Tag Archives: Pixar

Adafruit makes a smartphone-activated talking dog collar

Have some fun at the park with this Up-like dog collar.   

Inspired by Dug the dog from the Pixar movie Up, Adafruit’s Becky Stern and Phillip Burgess have created a talking collar of their own. Whereas the special contraption from the animated film allowed the pup to communicate with its owner, or more like gives voice to his thoughts, this smartphone-activated wearable lets you have some fun at the park by emitting pre-programmed phrases like “Squirrel!,” “I can smell you,” or “I want that ball!”


Built around the Adafruit’s Audio FX board and Bluefruit Micro (ATmega32U4), the Bluetooth-enabled collar’s sounds are triggered using the Bluefruit LE Connect mobile app. These noises are then played through a mono amp connected to a mini speaker. Meanwhile, the collar itself is made out of a leather belt, along with 3D-printed “greebles” to give it the true look and feel of Dug’s.

You’ll also notice that the device has two LED sequins — one for the faux map screen that stays on all the time, another that acts as a ‘talking’ light and is prompted with each phone command. The first is sliced from the battery pack, while the latter is attached to an analog out on the Bluefruit Micro.


The electronics are housed inside a round pouch on the front of the wearable, while its battery pack lives in the faux tracking box in the back. The unit is powered by three AAA batteries.

So, does this sound like something you’d like for your dog… or for yourself? Head over to Adafruit’s site, where you’ll find an exhaustive breakdown with the schematics, code and even 3D files for the harder-to-find bits.

[Images: Mike Farino via Adafruit]

Mira is the cutest robot you’ll ever see (and hide from)

This adorable bot uses facial recognition software to play peek-a-boo with humans. 

While you’ve probably seen countless robots before, we guarantee you that none have made you say “awwwww” quite like this one. That’s because Alonso Martinez, a character technical director at Pixar, has built a social bot that he calls MiraWhereas other humanoids have been designed to automate tedious tasks and lend a helping hand with chores around the house, this egg-shaped unit has one job: to make life better one smile at a time.


Proving just that, Martinez recently posted a video of Mira playing peek-a-boo with humans. In terms of appearance, the robot is pretty basic — but in the best way possible. The somewhat spherical device is equipped with a pair of eyes, a color-changing base, and if you look close enough at an earlier video, it appears to be driven by an Arduino Uno (ATmega328).

Being a Pixar character director and all, it’s no wonder Mira was inspired by the simplicity of animated robots like Iron Giant and Big Hero 6’s Baymax. Martinez tells PSFK that he began designing the friendly toy with a pencil and paper before migrating to modeling software, and ultimately, 3D printing her parts on an Ultimaker.

The project was originally designed, in collaboration with fellow Makers Aaron Nathan and Vijay Sundaram, as a way to explore human-robot interactivity and emotional intelligence. Over time, she will be able to understand more about the world and feelings, improving her ability to engage with people in a much more meaningful manner.


For now, Mira uses facial tracking technology to play the game of peek-a-boo. She will get sad when a user hides, which in turn, causes her color will change to purple. Yet as soon they reappear, Mira will wiggle in excitement, let out a joyful sound and emit various colors. If you think about it, pretty much like a pet.

While Martinez has yet to reveal if he will bring this cute companion to consumers, it is evident by its rising popularity — already 200,000 views on YouTube — that there are plenty of people out there who’d love a Mira for themselves. (Us included.) Not to mention, she’d be a nice little stress-releiver to have on your desk at work or home. After all, who doesn’t love a game of peek-a-boo?!

As we await to find out more, you can stay connected here. In the meantime, watch Mira in action below.

Atmel is everywhere at the 2013 Maker Faire, episode 1

As I walked around the 2013 Maker Faire in San Mateo, it seemed that everything that interested me had Atmel chips inside of it. Even before I got inside a pavilion Saturday, there was a full-sized flight simulator as I walked in the gate.


The Viper Flight simulator is a kickstarter project that actually got built. Created by a team of high-school students, the Viper was at Maker Faire with its mentor’s family, the DeRoses.


Dad Tony DeRose told me “we use Atmel all over” the project.


Something tells me the real brains of the outfit is mom Cindy DeRose, here standing next to some of the simulator’s controls.


And every engineer can commiserate with having to crawl under the control panel to work on the electronics. We can see dad Tony handing a circuit board to ——


……his son Sam, who he described as the EE and ME of the project. Tony is no slouch himself, working over at Pixar as senior scientist and lead of research.

Frankly, it’s great to see something that actually gets finished on Kickstarter. We need another website called Kickfinisher, where Cindy comes over to your lab and tells you to stop playing video games and screwing off so you can get some work done. If you are a good boy she might bring some cookies and orange juice. In addition to a passionate core of mentors, it helps to have some sponsors, and Viper got support from Autodesk, Nvidia, and automotive repair shop Hawker Inc.