Taking Control Of Your Furby

Furbys have been around for a while and they are an interesting (if annoying) toy that will teach the kids to be okay with their eventual robotic overlords. In the meantime, the latest version of the robotic companion/toy/annoyance uses Bluetooth LE to communicate with the owner and [Jeija] has been listening in on the Bluetooth communication, trying to reverse engineer the protocol in order to run code on Furby.

[Jeija] has made a lot of progress and can already control the Furby’s actions, antenna and backlight color, and change the Furby’s emotional state by changing the values of the Furby’s hungriness, tiredness, etc. [Jeija] has created a program that runs on top of Node.js and can communicate with the Furby and change its properties. [Jeija] has also discovered, and can bring up, a secret debug menu that displays in the Furby’s eyes. Yet to be discovered is how to run your own code on the Furby, however, [Jeija] is able to add custom audio to the official DLC files and upload them into the Furby.

[Jeija] points out the all this was done without taking a Furby apart, only by sniffing the Bluetooth communication between the robot and the controlling app (Android/iOS device.) Check out a similar hack on the previous generation of Furbys, as well as a replacement brain for them. We just hope that the designers included a red/green LED so that we will all know when the Furbys switch from good to evil.

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Hacked Furby Knows When You’re Near

One of the classics of circuit bending is to mess around with the clock chip that drives the CPU in simple noise-making toys. [Goran] took this a step further with his Furby hack. Skip down to the video embedded below if you just want to see the results.

After first experiments modifying the Furby’s clock with a string of resistors (YouTube), [Goran] decided to opt for more control, overriding the clock entirely with a square wave coming out of an Arduino. And then, the world became his oyster.

The Furby’s eyes were replaced with ultrasonic distance sensors, and what looks like a speaker was hot-glued into its mouth. Since this particular Furby only “talks” when you pull its tail, he naturally wired in tail-switch control to boot. As [Goran] suggests, a light show is the obvious next step.

If you haven’t pulled apart an electronic toy and played around with glitching it, you don’t know what you’re missing. We’ve got a classic intro to circuit bending, as well as projects that range from the simple to the ridiculously elaborate. It’s a fun introduction to electronics for the young ones as well. Grab a toy noisemaker and get hacking.

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Open Furby Opens The Furby

Remember Furby? The cute reactive robot was all the rage a few years ago, when the strange chattering creature was found under many a Christmas tree. Most Furbys have been sadly neglected since then, but the Open Furby project aims to give the toy a new lease of life, transforming it into an open source social robot platform.

We’ve featured a few Furby hacks before, such as the wonderful Furby Gurdy and the Internet connected Furby but the Open Furby project aims to create an open platform, rather than creating a specific hack. It works by replacing the brains of the Furby with a FLASH controller that runs the Robot Operating System (ROS), making the Furby much easier to program and control. They have also replaced the eyes with small OLED screens, which means it can do things like show a weather forecast, facebook notification, etc.

It is still in the early stages, but it looks like an interesting project. Personally, I am waiting for the evil Furby that wants to kill you and eat your flesh with that nasty beak…

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Furbies Sing Queen at Fresher’s Faire

kent-furby

The University of Kent has their own hacker space, called  [Maker Society]. Every year the school holds an orientation for new students called the Fresher’s Faire. The [Maker Society] display at this year’s Fresher’s Faire included a group of partially clothed Furbies singing the classic Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen. This isn’t our first run in with Bohemian Rhapsody and hacked hardware.

The [Maker Society] started by doing some internet research and reverse engineering a first generation Furby.  The Furby itself is a marvel of cost reduction. All the doll’s functions run from a single motor and a cam system. A limit switch tells the on-board microcontroller when the cam is at the zero position. An optical encoder keeps track of the cam as it moves. The [Society] replaced Furby’s internal microcontroller with an Atmel ATMega328. This allowed them to use the Arduino programming environment.

Many classic Animatronic systems use an audio recording for motion. Typically a stereo recorder would perform double duty. The first track would contain the audio for the animation. A second track would contain audio tones corresponding to movement of each of the degrees of freedom of the doll being animated. Because the two tracks were on the same strip of magnetic tape, the audio and movement would always be in sync. Multitrack tape record and playback systems added even more flexibility to this type of system.

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Reverse engineering the Furby

Furby

Furby teardowns are a favorite of ours, and there’s nothing quite like flaying open a creepy talking deformed animatronic owl/hell beast. There’s a lot you can do with a set of screwdrivers and a pair of scissors, but it takes a real clever person to reverse engineer a Furby without any disassembly (Russian, here’s the translation).

The new Furby comes with an iOS and Android app that allows children to interact with the Furby by feeding it, giving it commands, and even translating the Furbish into English. These apps work by playing a WAV file encoded with commands that give the Furby something to eat, or tell it to dance a merry jig.

Commands are delivered with these WAV files by means of a 4-digit, 4-bit code, complete with checksums. There are ten bits the Furby actually responds on, meaning there are potentially 1024 different commands the Furby can accept.

[iafan] wrote a Perl script to listen in on the audio generated by the Android Furby app and correlated all the possible commands with actions taken by the Furby. Everything is up on a git, allowing anyone to play an audio file and control the Furby’s mood and actions.

With this it should be possible to remotely control a Furby, letting it dance whenever you receive an email, or making it angry whenever someone retweets you. It’s a lot more clever than just putting a Furby through a wood chipper, but considering how creepy these things are, we’re not going to say it’s better.

Japanese maid mods a furby

This video has been floating around the web recently and we thought that some of you might enjoy it. After a quick google search, we found out that this is [Julie Watai], a singer/model who also enjoys hardware modification. In this video, she’s doing a tutorial on how to circuit bend furbies. No, we have no idea why she is dressed like a maid.  This immediately brought to mind that Bjork video we saw a few years ago. Enjoy.

Arduino command interpreter shell

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A lot of people like fancy GUIs and nice graphics, but some of us just feel more at home in a command prompt. [nevdull] is one of those people. Instead of just using the Arduino dev tools that are available for download, he wanted the ability to shell into his Arduino, so he created AVR Shell. AVR Shell is a UNIX-like shell that allows you to “log in” to your Arduino/AVR and see what’s really going on; letting you read registers, scale the CPU speed, create/edit/delete variables, and even set up timers. The shell is even user-customizable! Those of you interested in Arduino shells might also check out bitlash, another open source CLI. Someone ought to hook this up to the Internet enabled Furby and get Flite compiled on there, letting us shell into a Furby from miles away to make it talk.

[Thanks Leesam]