Quoth the Raven: hack some more


There are people who buy a cheap sack of candy and dutifully answer the door on Halloween. Then there are people like [Peter] who spend the whole year planning for the next year’s Hollywood-style front yard theatrics.

He added an animatronic raven to his show a few years back. It has been wildly popular and it’s not hard to see why. The bird is well engineered, well built, and the performance is very realistic. [Peter], who is an FX supervisor in the film industry, has posted a build log that takes us through step by step. This creepy performer can move its head up and down, side-to-side, and even rotate at the neck. This all happens while the beak synchronizes with talking. We marvel at the precision machining that was done to make the frame facilitate movement.

The body itself is made of fiberglass covered with feathers. [Peter] covered the completed mechanics with clay in order to sculpt the final body shape. This was used as the mold by covering it with fiberglass release and then fiberglass fabric. This process produced a very light weight and accurate shell with a minimum of effort; something we’ll keep in mind for future projects.

Take a look at a bit of video after the break. You can see the whole show from past years over at [Peter’s] site. We’ll be doing a couple of follow-ups covering his animatronic skeleton (the raven’s partner in crime) as well as the interface he uses to control and sync the voices to stay tuned! Continue reading “Quoth the Raven: hack some more”

Propeller halloween contest winners

Meet Skelly, the propeller powered singing skeleton, winning entry to the Unofficial Propeller Halloween Contest. Sick of the massive amounts of Arduino projects floating around the web, [Oldbitcollector] offered a halloween challenge.  Make something spooky using a propeller and other parallax stuff, win a prize. Skelly, made by [Chuck Rice] was the star of the show, so [Chuck] will be getting some USB development boards in the mail.

Animatronic stuffed animals stripped bare

For those who have ever wondered what Chicken-Dancing Elmo’s mechanical parts look like without the fur and the chicken costume (and who among us hasn’t?), [Matt Kirkland] posted the photos above, along with several other animatronic, walking, talking and other mechanical stuffed toys stripped of all their fur and stuffing. These before and after shots were ostensibly taken for unspecified “research purposes,” but if you ask us, any research that takes a knife to Elmo is the most valid kind.

[via Kottke]

Twittering teddy bear

This may be the deathblow that kills Nabaztag: using text-to-speech software, this animatronic bear speaks a Twitter stream aloud and in real time.

The gurus at My Home 2.0 made the bear talk by replacing its integrated circuit board with an Arduino loaded with custom software. A Bluetooth audio adapter was added as a channel for the bear’s voice, and a circuit with an H bridge chip was added to address power issues. The Arduino translates the income audio signal into movement. From there the process moved to the computer that feeds the bear audio data, they parse the Twitter stream and use OSX’s built in “say” command to generate the voice stream that’s sent to the bear via Bluetooth.