Android controlled robot extravaganza

We have no idea why, but since we featured Botiful, the Android-powered telepresence robot a few days ago, the tip line has been awash in robot/Android mashups. Here’s a few of the cool ones.

Using an Android as a remote control

[Stef] used a Samsung Galaxy S3 to control an old rc tank. The Android sends accelerometer and gyro data over Bluetooth to an Android where it powers a pair of H-bridges to turn the wheels.

Turning Android into a Robotic Operating System

ROS, or the Robot Operating System, provides a bunch of utilities for any type of robot such as point-cloud mapping to multi-joint arm control. [Lentin] sent in a guide on installing ROS on Android. So far, he can get accelerometer data, stills from the on-board camera, have the robot speak and use the small vibrator motor. Here’s a (somewhat limited) demo of [Lentin] playing with ROS in a terminal.

“Just a quick procrastination project”

Last May, [Josh] wrote in asking if a tread-based robot controlled through Skype would be a cool idea. We said ‘hell yeah’ and [Josh] scurried off to his workshop for a few months. He’s back with his tank-based robot. One really interesting bit is the robot responds to DTMF tones, allowing it to be controlled through Skype without any additional hardware. That’s damn clever. You can see a video of the SkypeRobot after the break.

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GSM controlled car without needing a microcontroller

Nope, no microcontroller here, just a full-blown cellphone used as the brains of this little robot. The secret behind how it works is in the sounds the phone makes. The touch tones, known as DTMF, are monitored by the circuit mounted on the front half of the chassis and are responsible for driving the motors.

[Achu Wilson] built the circuit around an MT8870 chip which decodes the DTMF sounds and uses the BCD output to feed some logic chips. A 4 line to 16 line decoder and an inverter chip format the signals for use as inputs to the L293D motor driver. The video after the break shows him driving the rover directly by pressing number on the phone (like a tethered remote control). But he mentions that it’s possible to call the phone and press the numbers remotely. We assume you need to connect the call manually as we see no way to automatically answer calls.

This is certainly a fun way to play around with the DTMF protocol.

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Detecting DTMF tones from scratch

If you’ve ever wondered about the best way to detect dial and DTMF tones from a phone line, [Debraj] is your man.

[Debraj] built a DTMF detector using the Goertzel algorithm. Normally, when we think about detecting tones, we pull FFT out of our bag of tricks. The Goertzel algorithm isn’t as computationally complex as FFT and can be implemented on even the smallest microcontrollers.

For the build, the first thing to solder is a nice audio transformer and some protection diodes. The ring tone from a phone line goes from +35 V to -35 V – a bit more than a microcontroller could handle. A PIC18F4520 dev board was used as the brain of the system with all the code is available on [Debraj]’s site.

Although implementations of the Goertzel algorithm are a little uncommon, [Debraj] has seen a few interesting projects using this technique. [Debraj]’s build could easily be modified into a guitar tuner with a few changes in the code, for example.

This project was built as the command and control for a home automation system and from the video after the break, we can’t wait for [Debraj] to get annoyed at the phrase, “To turn on the kitchen lights, please press 1…”

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A cellphone based Interactive Voice Response System

We’re all familiar with IVRS systems that let you access information using a touch-tone telephone. [Achu Wilso] built his own version which uses a cellphone, microcontroller, and computer.

The cellphone is monitored by an LM324 op-amp with an attached 555 timer chip. When a call comes in the voltage on the headphone output goes high, activating the timer circuit. If it goes low and does not go high again for about 25 seconds the call will be ended. Each incoming touch tone acts as a keepalive for the circuit.

An MT8870 DTMF (touch tone) decoder chip monitors the user input. An ATmega8 microcontroller grabs the decoded touch tones from that chip, and pushes them to a PC via USB. The PC-side software is written in Python, using MySQL bindings to access database information. eSpeak, the open source speech synthesizer software is used to read menu and database information back to the caller.

Not a bad little system, we wish there was an audio clip so we could hear it in action.

Ever wonder where cool interactive museum exhibits come from?

[Victor’s] girlfriend works at a museum and enlisted his expertise in designing an interactive detective game for kids visiting the museum. The vision was for the kids to discover phone numbers that they could call for clues. Originally he planned to display the clues on a character LCD, but obviously it’s much neater to hear the clues in the handset of the phone.

Quickly switching gears, [Victor] dropped the ATtiny2313 and started over with an Xmega chip — in fact, it was our recent Xmega post that inspired him to document his project. The microcontroller is responsible for a lot of goings-on. It scans the key matrix for inputs, simulates the DTMF touch tones, reads audio files from a FAT file system on an SD card, and plays them back over the hand set’s speaker. Since most of the hardware is already built into the phones, it was not hard to fit his add-ons inside the case. A simple audio amplifier circuit joins the microcontroller, which is patched into the rows and columns of the keyboard. Take a gander at the video after the break to see the device in action.

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DTMF shield aimed at ham controlled Arduino

[Colin] wanted a way to reliably control an Arduino via ham radio. One of the easiest methods of automated radio control makes use of Dual-Tone Multi-Frequency signalling. To those who aren’t into amatuer radio you probably recognized DTMF as the touch-tone system for telephone communications. [Colin] built a shield that has an audio input and can decode DTMF signals.

The hardware is based around an MT8870 DTMF decoder chip. This is a popular choice for DTMF hardware because it does all of the decoding work for you. Whenever a valid tone is detected it outputs the associated value in binary on four output pins. There is a fifth pin that strobes after each new tone. [Colin’s] design offers a lot of feedback for what’s going on with the input signal. The DTMF value is displayed on a 7-segment display (controlled completely in hardware), the value is output on for Binary Coded Decimal pins, and mapped to a set of ten pins which pull to ground to match the digit received.

Simple DTMF decoder pulls numbers from YouTube videos


While many of us have banished land line telephones from our houses, there are still quite a few people who utilize POTS lines today. These analog phone systems use Dual Tone Multi Frequency (DTMF) signals in order to audibly represent all of the keys on a telephone keypad and place calls. [Brad] over at LucidScience decided that it would be useful to have a DTMF decoder on hand, and got busy building one.

His DTMF decoder box uses a CM8870 DTMF decoder chip, which you might assume is all you need to get the job done. This chip performs its duties very well, outputting a 4-bit binary code for each button press it registers, but that doesn’t do a whole lot of good without being able to represent those codes in a meaningful fashion. He first built a breadboard decoder circuit that would light 1 of 16 LEDs depending on the detected button press. This was well and good, but he decided that an Arduino-driven LCD display would work far better.

When he was finished, he had a compact decoder box with an LCD display, which accepts input from either an RJ-11 cable or an audio jack. He says that the audio jack is particularly useful for decoding tones from computer audio, such as YouTube clips. [Brad] praises the CM8870 chip, stating that it can pull phone numbers from pretty much any audio or phone signal you throw at it, regardless of quality. We think it would make a great basis for a telephone-based security system, if that was something that appealed to you.

Be sure to stick around to see his DTMF decoder circuit in action.

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