Web connectivity and other addons for an automatic schnauzer feeder

web-enabled-automatic-dog-feeder

[Ben Miller] and his dad combined forces to create this automatic dog feeder. It not only keeps their two schnauzers happy, but gives them peace of mind as they can double-check that he feeding happened by pulling up an image on the Internet. Make sure you make it through all three posts of the build to get the entire picture.

The project started with some research which turned up a project that used a commercially available automatic feeder. That one used Arduino, but because of the cost the board plus a WiFi shield is a bit high, [Ben] went with a Raspberry Pi and a USB WiFi dongle instead. The Pi is much more powerful and adds the functionality for capturing images via a webcam.

After a convoluted process of connecting the Pi to the existing button traces on the automatic feeder it was time to start coding. The system runs from a Perl script which monitors a Gmail account for remote commands (in addition to a regular feeding schedule). The final touch is a bit of mechanical engineering which splits the output into two bowls so the dogs each have their own serving.

We still use the Autodine we built several years back but its single-serving limitation has always kept a second version on our project list. Hopefully seeing a well-executed system like this will motivate us to get building!

[Lou] puts invisible fence inside and outside his home

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Leave it to [Lou Wozniak] to go beyond ordinary when installing invisible fencing. Invisible fence is an electronic system that contains your dog by triggering a shock collar. The install requires a loop of wire to generate a field detected by the collar.

[Lou] starts off by buying a do it yourself kit. He has previous experience with this (check out his battery hack for the collars) and found that the cheap solid core wire didn’t hold up to animals and shovel accidents. He headed down to the hardware store and came back with a spool of stranded wire with extra thick insulation which should hold up much better.

The image above shows the model he built to plan for the installation. He’s not just making a single area in the yard. Look closely and you’ll see he’s going to use it to keep the dogs out of the dining room as well. This loop will be installed just below the floor from the basement.

With planning behind him he doesn’t fail to innovate with the installation technique. He recommends an angle grinder with a diamond blade to cut the slot for the wire in your yard. The one caveat being that you need to wait until the yard is super dry or it will muck up the blade. Dry dirt creates a lot of dust, but he uses a leaf blower or floor fan to blow it away from him as it works. To help minimize the amount of shocks the dogs receive while learning their new area he placed some white rope above the wire run as a visual cue.

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3D printed dispenser flings treats at your pets

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If you’re stuck in the virtual world like [Kevin Flynn] you can still make sure your pup is rewarded for good behavior. Just follow [Jwarp's] design for this Internet connect dog treat dispenser.

We were actually a bit surprised by the demo video. It shows that the compact unit is more than capable of reliably dispensing one treat at a time. It started as a wood prototype which allowed him to tweak how the servo motors worked before laying out all of the 3D parts in Sketch Up. Two motors cooperate to get the job done. The first allows one treat to exit that shoot coming from the center of the hopper. The other stirs the remaining inventory to both position the next treat and loosen any jams.

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Web connected treat dispenser appeases the pets

web-connected-treat-dispenser

[John] was looking for a project for his newly acquired Raspberry Pi and decided to include his dog in the fun. although his finished project looks a lot like an old time camera, it’s actually a web-connected treat dispenser that uses his dog’s email address for dispensation.

Let’s take a look at the hardware from top to bottom. There’s a camera with a eagle’s eye shot of his furry friend waiting for treats. The cylinder below that is the motor which drives the treat dispenser. You can see the chain tensioner on the back which connects the motor to the tube dispenser in the center of the box. Just above that outlet is the character display which gives feedback to anyone watching the dispenser. Nearing the bottom is a hopper that catches the treats, then flips over to dump them onto the floor. And finally at the bottom is a slot for the Raspberry Pi which drives everything.

Most of [John's] projects revolve around CNC work. In addition to the demo video found after the break there’s a second that focuses on CAD design. About half way through that clip he gives us a close-up tour of all the hardware.

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Feedback for automated water and food pet dispensers

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[Enrico] figured out a way to fully automate his pet food and water. The system is in two parts, the water trough as seen on the left, and the food dispenser whose control hardware is shown on the right. The system is even hooked up to the network so that he can make sure it didn’t break down while he was away.

The water dispenser uses parts from a sprinkler system. Since it’s mounted outdoors it doesn’t matter if the water overflows a little bit. So [Enrico] set up the timer to run the water for three minutes every day. This acts as a backup system since the trough already has the ability to refill itself.

The food dispenser started as a commercial unit. To get feedback from the system he added a couple of magnets to the agitation motor and reads them with a hall effect sensor. In addition to an IP camera that monitors the area around the feeder (so [Enrico] can actually see his dog eating) there is a webcam which monitors the STM32 Discovery board which monitors the feeder. It tracks the number of times the dispenser has run.

Professional looking dog robot was actually [Martin's] Master’s Thesis

If you think this thing looks good you should see it move. [Martin Smith] hit a home run on the project, which was his Master’s Thesis. Fifteen servo motors provide a way for the bot to move around. Having been modeled after a small canine the gait is very realistic. The tail is even functional, acting as a counterweight when moving the legs.

The project was meticulously built in a 3D environment before undertaking any physical assembly. The mechanical parts are all either milled from aluminum or 3D printed. Two mBed boards mounted on its back allow it to interact with its environment. One of them handles image processing, the other drives the array of motors. And of course it doesn’t hurt that he built some Larson Scanners in as eyes.

Don’t miss the video after the break which shows off the entire project from planning to demonstration. We can’t help but be reminded of the rat-thing from Snow Crash.

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Defense Against the Dog Arts

It’s possible that it was [Matt Meerian]‘s awesome pun that won us over, not his ultrasonic bicycle dog defense system, but that would be silly. [Matt] wanted an elegant solution to a common problem when riding a bicycle, dogs. While, obscenities, ammonia, water, pepper spray, and others were suggested, they all had cons that just didn’t appeal to [Matt]. He liked the idea of using C02 powered high pressure sound waves to chase the dogs away with, but decided to choose a more electronic approach.  He used a Atmel ATmega644 as the MCU, four 25kHz transmitters, and two 40kHz transmitters. When the rider sees a dog he simply flips a switch and it activates the transducers (along with, cleverly, a human audible horn so he doesn’t have to look down to know it’s working). So far [Matt] has not had a dog chase him in order to test it’s efficacy, but his cat clearly seems unaffected by the device as you can see after the break. [Read more...]