Manuel the Scottish moose speaks your tweets

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The folks over at Torchbox needed a Christmas card this year. Previously, the most poplar holiday card was a web page that gave their visitors a chance to activate a ‘snow machine’ and spray confetti on a random employee, all while being streamed online. They wanted to replicate this bridge between virtual and real life interactions this year, and Manuel the talking moose was born.

Manuel needed a personality and interaction from random people on the Internet so the Torchbox team decided to make the fake moose head speak tweets in real-time with the help of a Raspberry Pi. The code running on the Raspi gets tweets with a #tbxmoose hashtag, sends that through a node.js script, and finally sent to the Festival speech synthesis system.

A few modifications needed to be done to Manuel before he was presented to the Internet. His jaw was chopped in half and a servo and animatronic controller were added for a proper presentation on Torchbox’s stream of Manuel’s random musings.

A collection of hands to inspire your Halloween animatronics

Jump scares are a lot of fun, but if you want to hold the attention of all those trick-or-treaters we’d suggest a creepy prop. One of the best choices in that category is a ghoulishly lifelike hand. You can draw some inspiration from this roundup of robot hands which Adafruit put together.

We’ve chosen four examples for the image above but there are more to be had than just these. In the upper left there is a laser-cut acrylic hand that actually features some force sensitive resistors on the fingertips to help implement some haptic feedback. This project was inspired by the hand seen in the lower right which uses flex sensors on a glove to control the bot’s movement. If you’re looking for something more realistic the 3D printed parts on the lower left are the best bet. But if you’re looking to put something together by Halloween night the offering in the upper right is the way to go. It’s hacked together using cardboard templates to cut out plastic parts and using polymorph to form joints and brackets.

Singing pumpkins

This Halloween table will sing a sweet serenade to spook your guests. Each of the animatronic pumpkins were quite easy to build, but you may end up spending a bit more time choreographing the performance.

Inside each Jack-o-lantern you’ll find a custom Arduino compatible board called a Minion board. These include a wireless connection which lets the system sync with the computer playing the audio. The pumpkins are fake, which means that can be reused year after year (unlike our LED matrix inside a real pumpkin). The mouth is connected to a servo with a short piece of bent wire, allowing it to flap along with the words of a song. You can see a performance of the Ghostbusters theme in the clip after the break.

A custom GUI was written in C# to aid in the choreography. It handles the playback of the song, with a few buttons that can be used to record the light and mouth effects. This ‘recording’ is then used to drive the pumpkins during a performance.

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humanoid Robot Kinects with its enviroment

[Malte Ahlers] from Germany, After having completed a PhD in neurobiology, decided to build a human sized humanoid robot torso. [Malte] has an interest in robotics and wanted to  show case some of his skills.The project is still in its early development but as you will see in the video he has achieved a nice build so far.

A1 consists of a Human sized torso with two arms, each with five (or six, including the gripper) axes of rotation, which have been based on the robolink joints from German company igus.de. The joints are tendon driven by stepper motors with a planetary gear head attached. Using an experimental controller which he has built, [Malte] can monitor the position of the axis by monitoring the encoders embedded in the joints.

The A1 torso features a head with two degrees of freedom, which is equipped with a Microsoft Kinect sensor and two Logitech QuickCam Pro 9000 cameras. With this functionality the head can spatially ”see” and ”hear”. The head also has speakers for voice output, which can be accompanied by an animated gesture on the LCD screen lip movements for example. The hands feature a simple gripping tool based on FESTO FinGripper finger to allow the picking up of misc items.

Zombie [Jackson] bot dances to Thriller

[Marc Cryan] built this little bugger which he calls Wendell the Robot. But what good is an animatronic piece like this unless you do something fun with it? That’s why you can catch the movements matching [Michael Jackson's] choreography from the music video Thriller in the clip after the break.

This is a ground-up build for [Marc]. He started by designing templates for each of the wood parts using Inkscape. After printing them out, he glued each to a piece of 1/4″ plywood and cut along the lines using a band saw. We don’t have a lot of adhesive spray experience, but he mentions that the can should have directions for temporary adhesion so that the template can be removed after cutting.

During assembly he makes sure to add servo horns for easy connection when adding the motors. All together he’s using five; two for the wheels, two for the arms, and one for the neck. A protoboard shield makes it easy to connect them to the Arduino which is used as a controller.

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Naughty Duck will be the end of Secret Santa at your place of work

Aw, isn’t he cute? Looks are deceiving, because if you get him started, this duck says some vulgar things. [Gigavolt] found the little guy abandoned at the Goodwill store and decided it might have some hacking potential. Boy was he right. The stock toy can already sing a tune while flapping its beak and wings. After spending some time in [Gigavolt's] lair, this duck is going to be on the naughty list. The best part is that this is going to end up in the hands of someone else thanks to a Secret Santa exchange.

The build article linked above is safe for you to read at work, but the video embedded after the break most certainly is not. [Gigavolt] got to work replacing the integrated circuit inside with his own PIC 16F628 microcontroller. He uses a new audio track, which is played back by a SOMO-14D audio player board. The two use different input voltage levels which is something of a bother, but it’s a standby power drain that has been vexing [Gigavolt] he rolled his own board using the DorkbotPDX order and can’t figure out why the current consumption is so high. Take a look at the cursing duck, then see if you can’t troubleshoot his electrical issues.

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Halloween Hacks: Simple robotic skull is a perfect last minute decoration

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simple_talking_skull

If you haven’t taken the time to put your decorations together it’s time to get a move on. With Halloween just around the corner big elaborate displays are pretty much out of the question, but [Boris] and the team over at Open Electronics have a simple project that’s sure to be a hit with the Trick or Treaters.

Using a cheap plastic prop that you can likely find at any Halloween store, they have put together a simple talking skull that moves along with whatever music or sound is being piped through it. The skull’s mouth is moved by a single servo mounted inside the brain cavity, which is controlled by an Arduino. The Arduino monitors the sound level of the source audio being played, actuating the servo accordingly.

It’s quick, simple, and effective – perfect for a last minute decorating project. If you are a little more ambitious, you could always put together a whole chorus of skulls without too much additional effort – just a few extra skulls and some servos would do the trick nicely.

Check out a quick video of the skull in action below, along with another short clip showing how the servo is rigged up to move its mouth.

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