This Sassy Art Installation is Like The Stanley Parable for the Telephone

Insert Customer Feedback Here

Imagine this. A phone on a nearby desk starts ringing. No one is around to pick it up, so you decide that you will be a good Samaritan and answer the phone. You are greeted by a slightly creepy robotic female voice asking you to complete a simple survey. Having nothing else to do, you go ahead and run through the telephone survey. As you start answering the questions, things start to get a bit… weird. The robot voice doesn’t like your answers. She actually disagrees with you, and she does NOT like being interrupted. Now she’s getting sassy with you! What is going on here?

Most likely you are the latest victim of Insert Customer Feedback Here, [Charles’] art installation. You see, that is no ordinary telephone. [Charles] actually removed the guts of an old telephone and replaced them with an Arduino. The Arduino periodically rings the phone, waiting for someone to answer. Once the phone is off the hook, the Arduino uses a Wave shield to start playing back the scripted audio files. All of the text-to-speech files and the various hold music files are played back with the wave shield. The Arduino is also hooked up to the 1, 2, 3, and # keys of the telephone keypad in order to read back the user’s responses.

From here on out the program acts as a sort of “choose your own adventure” game. The program takes different paths and responds in different ways depending on how the user answers the questions. Generally speaking, it will get more “irritated” towards the user if it doesn’t “like” your answers, otherwise it will get less irritated. The hold music will even change to become more or less aggressive.

It’s easy to draw comparisons to Portal’s GLaDOS due to the robotic female voice and to the narrator from The Stanley Parable for the “choose your own adventure” feeling. In fact, if GLaDOS and The Stanley Parable had offspring, this would surely be it. This project brings that same type of silly sarcastic humor to a different medium and it does it well. Be sure to watch the video of the system in action below. It really starts to get interesting around the 1:15 mark. Continue reading “This Sassy Art Installation is Like The Stanley Parable for the Telephone”

PBX blade for multiple extension home telephony

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It looks like a consumer good, but this PBX server blade was built by [Benoit Frigon] over the last couple of years. It brings multiple telephone extensions to his home service.

The device runs Asterisk open source PBX software. Because it will be on all the time he wanted something that doesn’t draw a lot of power. The 500 Mhz system seen on the left has just a half a gig of ram. It’s enough to do the job and at 10 Watts it’s not going to break the bank when it comes to paying the electric bills. The board in the middle is used to interface the analog handsets with the land line. From the look of it he’s got it rigged for two extensions.

That’s all somewhat par for the course with PBX rigs, but the enclosure is where he really shines. [Benoit] used 22 gauge aluminum sheet to fabricate the enclosure which is designed to blend in with the rest of his home’s rack mount hardware. To provide control at the rack he added his own LCD and touch-sensitive button interface to the front of the case based on a PIC 18F2520. The system can also be accessed via the web thanks to a custom interface he coded.

Turning a phone into a media center remote

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[Kees] wanted a remote for an XBMC audio system. He had a classic T65 Dutch telephone in one of his project boxes and thought this phone with the addition of a Raspberry Pi he could have a functional media remote with classic lines and 70s styling.

Each of the digits on the phone were wired up to a small solderless breadboard. With a handful of resistors, [Kees] set up a simple pull up/pull down circuit feeding in to his Raspi’s GPIO input.

With a short Python script, [Kees] managed to map the buttons to XMBC’s play/pause, volume up/down, next, and previous commands. There were a few buttons left over, so those were mapped to online radio stations, playlists, and a strange setting known only as ‘moo’. We’re not sure what that button does, but you can see the other functions of this XMBC phone remote in action in the video below.

Continue reading “Turning a phone into a media center remote”

Getting rid of telemarketers with a Banana Phone

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The Federal Trade Commission really doesn’t like robocalls and other telephone solicitors selling you vinyl siding or home security upgrades. The FTC is even offering $50,000 to anyone who can do away with these robocalling telemarketers, and [Alex] looks like he might just claim the prize. He developed The Banana Phone, a device that eliminates those pesky telemarketers.

The basic idea of the Banana Phone is requiring callers to enter a four-digit pass code (played via text to speech over a relevant song to prevent a bot from getting through) before connecting them to the main line. Once a caller has been verified as human, their number is added to a white list so they won’t have to listen to [Raffi] every time they call.

The Banana Phone uses off-the-shelf parts  including a Raspberry Pi and a phone/Ethernet adapter with the total build cost under $100. You can check out a demo of the Banana Phone in action after the break starting at about 2:25.

Continue reading “Getting rid of telemarketers with a Banana Phone”

GSM to Landline box has a creatively soldered cellphone inside

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We don’t blame the manufacturer of this GSM to Landline converter box for not designing the thing from the ground-up. After all, quantities of scale have made dumb-cellphones available for next to nothing. But you have to admit that it’s interesting to see a fully populated cellphone board creatively soldered into a consumer product. It would be commonplace if made in your basement rather than being sold in a store.

[Anton] was using the box to add his analog house phones to the cell network. The signal strength at home is pretty low and this box offers an external antenna for better reception. He cracked open the case expecting to see a GSM modem and was surprised to see the cellphone board. It includes a battery backup, and has been soldered directly to the cables which interface with the main PCB using some SIL connectors. Those solder joints were done by hand directly to the pins of the SIM card slot and as well as all of the other important connection points.

Find a way to stop robocalls to grab this $50k prize

Here’s a challenge tailored to our community if we’ve ever seen one. You know those delightful unsolicited prerecorded calls you get from time to time? They might be political, but they also come from companies trying to sell you vinyl siding, or promising improvements in your business. Well they’re against the law in many cases, and complaints to the Federal Trade Commission have been piling up. So now the FTC is offering a $50,000 bounty to anyone who can find a way to block the calls.

It’s called the Robocall Challenge and you’ve got until January 17th, 2013 to get your entry submitted. The great thing is, this doesn’t need to be a fully working solution. Your entry may be: “proposed technical solutions or functional solutions and proofs of concept “. Even better, you retain ownership of the solution even if you win. This type of recognition will surely have telco related companies beating a path to your door.

Of course if you do have a solution, we’d love to hear about it too!

[Thanks Filespace via WCPO]

Rotary and cordless phones mashup

This pile of hardware marries telecommunications hardware from distinctly different generations. [Andrew D. Farquharson] wanted the retro look and operation of a rotary phone, with the convenience of a modern cordless. He combined the two technologies to achieve his goal.

The first problem was to find a way to translate the rotary inputs to something he could use. There are already a bunch of projects that use rotary hardware so he didn’t have to reinvent the wheel. He followed this guide to connecting Arduino to a rotary phone.

The next step was to interface with his cordless phone. He ditched the case and soldered rainbow ribbon cable to the entire button matrix. An opto-isolator is used to protect the Arduino while making each connection. Finally, he patched into the mechanism which monitors the cradle to see if the handset has been picked up. It sounds like his code lets you enter the number on the dial, then pick up the handset to actual transmit it through the cordless phone.