Talking Garbage Can Keeps Eye on Playground

Getting young kids excited about technology and engineering can be a challenge, and getting them interested in the environment isn’t exactly a walk in the park either. So any project that can get them simultaneously engaged in both is a considerable achievement, especially when they can do the work themselves and see how creating something can have a positive impact on their little corner of the world.

[Robert Hart] writes in to tell us about a project that challenged elementary school students to help make sure their peers put trash in its place. The kids came up with some predictably imaginative ideas like a robot to chase down litterers, but as us grown up hackers know all too well, budget and practicality often end up dictating the project’s final form. In the end, they came up with a talking trash can that gives words of encouragement to passerby.

The heart of the system is an Adafruit Audio FX sound board, which has been loaded up with audio clips recorded by the students. The buttons on the front of the can trigger different messages about why it’s important to make sure trash is disposed of properly, and an internal switch allows the can to thank the user for their deposit when the lid has been opened.

A PIR sensor on the front of the can detects when somebody gets close, and plays a message reminding them to make use of the trash cans provided on the playground. It’s not everyday that a child has a garbage can talk to them, so we think this is a fantastic idea for getting a kid’s attention. In keeping with the ecological friendly theme, the whole system is powered by a small solar panel which charges an internal 3.7V LiPo battery with the help of an Adafruit PowerBoost 500.

We’ve seen plenty of unusual projects here at Hackaday, but even for us, a talking garbage can is something of a rarity. Ironically though, we have seen a garbage can which can follow you around, so maybe the kids weren’t so far off with their original idea after all…

Continue reading “Talking Garbage Can Keeps Eye on Playground”

What Is It, R2? Have Something To Share?

Sometimes great projects keep evolving. [Bithead942] built himself an R2-D2 to accompany him when he goes a-trooping — but something didn’t feel quite right. Turns out, R2 was missing its signature beeping banter, so he made it more contextually responsive by implementing a few voice commands.

[Bithead942]’s main costume is that of an X-Wing pilot, and the replica helmet works perfectly; it already has a fake microphone — easily replaced with a working model — and the perfect niche to stash the electronics in the ‘mohawk.’

Even though the helmet has the perfect hiding spot for a circuit, space is still at a premium. Services like Alexa tend to be pretty accurate, but require WiFi access — not a guarantee on the convention floor. Instead, [bithead942] found that the EasyVR Shield 3.0 voice recognition board provided a suitable stand-in. It needs a bit of training to work properly(cue the montage!), but in the end it compares fresh audio commands to the ‘training’ files it has stored, and if there’s a match, triggers a corresponding serial port. It’s not perfect, but it most certainly works!

Continue reading “What Is It, R2? Have Something To Share?”

Laugh Track Jacket is Actually a Blazer

Picture it: your first open mic night at Larry’s Laugh Lounge. You’re up second in the lineup. It’s better than going first, but the crowd is far from hitting the two-drink minimum and your dad jokes are going over like a lead balloon. What now? Time for your secret weapon. You throw out the ‘tough crowd’ line while casually reaching into a pocket of your herringbone blazer. You press a button and the sound of crickets reaches the microphone. Someone chortles near the back. You smile, and remembering that Barbie joke from Reddit, your act takes a turn for the profane and the sweet sound of your first real laugh is forever burned in your memory.

This laugh track jacket from Adafruit’s [Becky Stern] is based on their own audio FX board, a standalone unit that can store and play WAV and OGG files. The board is also available with 16MB of flash for extended pre-recorded Foley artistry. This is an easy solder-and-sew project with a lot of wearable applications, and all of the components are available in the Adafruit store. There are plenty of places to get free sound effects that are already in WAV format, as the board does not support MP3s. As always, [Becky] has provided a clear and thorough guide with plenty of pictures and an introduction video that you can see after the break.

Continue reading “Laugh Track Jacket is Actually a Blazer”