a 3d printed case, sitting on a table with cactuses in the background, with a 3d rendered holo assistant reflected in a cone of polycarbonate sheets from a flat HDMI display pointed up

Anime Inspired Holographic Virtual Assistant

[Jessp] has created a very cute and endearing DIY virtual assistant called Maria. The build combines a 3D printed housing that uses a modern take on the “Pepper’s Ghost” illusion to render a virtual, three-dimensional anime inspired assistant that can take commands to get information about the weather, play music or set timers.

The hub houses a Raspberry Pi 4B and a 3.2 inch LCD HDMI screen mounted flat on its back to render the perspective corrected “Maria” character using a technique borrowed from the Pepper’s Cone project. Polycarbonate sheets are formed into a cone, allowing for the 3D effect of rendering the virtual assistant model. A consumer grade mini USB microphone is used to receive voice commands along with a consumer grade USB speaker for audio feedback. The virtual assistant offloads the text to speech services to Google Cloud, along with using a weather API and Spotify developer account to for its musical options.

All source code is available on [Jessp]’s GitHub page, including build instructions and STL files for the housing. We’ve featured open source voice assistants in the past, including Mycroft and a even a HAL-9000 virtual assistant (running Kalliope) but it’s nice to see further experimentation in this space.

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An Impressively Functional Tacobot

We’re big fans of useless machines here at Hackaday, there’s something undeniably entertaining about watching a gadget flail about dramatically without actually making any progress towards a defined goal. But what happens when one of these meme machines ends up working too well? We think that’s just what we might be witnessing here with the Tacobot from [Vije Miller].

On the surface, building an elaborate robotic contraption to (slowly) produce tacos is patently ridiculous. Doubly so when you tack on the need to give it voice commands like it’s some kind of one-dish version of the Star Trek food replicator. The whole thing sounds like the setup for a joke, an assumption that’s only reinforced after watching the dramatized video at the break. But in the end, we still can’t get over how well the thing appears to work.

After [Vije] gives it a list of ingredients to dispense, a robotic arm drops a tortilla on a fantastically articulated rotating platform that can not only spin and move in two dimensions, but can form the soft shell into the appropriate taco configuration. The empty shell is then brought under a rotating dispenser that doles out (or at least attempts to) the requested ingredients such as beef, onions, cheese, and lettuce. With a final flourish, it squirts out a few pumps of the selected sauce, and then presents the completed taco to the user.

The only failing appears to be the machine’s ability to dispense some of the ingredients. The ground beef seems to drop into place without issue, but it visibly struggles with the wetter foodstuffs such as the tomatoes and onions. All we know is that if a robot handed us a taco with that little lettuce on it, we’d have a problem. On the project page [Vije] acknowledges the issue, and says that a redesigned dispenser could help alleviate some of the problem.

The issue immediately brought to mind the fascinating series of posts dedicated to handling bulk material penned by our very own [Anne Ogborn]. While the application here might be a bit tongue-in-cheek, it’s still a perfect example of the interesting phenomena that you run into when trying to meter out different types of materials.

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Wall of video games

Consoles, Consoles On The Wall, Can Alexa Help Me Play Them All?

If you’ve got a collection of classic game consoles, finding the space to set them all up can be a challenge. But the bigger problem is figuring out how to hook them all up to a TV that, at best, might only have two or three inputs. [odelot] recently wrote in to tell us how he solved both problems with his voice-controlled wall of gaming history.

To mount the systems to the wall, [odelot] designed and printed angled brackets that attach to specially shaped pieces of 3 mm MDF. They do a pretty good job of holding the systems at a visually interesting angle while making themselves scarce, with only the notoriously slick-bottomed Wii needing some extra clips on the front to keep it from sliding off. He also printed up a series of blocks and pipes, no doubt a reference to Mario Bros., to hold the power and video cables for each system.

Prototype version of electronics on breadboardAs to connecting them all up to his TV, [odelot] picked up an eight-device Extron VGA switch that features a serial port for remote control. After getting all the systems adapted over to the appropriate video standard, he then wired an ESP8266 to the switch and wrote some code that ties it into Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant.

By just saying the name of the system he wants to play, the microcontroller will flick the switch over to the appropriate input and turn on a ring of blue LEDs under the appropriate shelf to signify which console has been selected. There’s even an array of solid state relays that will eventually control the mains power going to each system, though [odelot] hasn’t fully implemented it yet. Currently the electronics for this project live on a fairly packed breadboard, but it looks like he’s in the early stages of designing a proper PCB to clean it all up.

Not content to simply control a commercial A/V switch? In the past we’ve seen truly dedicated console collectors design their own custom switches from the ground up, complete with a display to show the currently selected system’s logo.

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Voice Controlled RGB LEDs Go Big

When we see RGB LEDs used in a project, they’re often used more for aesthetic purposes than as a practical source of light. It’s an easy way to throw some color around, but certainly not the sort of thing you’d try to light up anything larger than a desk with. Apparently nobody explained the rules to [Brian Harms] before he built Light[s]well.

Believe it or not, this supersized light installation doesn’t use any exotic hardware you aren’t already familiar with. Fundamentally, what we’re looking at is a WiFi enabled Arduino MKR1000 driving strips of NeoPixel LEDs. It’s just on a far larger scale than we’re used to, with a massive 4 x 8 aluminum extrusion frame suspended over the living room.

Onto that frame, [Brian] has mounted an undulating diffuser made of 74 pieces of laser-cut cardstock. Invoking ideas of waves or clouds, the light looks like its of natural or even biological origin while at the same time having a distinctively otherworldly quality to it.

The effect is even more pronounced when the RGB LEDs kick in, thanks to the smooth transitions between colors. In the video after the break, you can see Light[s]well work its way from bright white to an animated rainbow. As an added touch, he added Alexa voice control through Arduino’s IoT Cloud service.

While LED home lighting is increasingly becoming the norm, projects like Light[s]well remind us that we aren’t really embracing the possibilities offered by the technology. The industry has tried so hard to make LEDs fit into the traditional role of incandescent bulbs, but perhaps its time to rethink things.

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Voice Controlled Sofa Meets Your Every Beverage Need

It’s often taken for grated, but the modern world is full of luxuries. Home automation, grocery delivery, and even access to the Internet are great tools to have at hand, but are trivial to most of us. If these modern wonders are not enough for you, and the lap of luxury is still missing a certain je ne sais quoi, allow us to introduce you to the ultimate convenience: a voice controlled, beer-dispensing sofa with a built-in refrigeration system.

This is a project from [Garage Avenger] and went through a number of iterations before reaching this level of polish. Metal work on the first version didn’t fit together as expected, and there were many attempts at actual refrigeration before settling on repurposing an actual refrigerator. With those things out of the way, he was able to get to the meat of a project. The couch-refrigerator holds 12 beers, and they are on a conveyor belt which automatically places the next beer onto the automated drawer. When commanded (by voice, app, or remote) the sofa opens the drawer so the occupant can grab one easily without having to move more than an arm. Everything, including the voice recognition module, is controlled by an Arduino, as is tradition.

The attention to detail is excellent as well. The remote control contains a built-in bottle opener, for one, there are backlights and a glass cover for the refrigerator, and the drawer is retracted automatically when it senses the beer has been obtained. We couldn’t ask for much more from our own couches, except maybe that they take us where we want to go. But maybe it’s best to keep these two couch use cases separate for now.

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Using Voice Commands To Start A Jeep

If you’ve got a car built in the last 5 years or so, it’s quite likely it’s started by the push of a button when in the presence of a keyfob. Older vehicles make do with the twist of a key. Of course, starting a car by voice command would be cool, and that’s what [John Forsyth] set out to do.

The build uses a Macbook to handle voice recognition, using its Dictation feature. With a hefty download, it’s capable of doing the task offline, making things easier. The dictated words are passed to a Python script, which searches for words like “start” and “go” as a trigger. When an appropriate command is received, the Python script sends a signal over a USB-serial connection to an attached Arduino. The Arduino then toggles a relay connected to the Jeep’s external starter solenoid, starting the vehicle.

As a fan of recent popular films, [John] programmed the system to respond to the command “Jarvis, let’s get things going!”, causing the vehicle to spring into life. There’s room for future improvement, too – the system could benefit from being a little more compact, and there’s a long delay between finishing the sentence and the vehicle starting. A Raspberry Pi and faster dictation software could likely help in this regard.

We’ve seen voice commands used for everything from chess to finding electronic components. Video after the break.

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Voice Chess Uses Phone, Arduino, And An Electromagnet

[Diyguypt] may be an altruist to provide the means for people who can’t manipulate chess pieces to play the game. Or he may just have his hands too busy with food and drink to play. Either way, his voice command chessboard appears to work, although it has a lot of moving parts both figuratively and literally. You can check out the video below to see how it works.

The speech part is handled by an Android phone and uses Google’s voice services, so if you don’t want Google listening to your latest opening gambit, you’ll want to pass this one up. The phone uses an app that talks to the Arduino via Bluetooth, which means the Arduino needs a Bluetooth module.

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