            “I don’t think it is a video that hackaday will be making though.”

            This was a disappointment.
            I’m making a note here: huge let down.
            It’s hard to overstate my frustration.
            Hack-a-day
            We do what we must
            because we can.
            For the entertainment of all of us.
            You should get right on it.
            There’s no sense denying this video request.
            If you do it you will be called the best.
            And the blog entry is posted.
            And the comments get firsted.
            For the greatest hacking blog.
            I’m not really trying.
            You could make a better parody than this.
            So make a sweet video.
            Seriously.

            Cave Johnson,

            We’re done here.

          • Caleb Kraft says:

            Nice.

        • n0lkk says:

          No much the feel of an infomercial. Intentional or not it does appear to be an attempt in hope of riding the meme to entice youtube viewer to watch the video in hopes it will lead them to hackaday, and from there to the hardware hacking. Not only if successful would that aid Hackaday, it would help those who work is regularly feature by hackaday Ben-Ben-Dino-Jerri-Todd are those who come to mind readily. Time will tell if youtube associates the Hackaday with Laini’s parody of the Justin Bieber song. All in all the HAD video is a good parody of the parody. Mybe shou should consider mpstin the HAD video as a video response to Laini

  4. Giuseppe says:

    she is really cute!

  5. Fritoeata says:

    That was indeed funny

  6. Steve says:

    dude, put this on a much bigger and beefier chassis and the troops abroad could probably use this… I bet it’s cheaper than anything they get now.

  7. RootsBabilonia says:

    I need to do this.

  8. icanhazadd says:

    I like it!
    Wouldn’t it be more practical to just spy on him through his cell though?

  9. RafMan says:

    That was funny and creepy at the same time…

  10. Marc says:

    This video is so great and Stephanie has done such a great job on her role that I am inclinged to sign up to this site just for the fun of this one.
    Could Stephanie, please, show some of the “pros” on screen how to transport the FUN in acting?

  11. soopergooman says:

    I’m scared now or maybe scarred. Both I think.

  12. Denbo says:

    Nice but you forgot that oft repeated infomercial line: “But wait… there’s more! Act now and we’ll send you _________”

  13. cde says:

    You know, you probably could have got the real OAGF to do it.

  14. Dixie says:

    Wow. What is next: FPGA’s with Scumbag Steve? LOLCATS and lasers? Socialy Awkward Penguin’s Arduino Hints?

    :/

  15. AHAHAHAHA this is hilarious

    Nice work!! I love how you came up with the idea & filmed on the same day — a true hacker :)

  16. xorpunk says:

    Supposedly videos editors and graphics designers do anything other than marketing…

  17. Can Stephenie do more evil chick scientist videos?
    Pule-e-e-e-e-e-ase.
    She has such an awesome evil laugh, I just can’t wait for the next episode of the: Overly Attached Girlfriend.

    That was just too fun to watch.

  18. George Johnson says:

    Should have used Jodi Arias as the overly attached girlfriend. Don’t get more overly attached than that. Well, she’s no longer attached.

    (at the meme site, they had one about how she sewed her name on all your clothes, there’s actually a photo of Jodi wearing a shirt with Alexander’s name on it…. creepy)

  19. JA12 says:

    There’s an easier solution… super glue.

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