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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Animatronics in a box

[Knife141] built an impressive animatronic head. He uses it mostly for volunteer activities, like getting school children excited about technology. He built a carrying trunk that fits the puppet just right, making it easy to store and to transport.

He started by making the parts for the head out of cardboard to make sure they would fit together and operate properly. These were then used as templates to cut the pieces out of half-inch plywood. A series of servos, connected either directly or with linking rods, move the mouth, eyes, eyelids, eyebrows and neck via a servo controller board.

Sound is played by a single-board computer called a RAPU via a pair of computer speakers. This board is also what sends commands to the servo controller. When [Knife141] wants to create a new act for the animatronics, he starts by writing the dialog and having a text-to-speech program turn it into an MP3. He then goes through the tedious process of choreographing the puppet to the dialog, a process that generally takes him an hour for each minute of run-time. It’s worth it though, see for yourself by watching one of his acts in the video after the break.

Looking for something a little bit more your speed? Check out this animatronic head which you can build in no time.

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The Kinect Controlled Zombie Skeleton

Although there is no shortage of Kinect hacks out there, this one from Dashhacks seems especially cool.  According to them, the software part of this design uses a “modified OpenNI programming along with GlovePIE to send WiiMote commands to the cyborg such as jaw and torso movement along with MorphVOX to create the voice for the cybernetic monstrosity.” As pointed out in the video, this robotic zombie also has a “pause” feature, and a feature to loop movements like what would be done at an amusement park.

The other great thing about this hack is how well the skeleton is actuated via servo motors. Although it’s difficult to tell how many servos were used for this robot, it certainly has 10 or more degrees of freedom between the head, both arms, and the torso. To control all of this a hacked Wiimote and Nunchuck is used in conjunction with the Kinect. Check out the video after the break.

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Building a creepy doll army

Want your very own Chucky doll to scare the crap out of the roommates? [Gzip] shows you how to make this happen by adding servo-based animatronics to old dolls. In the video after the break you can see the doll throw up her arms and turn her head thanks to a motor in each shoulder and one in her melon. You won’t see it in the clip, but the legs are motorized too meaning that some creative coding might have this old gal awkwardly crawling across the room (with knife in hand). Then again, maybe this is just the inspiration you need to get off your bum and finish the Santa-Pede Challenge. Submissions are due a week from today!

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Developing an animatronics platform

This Predator costume has an animatronic element in the shoulder cannon. It tracks the movement of the mask, aiming wherever the Predator gazes. [Jerome Kelty] was asked by a friend to help develop the costume and he ended up with an animatronics platform which can be adapted for many different uses.

Starting with an Arduino Pro Mini [Jerome] designed a host board which would breakout the pins of the Arduino and make it easy to connect and drive multiple servo motors. The board is powered by a 3.3v Lithium Polymer battery with charging handled by a MAX1555 that was included in the design. Check out the video after the break which shows off the Predator suit. Looks like [Jerome] got it right, and he’s also put the platform to use with an Ironman suit that has an arm-mounted missle feature.

Need some inspiration for you next costume build? Take a look at this animatronic collection to get you started.

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Giant robotic giraffe getting a giant robotic facelift

If you’ve had the opportunity to attend the annual Bay Area Maker Faire, you’ve likely encountered Russell the Electric Giraffe. Modeled after a small Tamiya walking toy scaled up to the height of an actual giraffe, Russell was created by [Lindsay Lawlor] in 2005 originally as an “art car” providing a better vantage point from which to enjoy the Burning Man arts festival. In the intervening five years, the Electric Giraffe has enjoyed face time in dozens of parades, trade shows, magazines and television appearances.

Scattered about [Lawlor’s] living room floor at the moment are the giraffe’s dismantled steel skull and several massive Torxis servos (the red boxes in the photo above) — Russell is being upgraded. One of [Lawlor’s] goals in returning to Maker Faire each year is that he not simply present the same exhibit time and time again; the robot is continually evolving. Initially it was little more than a framework and drivetrain, and had to be steered by bodily shoving the entire 1,700 pound beast. Improvements to the steering and power train followed, along with a “skin” of hundreds of addressable LEDs, cosmetic improvements such as a new paint job, and technological upgrades like interactivity, radio control and speech. His goal this year is to bring expressive animatronic movement to the giraffe’s head and jaw, hence the servos, push rods and custom-machined bits currently strewn through his living space-cum-laboratory.

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