Speech To Morse Code, Courtesy Of Google

Google has been responsible for unleashing some pretty incredible hardware and software on the world, but they can only take partial credit for the voice to Morse code gadget that [WhiskeyTangoHotel] recently completed.

With the Google AIY Voice Bonnet, [WhiskeyTangoHotel] had everything he needed to pick up on human speech and turn that into text the Raspberry Pi can parse and act on. Usually this would get passed to some kind of virtual assistant software, but in this case, a Python script breaks the speech down into individual characters and looks up their Morse representations. All those “dits” and “dahs” are then sent to one of the Pi’s GPIO pins, to which a relay has been connected.

At this point, you’ve got an interesting little toy that can sit on your desk and turn your speech into audible Morse code as the relay clicks and clacks its way through the message. In fact, if you don’t have a ham radio license, this is probably where you should stop. But if you’ve done the appropriate paperwork to transmit over the air, the relay can be connected to a radio to actually transmit messages.

If you think giving Google access to the content of your Morse code messages is a step too far, you’ll just have to learn it yourself. It might not be necessary to get your amateur license anymore, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth knowing.

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This Is Not An Argument Bot

While in-person arguments are getting harder to come by these days, we’ll always have the internet (hopefully). So what can you do to stay on your game in a time when a little levity is lauded? Build an argument bot and battle wits with the best — a stern-faced John Cleese!

This latest offering from [8 Bits And A Byte] refers to a Monty Python sketch featuring an argument service — an office with a receptionist who will take your money and send you down the hall for a healthy and heated discussion. If you’ve never gone on a Monty Python binge, well, it’s probably as good a time as any.

Electronics-wise, the argument bot is a pretty simple build. A Raspberry Pi B+ outfitted with a Google AIY hat listens to your side of things and decides which bones to pick. Your obviously misguided statements are then matched with DialogFlow intents, and dissent is sent back through the speaker. Meanwhile, Mr. Cleese’s jaw moves up and down on a printed and servo-driven linear actuator while he maintains a stiff upper lip. Before you go off on that Python binge, check out the build video after the break.

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Watchman Watches You Watching Him Watch You

At this point, society has had over three decades to get used to the Blue Man Group. Maybe that’s why we’re less disturbed by [Graham Jessup]’s face-tracking Watchman than we should be. Either that, or it’s because it reminds us of Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation. Frankly, this is just way too cool to be dismissed out of hand as creepy.

The Watchman finds faces via video feed from a camera module positioned in his forehead as a third eye. The camera is connected to a Pi Zero that’s wearing a Google AIY vision bonnet. The Pi translates the face locations into servo positions and feeds them to an Arduino UNO located in the frontal lobe region to move the eyeballs and lids accordingly.

[Graham] had a bit of trouble with tracking accuracy at first, so he temporarily replaced the pupils with 5 mW lasers and calibrated them by tracking a printed stand-in of his head to avoid burning out his retinas.

This project builds on previous work by [Tjahzi] and the animatronic eye movements of [Will Cogley]. We can only imagine how awesome the Watchman would look with a pair of [Will]’s incredibly realistic eyeballs. Either way, we would totally trust the Watchman to defend our modest supply of toilet paper in the coming weeks. Check out a brief demo after the break, and a whole lot more clips on [Graham]’s site.

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This Cardboard Box Can Tell You What It Sees

It wasn’t that long ago that talking to computers was the preserve of movies and science fiction. Slowly, voice recognition improved, and these days it’s getting to be pretty usable. The technology has moved beyond basic keywords, and can now parse sentences in natural language. [Liz Meyers] has been working with the technology, creating WhatIsThat – an AI that can tell you what it’s looking at.

Adding a camera to Google’s AIY Voice Kit makes for a versatile object identification system.

The device is built around Google’s AIY Voice Kit, which consists of a Raspberry Pi with some additional hardware and software to enable it to process voice queries. [Liz] combined this with a Raspberry Pi camera and the Google Cloud Vision API. This allows WhatIsThat to respond to users asking questions by taking a photo, and then identifying what it sees in the frame.

It may seem like a frivolous project to those with working vision, but there is serious potential for this technology in the accessibility space. The device can not only describe things like animals or other objects, it can also read text aloud and even identify logos. The ability of the software to go beyond is impressive – a video demonstration shows the AI correctly identifying a Boston Terrier, and attributing a quote to Albert Einstein.

Artificial intelligence has made a huge difference to the viability of voice recognition – because it’s one thing to understand the words, and another to understand what they mean when strung together. Video after the break.

[Thanks to Baldpower for the tip!]

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Oh The Lessons You’ll Learn By Building A Robot Familiar

A familiar spirit, or just a familiar, is a creature rumored to help people in the practice of magic. The moniker is perfect for Archimedes, the robot owl built by Alex Glow, which wields the Amazon Google AIY kit to react when it detects faces. A series of very interesting design choices a what really gives the creature life. Not all of those choices were on purpose, which is the core of her talk at the 2018 Hackaday Superconference.

You can watch the video of her talk, along with an interview with Alex after the break.

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Modern Wizard Summons Familiar Spirit

In European medieval folklore, a practitioner of magic may call for assistance from a familiar spirit who takes an animal form disguise. [Alex Glow] is our modern-day Merlin who invoked the magical incantations of 3D printing, Arduino, and Raspberry Pi to summon her familiar Archimedes: The AI Robot Owl.

The key attraction in this build is Google’s AIY Vision kit. Specifically the vision processing unit that tremendously accelerates image classification tasks running on an attached Raspberry Pi Zero W. It no longer consumes several seconds to analyze each image, classification can now run several times per second, all performed locally. No connection to Google cloud required. (See our earlier coverage for more technical details.) The default demo application of a Google AIY Vision kit is a “joy detector” that looks for faces and attempts to determine if a face is happy or sad. We’ve previously seen this functionality mounted on a robot dog.

[Alex] aimed to go beyond the default app (and default box) to create Archimedes, who was to reward happy people with a sticker. As a moving robotic owl, Archimedes had far more crowd appeal than the vision kit’s default cardboard box. All the kit components have been integrated into Archimedes’ head. One eye is the expected Pi camera, the other eye is actually the kit’s piezo buzzer. The vision kit’s LED-illuminated button now tops the dapper owl’s hat.

Archimedes was created to join in Google’s promotion efforts. Their presence at this Maker Faire consisted of two tents: one introductory “Learn to Solder” tent where people can create a blinky LED badge, and the other tent is focused on their line of AIY kits like this vision kit. Filled with demos of what the kits can do aside from really cool robot owls.

Hopefully these promotional efforts helped many AIY kits find new homes in the hands of creative makers. It’s pretty exciting that such a powerful and inexpensive neural net processor is now widely available, and we look forward to many more AI-powered hacks to come.

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Mike’s Robot Dog Is A First Step In The Right Direction

Humans can traverse pretty much any terrain thanks to their legs and fast-acting balancing system. So if you want a robot which should have equal flexibility, legs are a good way to go, this confirmed by all the achievements of Boston Dynamics’ robots. It was therefore natural for [Mike Rigsby] to model his robot dog after Boston Dynamics’ dog-like robot, SpotMini.

The build log on his Hackaday.io page makes for interesting reading. For example, he started out with the legs oriented like SpotMini but found that when trying to stand, the front legs worked fine but the rear ones slid or the dog shifted rearward or both happened. His solution was to take a cue from his 1990s Sony robot dog, Aibo, by reversing the orientation of the rear legs. He then upgraded his servo motors to ones with double the torque and increased the strength of the legs’ structure. In the first video below, you can see that his dog now lifts itself up to a standing position perfectly.

So far, to give it more of a dog-like personality he’s mounted Google’s AIY Vision Kit which changes a light’s color based on the degree to which a person is smiling, though we think a wagging tail would work well too. The possibilities are endless but one step at a time. See the second video below for a demonstration of the use of the Vision Kit.

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