Hacking Animatronic Elvis

[Scott] shot us a tip about some progress on hacking those creepy [Elvis] heads produced by Wowee. The head uses a flash cartridge to store all the data used for the motion/audio control. The cartridge uses NAND flash, so a quick solder job to an XD flash card reader yielded a useful dump of the memory cartridge – which happened to be fat32 formatted. There’s still plenty of work to do, but it seems that it’ll be trivial to replace the data with custom audio and motion commands.

12 thoughts on “Hacking Animatronic Elvis

  1. What would be really cool is this. Instead of storing the data on the card and making it play back, it would be way fun to make it so you could send it data in real time and carry on conversations with people through the wacky elvis head. Just think of all the little kids you could scar for life by scaring them with that thing!

  2. Mike, I am working on this. I am building a ‘bed of nails’ for the CPU right now. It uses a sunplus CPU which isn’t very well documented. So, lots of reverse engineering is involved. Real-time control is my overall goal, even if it means building a replacement CPU board (which once everything is mapped shouldn’t be too difficult.) I can’t find any documentation for the MP3 codec chip, either.

  3. thanks, strider. this should make for some awesome halloween displays. what i am really going to need help with is a decent animation program like VSA (visual show automation) to let you synch the scripts with the audio.

  4. Crazy thought, but isn’t it possible to create some interface that emulates an XD card? Then you could (maybe, theoretically) just ‘stream’ the next bit of mp3 file as the elvishead reads the previous, and so still control it realtime. Sort of.

  5. graey,

    Technically, it is possible and was discussed briefly on the thread. The only real thing getting in the way is that you also need to emulate FAT. One of the other members there mentioned he would try that.

    Personally, I want to see how far the built in hardware can take us, and then I will probably just design a new controller board for it.

  6. Re: emulating the xD card. If one were to go through all that trouble, it would probably be easier to just replace the CPU board entirely. The motor signals are all just digital out on the cpu board and these go to H-Bridge drivers on other boards. The only other thing of interest on the CPU board is the MP3 codec IC, and there are several of those around. In the end, I will probably do this. I am just having some fun trying to learn something about reverse-engineering by seeing how far I can take the original hardware.

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