Posts with «toy hacks» label

Redeem Your Irresponsible 90s Self

If you were a youth in the 90s, odds are good that you were a part of the virtual pet fad and had your very own beeping Tamagotchi to take care of, much to the chagrin of your parents. Without the appropriate amout of attention each day, the pets could become sick or die, and the only way to prevent this was to sneak the toy into class and hope it didn’t make too much noise. A more responsible solution to this problem would have been to build something to take care of your virtual pet for you.

An art installation in Moscow is using an Arduino to take care of five Tamagotchis simultaneously in a virtal farm of sorts. The system is directly wired to all five toys to simulate button presses, and behaves ideally to make sure all the digital animals are properly cared for. Although no source code is provided, it seems to have some sort of machine learning capability in order to best care for all five pets at the same time. The system also prints out the statuses on a thermal printer, so you can check up on the history of all of the animals.

The popularity of these toys leads to a lot of in-depth investigation of what really goes on inside them, and a lot of other modifications to the original units and to the software. You can get a complete ROM dump of one, build a giant one, or even take care of an infinite number of them. Who would have thought a passing fad would have so much hackability?

Hack a Day 19 Oct 06:00

A Hacker’s Epic Quest to Keep His Son Entertained

Little humans have a knack for throwing a wrench in the priorities of their parents. As anyone who’s ever had children will tell you, there’s nothing you wouldn’t do for them. If you ever needed evidence to this effect, just take a gander at the nearly year-long saga that chronicles the construction of an activity board [Michael Teeuw] built for his son, Enzo.

Whether you start at the beginning or skip to the end to see the final product, the documentation [Michael] has done for this project is really something to behold. From the early days of the project where he was still deciding on the overall look and feel, to the final programming of the Raspberry Pi powered user interface, every step of the process has been meticulously detailed and photographed.

The construction methods utilized in this project run the gamut from basic woodworking tools for the outside wooden frame, to a laser cutter to create the graphical overlay on the device’s clear acrylic face. [Michael] even went as far as having a custom PCB made to connect up all the LEDs, switches, and buttons to the Arduino Nano by way of an MCP23017 I2C I/O expander.

Even if you aren’t looking to build an elaborate child’s toy that would make some adults jealous, there’s a wealth of first-hand information about turning an idea into a final physical device. It isn’t always easy, and things don’t necessarily go as planned, but as [Michael] clearly demonstrates: the final product is absolutely worth putting the effort in.

Seeing how many hackers are building mock spacecraft control panels for their children, we can’t help but wonder if any of them will adopt us.

Arduino BabyTV is Big Fun at Low Resolution

What kind of TV do you have? An older 720p model, or the now standard 1080p? Perhaps you’ve made the leap to the next generation, and are rocking a 4K display in the living room. All those are are fine and dandy if you just want to watch the local sportball contest, but where’s the challenge in that? With all the technology and modular components we have access to anymore, nowadays all the real hackers are making their own TVs.

Of course, when [Nikolai] built his very own LED TV, he did have to make a few concessions. For one thing, there’s no tuner on this model. Oh, and there’s the small issue of only having a 16×16 resolution. It might not be your idea of the perfect display, but it’s just perfect for his newborn son.

That’s right, [Nikolai] got his entry for the “Hacker Parent of the Year” award in early, and built an LED display for his son that he’s calling “BabyTV”.

Rather than the shows, trash, advertisements that they play on the kid channels, this TV only shows animated characters from retro games. We’ll concede that this project might be an elaborate Clockwork Orange style attempt at hypnotizing his son to instill an appreciation for classic gaming. But we’ll allow it.

To make his BabyTV go, [Nikolai] used a 16×16 WS2812B LED panel and an Arduino Nano. Two rotary encoders are used to allow adjusting brightness and change the character currently being shown on the screen. As a particularly clever hack, the Arduino has an IR sensor attached and is constantly watching for any signals. If an IR signal is detected, the BabyTV switches to the next image. So if Junior has a standard IR remote in his hands, any button he presses will cause the display to change to the next “channel”.

Historically speaking we haven’t seen much stuff for children here at Hackaday, but 2018 seems to be changing that. Recent projects like the incredible scratch built mini excavator and gorgeous AT-ST high chair would seem to indicate we’re currently witnessing a generation of hackers become parents. Don’t panic folks, but we might be getting old.

A Disc Shooter For When Rubber Bands Or Nerf Darts Aren’t Enough

There are times in everybody’s life when they feel the need to shoot at things in a harmless manner. For those moments there are rubber bands and Nerf darts, but even then they feel like mere toys. If that is the point at which you find yourself, then maybe [Austin]’s home-made electric disc shooter can help.

Operation of the shooter is simple enough. A stack of 3D-printed plastic discs is loaded into a tubular magazine, from which individual disks are nudged by a motor-driven cam controlled by the trigger. Once the disc leaves the magazine it reaches a vacuum cleaner belt driven by a much more powerful motor, that accelerates the disc to ejection velocity.

The video below the break shows the gun’s construction, as well as a sequence involving the destruction of plenty of balloons, soda cans, and food items. The 3D-printed ammunition seems to us to be the weak link as in our experience it is inevitable that there is a high ammunition loss rate with these type of weapons, but maybe [Austin] has a line on some cheap filament. Either way, his disc gun looks like the kind of toy that could provide an entertaining diversion for many readers.

If disc shooters are too tame for you, there is always the Great Coil Gun War.


Filed under: toy hacks
Hack a Day 26 Aug 03:00

A Disc Shooter For When Rubber Bands Or Nerf Darts Aren’t Enough

There are times in everybody’s life when they feel the need to shoot at things in a harmless manner. For those moments there are rubber bands and Nerf darts, but even then they feel like mere toys. If that is the point at which you find yourself, then maybe [Austin]’s home-made electric disc shooter can help.

Operation of the shooter is simple enough. A stack of 3D-printed plastic discs is loaded into a tubular magazine, from which individual disks are nudged by a motor-driven cam controlled by the trigger. Once the disc leaves the magazine it reaches a vacuum cleaner belt driven by a much more powerful motor, that accelerates the disc to ejection velocity.

The video below the break shows the gun’s construction, as well as a sequence involving the destruction of plenty of balloons, soda cans, and food items. The 3D-printed ammunition seems to us to be the weak link as in our experience it is inevitable that there is a high ammunition loss rate with these type of weapons, but maybe [Austin] has a line on some cheap filament. Either way, his disc gun looks like the kind of toy that could provide an entertaining diversion for many readers.

If disc shooters are too tame for you, there is always the Great Coil Gun War.


Filed under: toy hacks
Hack a Day 26 Aug 03:00

Raspberry Pi and Alexa Make Teddy Ruxpin Smarter than the Average Bear

Behold the unholy union of Amazon’s Alexa and that feature-limited animatronic bear from the 80s, Teddy Ruxpin. Alexa Ruxpin?

As if stuffing Alexa inside a talking fish weren’t bad enough, now Amazon’s virtual assistant can talk to you through the creepy retro plush thanks to [Tinkernut]’s trip down memory lane. Having located a Teddy Ruxpin on eBay for far less than the original $70 that priced it out from under his childhood Christmas tree, [Tinkernut] quickly learned that major surgery would be necessary to revive the Ruxpin. The first video below shows the original servos being gutted and modern micro servos grafted in, allowing control of the mouth, eyes, and nose via an Arduino.

With the bear once again in control of its faculties, [Tinkernut] embarked on giving it something to talk about. A Raspberry Pi running AlexaPi joined the bear’s recently vacated thorax with the audio output split between the bear’s speaker and the analog input on the Arduino. The result is a reasonable animation, although we’d say a little tweaking of the Arduino script might help the syncing. And those eyes and that nose really need to get into the game as well. But not a bad start at all.

This isn’t the first time that Teddy Ruxpin has gone under the knife in the name of hacks, and it likely won’t be the last. And the way toy manufacturers are going, they might just beat us hackers to the punch.


Filed under: toy hacks

Speed-Test Your Toys with Die-Cast Drag Strip

I’m sure many of us remember building toy car race tracks as kids, racing the cars, and then arguing over which car came in first and who cheated because they let go of their car too soon. Ah, good times. [Phil] wanted to create a drag strip race track for his son to introduce him to die-cast cars. The only commercial drag strip [Phil] could find didn’t have an electronic start gate or a timer, so he created his own with the help of an Arduino, a servo, and some light dependent resistors.

The Arduino controls everything, the button input, the light sensor input, and the servo. A button press tells the Arduino to start the race by pulling the start gate down and starting the timer. When the light sensor is covered, the timer for that lane stops. The time is shown for each lane using a different colored 4-digit 7-segment LED.

There were a couple of problems that had to be solved. The servo launching the cars was pulling too much power when activated so that the IR LEDs used at the finish line would dim enough to trigger before the race had even begun! [Phil]’s article goes over these issues and his design ideas as he built the track.

It’s a simple build that should provide hours of fun for [Phil]’s son and his friends over the years and will hopefully put to rest any arguments over who won. There are lots of photos in [Phil]’s article, as well as several videos showing off how things work and at the end of the article, he includes the code he used to control everything. This would be a great surprise for any nieces and nephews coming to visit over the holidays — you might want to wait for final assembly and include them in the fun!

If you like these kind of projects, we’ve seen a similar Hot Wheels timing system, and a different kind of race track based on a turntable system.


Filed under: Arduino Hacks, toy hacks

Power Wheels Rescued, Restored and Enhanced

It seems Power Wheels are like LEGO — they’re handed down from generation to generation.  [Nicolas] received his brand-new Peg-Perego Montana Power Wheels in 1997 as a Christmas present. After sitting in a barn for a decade, and even being involved in a flood, it was time to give it to his godchildren, though not without some restoration and added features. His webpages have a very good write-up, just shy of including schematics, but you’ll find an abbreviated version below.

The starting point

Due to time and the flood, not only did it need a new paint job, and some plastic bits restored, but the hard plastic wheels had to be emptied of water, and the entire wiring harness needed replacing, as did some of the screws. Luckily the gearbox and motors needed only cleaning and new grease.

Whether it needed it or not, [Nicolas] wanted to add an Arduino Teensy 2.0++ as brains as he hadn’t seen anyone do that before and it also allowed him to brush up on his Arduino skills.

Arduino board and speedometer LCD display

He first made use of the Arduino for one new feature, a speedometer with a dash mounted Nokia 5110 LCD display. To measure the speed he used an infrared diode along with an NPN transistor, two LM324 op-amps and a few other parts. He even drew up with some very nice custom graphics for the LCD display.

He’d originally planned to add a variable accelerator by having the Arduino do PWM to a custom H-bridge, and even went a fair way toward making it, but even at 100% PWM the speed was too slow. With only a bad oscilloscope at the time for debugging, he abandoned the H-bridge for relays instead.

Lights

When it came to the lighting, [Nicolas] went all out with high intensity white and blue LEDs on custom circuit boards. He also had to do an exhaustive search online for light covers, but luckily there’s quite a bit out there for Power Wheels parts, though some he took from a Civic at a junkyard. [Nicolas] is in France and reading his experience in hunting for these parts gives an interesting look into the difficulties in buying things from the US when shipping costs can easily exceed parts cost. We can see why sometimes it’s simply not an option.

Another new feature was a dash mounted radio. That was followed by a new battery charger, a quantity of fuses to rival that in many cars, a lovingly done paint job and many labels and stickers that show just what a job of passion this was. We’re sure his godchildren will love their better-than-new Power Wheels.

Mind you, Hackaday is no stranger to Power Wheels. But while [Nicolas’] is intended to be a safe one for his godchildren, we’ve seen them modified in the extreme opposite way with racing ones that do turns on two wheels only. Some races even have pit crews and involve vehicles with battery packs from Ford Fusion plugin hybrids.


Filed under: toy hacks

Turning Broken Toy Into Laser Target Practice

[Mathieu] wrote in with his laser target practice game. It’s not the most amazing hack in the history of hackery, but it’s an excellent example of the type of simple and fun things you can do with just a little bit of microcontrollering.

First off, the gun is a broken toy gun that used to shoot something other than red collimated light beams. The Arduino knockoff inside reacts to a trigger pull and fires the laser for around 200 milliseconds. The gun also has a “gas gauge” that fills up with repeated shots and cools down over time. And therein lies the game — a simple race to ten, where each player only has a fixed number of shots over time.

The targets are simply a light sensor, scorekeeping LED display, and a buzzer that builds tension by beeping at you as the countdown timer ticks down. The bodies are made out of 3D-printed corners that connect some of [Mathieu]’s excess wooden goat-cheese lids.

All the code is up on GitHub so you can make your own with stuff that you’ve got lying around the house. The “gun” can be anything that you can embed a laser in that makes it aimable. Good clean fun!


Filed under: toy hacks
Hack a Day 19 Oct 00:00

Cheap Toy Airboat Gets a Cheap R/C Upgrade

[Markus Gritsch] and his son had a fun Sunday putting together a little toy airboat from a kit. They fired it up and it occurred to [Markus] that it was pretty lame. It went forward and sometimes sideward when a stray current influenced its trajectory, but it had no will of its own.

The boat was extracted from water before it could wander off and find itself lost forever. [Markus] did a mental inventory of his hacker bench and decided this was a quickly rectified design shortcoming. He applied a cheap knock-off arduino, equally cheap nRF24L01+ chip of dubious parentage, and their equivalent hobby servo to the problem.

Some quick coding later, assisted by prior work from other RC enthusiasts, the little boat was significantly upgraded. Now the boat could be brought back to shore using any R/C controller that supported the, “Bayang,” protocol. He wouldn’t have to face the future in which he’d have to explain to his son that the boat, like treacherous helium balloons, was just gone. Video after the break.


Filed under: Arduino Hacks, toy hacks
Hack a Day 07 Sep 09:01
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