70 SERVO 12.2014
he holidays are one of the most anticipated times
of the year. They are a time when family comes
together, and when homes and storefronts alike
are decked out with festive cheer. Unfortunately,
In that case, your tree and presents may be relegated
to an existence shielded by a pet-proof gate, as if the spirit
of the holidays was locked in some sort of arboreal prison.
It’s either that or risk having your carefully wrapped
presents shredded by precocious pets more concerned with
discovering if there is food inside of the box than with
preserving the seasonal magic.
We faced precisely such a dilemma this year — our
pugnacious pug, Paisley was bound to view presents as
possible hiding places for treats, but we wanted to keep
our presents on display to achieve the right holiday
ambiance. What is a roboticist to do?
Given the fast approaching holidays, we wanted
something that we could whip up fast. And, given the
uncertain and multifaceted nature of the problem (what
kind of deterrents would be most effective?), we wanted
something expandable and adaptable. Plus, we couldn’t
constantly be on pug watch, so we wanted something
programmable. The solution was apparent — it was already
time to revisit the littleBits kit from last month.
Last time, we just scratched the surface of what was
possible with littleBits. This time, we wanted to make a real
deal robot with a custom program on the Arduino module.
Could the circuit building kit break out of its two-dimensional
tendencies to create an effective present defender? Or,
would the pug prevail? Fortunately, you don’t have to wait
until the end of the month to unwrap the answer.
Pug the Halls
For our robotic defense system, we envisioned a unit
that would sense a disturbance among the presents, and
another unit that would go on the offensive to fend off the
attacker. Our first task was to figure out how our robotic
defender would be triggered.
We wanted the bot to protect the presents, but we
didn’t want it to alert to just any casual passerby. A motion
or distance sensor might react to a passive tree admirer, or
to someone merely placing additional presents that did not
pose any threat to the gift-wrapped surprises. We thought
the best solution would be to take a page out of the book
of the crafty Peruvian natives from the opening scene of
by Bryce Woolley and Evan Woolley
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Holiday Cheer ...
POSING A PUG PROBLEM.