Tis the season for hacking, and [Nick McClanahan] at the GadgetGangster is certainly showing off his Christmas spirit with his most recent creation. He had an animatronic Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer toy sitting around and thought it would be fun to convert him into an email reading machine.
He tore open the toy, removing its innards, disconnecting the built-in speaker and servos from the original PCB. He then extended wires from those components outside of the body before reassembling the toy. The reindeer is controlled primarily using a Propeller Platform, with an E-Net module and a small audio amp taking care of network communications and audio output, respectively.
Most of the work is done by the software [Nick] is using, which allows Rudolph to periodically check his Gmail inbox for new messages. When the message count increases, the reindeer springs into action, moving and lighting up his nose before announcing the sender’s name.
He’s using a phonemic voice synthesizer for the output, which does the job, though we would go mad if we had to listen to it all day. Since the reindeer is connected to his LAN, it might be feasible to run the data through a more robust voice synth on a PC, returning a better-sounding audio clip for playback.
Check out the video below to see a short clip of Rudolph in action.
Continue reading “Rudolph toy hacked to announce incoming email”
[DJ Sures] just can’t help himself from tinkering with robot toys built in the 80s. This time, he got his hands on an Omnibot-2000 (not to be confused with his other Omnibot hack), and updated it for the 21st century.
After its obligatory run through the dishwasher, the robot was fitted with two heavy duty servos in each arm – one for the shoulder and one at the elbow joint. He added another pair of servos and a head-mounted camera to the robot as well, giving it the ability to look around and navigate through his house.
While these physical modifications are nothing new to [DJ Sures], he wanted the robot’s control scheme to be different than what he has done in the past. Along with the standard autonomous/joystick/Wiimote/voice/iPhone controls that he built into his other projects, he added “visual glyph” control capabilities to the Omnibot. This means that the robot can recognize specific objects and surroundings, giving it the ability to perform context-related tasks.
He’s working on getting the robot to recognize both the refrigerator and living room, in hopes of eventually having the Omnibot to fetch him drinks from the kitchen – that’s something we can totally get behind!
Continue reading to see a pair of videos of the Omnibot-2000 in action, and be sure to visit his site if you’re interested in seeing more.
Continue reading “[DJ Sures] digs up another 80s robot toy, makes it awesome”
While this year’s Christmas lists are dominated by electronic gadgets and other mass-produced toys, it wasn’t always like that. We’re not trying to sound like the old man yelling at the neighborhood kids to get off his lawn, but many of today’s gifts lack the personal touch found in old, hand-made toys.
[henlij’s] son is a budding electronics geek who loves playing with switches and lights, so he was inspired to build him a fun toy to pass the time. He constructed a simple box full of lights and switches that his son could toggle on and off to his heart’s content.
While there’s not a ton going on inside the box, we think that the idea is fantastic. With just a few dollars worth of simple components, anyone who knows their way around a soldering station can build something that will keep a child fascinated for hours.
There’s no reason to stop at buttons and lights either. If we were to build one, we would swap the bulbs out for LEDs, then add a wide variety of switches and dials along with speakers and any other components we could get our hands on.
The options are pretty limitless, so if you happen to know a child that gets a kick out of playing with buttons and switches, why not make him or her something special this year, much like [henlij] did for his son?
[Dominik’s] daughter had an old toy piano that she loved, but when the batteries started to die down, it played awful tones and sounded generally out of tune. While this is likely something our circuit bending friends might be interested in, [Dominik] preferred when things sounded more cheery.
He considered simply replacing the batteries, but it seemed like a far better idea to do away with them altogether. he hunted around for a solution, and eventually found one at the local IKEA store. He grabbed a LJUSA hand-powered flashlight and disassembled it, saving the crank and circuitry.
He installed the crank on the back side of his daughter’s piano, and mounted the electronic bits inside the toy’s shell. The crank spins a brushless motor, generating an AC current which is rectified to DC before being stored in a capacitor. He says that a 30 second crank will play just a few tunes, which isn’t ideal, though it is better than frequently replacing batteries.
[Nathan]’s son really loves numbers and counting, and one of his favorite things to do is add 1 to a calculator over and over again. Being the awesome dad that he is, [Nathan] built his son a counting box that has a 10-digit rotary switch and two arcade buttons to add and subtract.
One goal of the project was to have the counting box retain memory of the display while being powered off. The easiest way to do this is to write the display data to the ATmega’s EEPROM. This EEPROM is only rated for 100,000 write cycles (although in practice it’s much higher), so [Nathan] included a 24LC256 in a little spasm of over-engineering. All the electronics are laid out on perf board, and the case is constructed from bamboo that was laser cut by Ponoko. The quality of the case itself is fairly remarkable – we’re really impressed with the finish and the magnetic battery access door.
From experience, we know that playing with an HP-15C eventually leads to a broken calculator and having our Nintendo taken away. We’re really happy for [Nathan]’s son, and wish we had our own counting box at his age.
Why risk frostbite and altitude sickness when you can marvel at the view from atop your own mountain climbing game?
[Jeff] built this delightful piece which you can see in action after the break. he combined several very simple ideas and he did it really well. The climbers are both mechanical. They grip the mountain’s face (which is covered with of carpet) with a tack pointed downward on the end of each limb. Their motion is provided by two tiny servos that make up the body of the climber. The two potentiometers in each controller directly affect the movement of the top and bottom limbs. The game plays music during the contest, and precisely detects a winner by sensing when an arm comes in contact with the metal snow cap at the summit.
Obviously weight was an issue during the design process. After some hemming and hawing [Jeff] decided to tether the climbers in order to avoid rolling a battery into each. But he overcame the issue with weighted cable management on the inside of the mountain.
Continue reading “Head-to-head mountain climbing from the safety of your game room”
[Dino] is staying true to his goal of hacking one project every week. This time around, he’s working on a toy that will amuse and delight his cats. The project centers around a mouse house that has two holes where mice can stick their heads out. When they do, a little LED lamp illuminates their appearance in hopes to catch the eye of your lazy kitty.
The mechanism that automates this device is quite clever and reminds us of the most useless machine. That is, the armature that holds a mouse on either end actuates a limiting switch in the middle of the box when it moves to expose one of the mice. Each of those mice is attached with a rod, along side a leaf switch that makes the mouse retreat when boinked on the head by the cat.
It only takes [Dino] about six minutes to walk us through the build in the video after the break. What follows is a walk through of the wiring and some playtime with the family pets. Despite the intended purpose, it looks like the dog is much more interested than the cat. Either way, it’s a winner in our book.
Continue reading “Hacking for feline enjoyment”