Spy Video TRAKR: software and first hack

Our initial view of the Spy Video TRAKR “App BUILDR” site had us believing this would be an internet-based code editor and compiler, similar to the mbed microcontroller development tools. Delving deeper into the available resources, we’re not entirely sure that’s an accurate assessment — TRAKR may well permit or even require offline development after all. Regardless of the final plan, in the interim we have sniffed out the early documentation, libraries and standalone C compiler and have beaten it into submission for your entertainment, in order to produce our first TRAKR hack!

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Spy Video TRAKR: the teardown

Last Friday we looked at Wild Planet’s Spy Video TRAKR programmable RC vehicle mostly from an end user perspective. Much of our weekend was spent dismantling and photographing the device’s internal works, and poring over code and documentation, in order to better gauge the TRAKR’s true hackability. Our prior review included some erroneous speculation…we can clarify a number of details now, and forge ahead with entirely new erroneous speculation!

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Spy Video TRAKR: first impressions

At the Bay Area Maker Faire this past May, we had our first glimpse of Wild Planet’s Spy Video TRAKR, a $130 radio-controlled toy with some surprises under the hood.

On the surface, the Spy Video TRAKR — the latest addition to the popular Spy Gear toy line — is an R/C tank with a video camera and night vision, with the added ability to download new “apps” from the internet for extra functions. With a little detective work, one uncovers the TRAKR’s secret double life: it’s also an eminently hackable robotics platform! Prior Spy Gear toys have been popular hack targets, providing inexpensive, mass-produced sources of unusual items such as head-mounted displays. Rather than throw up barriers, Wild Planet has chosen to embrace this secondary market, with plans to release development tools and documentation making it possible to extend the device’s capabilities.

Read on for our image-heavy unboxing and initial impressions.

BAMF2010: Spy TRAKR – no lasers, $14,861 cheaper

Maybe $15K for an elaborate balancing telepresence robot is a bit out of one’s league. In that case, another Bay Area Maker Faire exhibitor — Wild Planet — has you covered. Faire attendees got a hands-on sneak preview of the upcoming Spy Video TRAKR, a video-transmitting radio-controlled toy that’s programmable and extensively hackable.

The TRAKR has an impressive pedigree. It’s a collaborative effort between three successful and creative technology companies: Wild Planet, makers of the Spy Gear toy line; MOTO Development Group, designers of the Flip Video camera; and Making Things, software designers for the Make Controller.

So just how hackable are we talking? The Spy Video TRAKR is intended right out of the box to use downloadable apps, and allows development of new programs in C. The controller and vehicle each contain their own ARM9 processor, and the ’bot features 8 megs of RAM, an SD card slot and USB client and host (yes, host) ports. And that’s all with the cover still on. Pop the lid, and you’ll find links to online schematics and neatly-labeled breakout headers for deeper exploration.

The Spy Video TRAKR is expected to ship in October with a target price of $139 or less. Additional photos after the break.

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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.

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$10 camera module for your next FPGA project

Here is [Voelker] showing off his FPGA-based camera hardware. He picked up an ov7670 camera on eBay for about $10 and set to work pulling pixels and processing the images. He’s now able to grab thirty frames per second and push them to his own Java display application. He’s using the Papilio board and if you want to give this a try yourself you might be able to snag a free breakout board (wing) for the unit.

[Voelker's] approach is to grab each frame, and get it ready for quick serial transmission. The incoming frames are at 640×480 resolution. He scales that down to 80×60 and transmitted at 3M baud. The hardware resources used are actually quite light-weight. He wrote his own modules for transfer and photo processing using very little RAM for downscaling and one 128 byte buffer for data transmission. It sounds like he plans to use the camera to view and detect a line to create his own line-following robot.

Wondering where you’ve seen the ov7670 module before? It’s the part used on the TRAKR robot.

Bomb disposal robot with Lego gripper

[Krash] had a lot of fun hacking up his Spy Gear TRAKR; we’re just lucky he was able to move a suspicious Shrek doll before it detonated.

The now discontinued Spy Gear TRAKR serves as the basis for [Krash]‘s build. This tiny remote-controlled toy transmits video back to its remote and makes us very jealous of the awesome toys our nephew has. Thankfully, the engineers behind the TRAKR made it extremely hackable, as proved by Hack A Day’s very own [Phil Burgess].

[Krash] began his build by putting a few male headers in the GPIO pins on the TRAKR’s board. After that, the TRAKR SDK was downloaded. He used a few Snap Circuits to verify his TRAKR software was working, then set off to build a Lego gripper arm. The arm is powered through an H-bridge IC [Krash] found alongside the rest of his Snap Circuits stuff.

Not a bad build for what amounts to a pile of toys. Check out [Krash]‘s video of his bomb disposal bot after the break.

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