This Arduino-based digital pet robot features an accelerometer, gyrosocope, RGB LED lights, sound and communication sensors.
Well, it looks like we’ve come a long way since the days of pet rocks. While the concept of a digital pet may not be all that new (think Giga Pet, Furby, AIBO and Tamagotchi), a recent project from Plum Geek is looking to change the game with its palm-sized bot that not only has its own personality and is capable of responding to commands, but aspires to introduce children to programming as well.
Ringo — which has debuted on Kickstarter — is a super-friendly pet robot bug based on the Arduino Uno (ATmega328) and packed with a number of electronic goodies such as an accelerometer, gyroscope, communication sensors, six RGB LEDs, a music chirper and more.
“The robot was inspired and co-designed by my 1st grade daughter Hailey and my 3rd grade son Parker, who are both already writing C code. Ringo grew out of a project intended to build just one robot for my kids but we realized something much greater could be done in producing Ringo for the masses,” explains Kevin King, Plum Geek Founder. “We hope it will catch the curiosity of young engineers and also have a particular appeal to girls who may not otherwise become interested in coding and technology.”
The device is pre-loaded with 10 different behaviors, enabling a user to begin playing with it straight out of the box. Once activated, anyone can guide their robotic pet via a remote control. Shine the light in the dark and Ringo will chase the glow like a cat and a laser pointer. Draw a line on the floor and he’ll use his edge sensors to follow. Nudge him and his built-in accelerometer will decipher direction and begin heading towards your finger. Similarly, when tapped in scaredy mode, he will head the opposite way.
An embedded gyroscope is tasked with keeping Ringo pointing in the same direction, so no matter which way he is turned, he’ll return to his original position. Beyond that, Ringo navigates his surrounding area with “ninja-like” agility using a pair of pager motors, which can determine his current and desired location. Meanwhile, users can program his sensors to travel specific directions and distances.
Makers can activate and switch between behaviors using a remote control, while also customizing their own using standard Arduino functions and the Arduino IDE. Ringo’s embedded IR light sources can be enabled individually in any pattern and driven together simultaneously, which allows for remote signals to communicate with other Ringo bots or appliances. Furthermore, a 38 kHz receiver is designed to sense the modulated light signal produced by most TV remote controls.
“We have always been interested in the idea of the ‘digital pet,’ and for that matter, any kind of machine or robot that exhibits a personality. That was the real driving force behind the design of Ringo. We wanted to put some really useful parts on a circuit board that is very easy to program, then see what people do with it. We’ve already written code to do much of the heavy lifting for you, and we’ve also written a pile code examples to get you started.”
Ringo charges his battery automatically whenever plugged into the programming adaptor, or when a USB cable is connected directly to his USB port. An LED lets a user see when he has completed charging.
While virtual pets may typically appeal to children, Ringo’s advanced capabilities and open-source hardware will likely to make it a favorite for “kids” of any age. Interested in learning more about this fun way to get young Makers into coding? Head over to Ringo’s official Kickstarter campaign, where the team has already exceeded its $12,000 goal. Shipment is expected to begin in May 2015.