This year marked the 11th time that I have gone to Maker Faire in the Bay area of California. About one month before this year’s event, I didn’t have anything built and I was supposed to share a
booth with my friends, Bill and Becky Sherman and their
robots. Fortunately, the solution had been staring at me
from across the living room for a few years. It was Pete and
Tony (The Talking Heads).
These two “guys” were initially going to be used as
part of another project with my BarBot, Brandy’s Bar. They
were intended to be buddies talking and telling random
stories and jokes at the bar. Unfortunately, I ran out of time
during that build, so they have been sitting here staring at
me and waiting.
I got to digging through some other past projects and
found a servo motivated skeleton (Cal Averas) and an LED
color organ. Once I had all of these components laying in a
pile on my living room floor, I thought to myself, “I’m going
to talk to these guys and they will talk back to me, just like
in the movies. Oh boy, this should be easy!” Yeah, right. I
should know better by now.
Getting My Act Together
The first task was to untangle all of the wiring that
powers and controls the LEDs that cause the eyes and
mouths to blink in the plastic skulls that are Pete and Tony.
That took awhile since I forgot how they worked and if they
ran on 5 VDC or 12 VDC. I took Pete’s head apart and
found some half watt 680 ohm resistors connected to the
anodes of his LEDs, so I knew they would run safely at 12
VDC. Each head has green, blue, and red LEDs that
illuminate the mouth and the opaque teeth, and two red
LEDs that illuminate the eyes.
To keep it simple, I just tied the cathode wiring all
together so everything would flash at once. After Pete was
tested, I did the same modification to Tony. (Cool, now I
have two heads with blinky lights!) Now, I needed to
control their lights. To get the lights blinking, I added an LED
color organ that I had built from a schematic from an
article. A color organ takes line level audio, and by using
low pass filter circuits, can break down the various sound
frequencies depending on which frequencies each circuit is
Something that you always see in
the movies are robots that can
both listen and talk to humans
and other critters using flawless
voice recognition and artificial
speech. Of course, this technology
does actually exist, but is it
perfect? Well, not exactly.
SERVO 09.2016 37
By Steven Nelson