Build your own K-9 robotic companion


Relive the days of Doctor Who by creating your own K-9 replica with Arduino, XBee and SparkFun.


For those who may not be familiar with Doctor Who, K-9 was the name of the steadfast companion in the long-running British science fiction TV series. In these stories, the robotic dog proved useful for the powerful laser weapon concealed in his nose, his encyclopedic knowledge, his vast computer intelligence, among many other things. In fact, the character still holds a special place in the hearts of the show’s rabid fan base, just ask Maker “MrBithead942.”

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“I’ve been a Whovian for many years and the 4th Doctor (Tom Baker) will always be my favorite. There are many reasons including his playful quirkiness, colorful scarf, his fondness for Jelly Babies, but definitely K-9, his robot dog companion,” the Maker writes. “30+ years later, I finally built up the courage and skills (and funds) to try to build a replica K-9 for my own and I’m really happy with the results!”

In total, MrBithead942’s project took just about four months to build entirely from scratch. The replica’s shell is comprised of the a light, bendable and easy-to-machine plastic HPDE, which required a custom plastic bender to get the angles just right. The rest of the body was made up of various custom laser-cut parts.

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K-9’s frame consists of an aluminum channel, which houses several electronic components including an Arduino Uno (ATmega328) and an XBee shield tasked with handling the remote voice, eye sensors, a few RGB LED strips, and in true Doctor Who fashion, a laser on its nose. An additional Arduino is also paired with an Adafruit motor shield to control the linear actuator for the neck movement, while a Raspberry Pi drives its built-in LCD screen.

Beyond that, the Maker’s very own robotic dog is radio controlled, made possible through the use of a SparkFun Fio (ATmega32U4) attached to another XBee, a 16×2 LCD, a 1000mAH rechargeable LiPo battery, and a few other components to help keep the robot on its wireless leash. Meanwhile, an Adafruit Class D Amp circuit was used to boost the signal of an embedded MP3 module for voice playback.

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Aside from just remote-controlled movements, the DIY canine sidekick features triggered playback of 12 different voices and sound clips from the original TV series, glowing red eyes, a movable head and power switches along its back.

Intrigued? Relive your Doctor Who days by checking out the entire project here, or watching it in action below.

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