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Author Topic: Audio Animatronics - Is this even feasible?  (Read 816 times)
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Arduino project feasibility inquiry

Hello all, I have been reading bits and pieces of these boards for a while now, after having received the recommendation from a friend to check it out.  I have a project that I would really like to know if it is even feasible.  If it is, depending on the cost and time involved, I would like to offer it for hire. Most of my experience is with recording and mixing audio, and I have absolutely no understanding of computer programming or experience building electronics.  My friend said that the Arduino platform may accomplish it, but I’m wondering if it might be accomplished more efficiently as a purely software application.  Most of all, I wonder if it can be accomplished with something that already exists. 
     I want to make a new program for an animatronic talking toy, roughly similar to Teddy Ruxpin in that the bird character appears to tell stories and sing when a program is played through the on-board cassette player.  One channel on the tape is audio, and the other channel is the movement instructions, recorded as un-heard audio.  (In a regular cassette player, that channel sounds like a fax machine or like timecode on a Beta tape).  For Teddy, this information was an analog PPM signal.  But for this Ideal Big Bird, there is a proprietary digital encoding scheme for the information.  Because I’m a Muppets fan, and just slightly nostalgic, I’m quite interested in adding the encoded movement instructions to other audio programs containing the character’s voice, which weren’t originally produced for the series.  (This would only be for personal use, and not to share due to copyright issues).  For a look at the encoding scheme, here is the patent: 
http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO2&p=1&u=%2Fnetahtml%2Fsearch-bool.html&r=18&f=G&l=50&d=pall&s1=446%2F299.CCLS.&OS=CCL/446/299&RS=CCL/446/299

And here’s a look at it with all the images.  You’ll want to visit pages 6 – 7 for the pictures relating to the data scheme. 
http://patimg1.uspto.gov/.piw?Docid=5108341&idkey=NONE
And finally, here is a video of someone else who has all of this in action, so that you can see how it’s supposed to work. 
 
         
What I’m wanting to do is to have some sort of workspace in which to import an audio program and “perform along” with a joystick or something, as though I were a puppeteer, adding the beak and eye movements, and then have that be rendered as the square-wave audio that I could patch into the cassette recorder.  So, am I totally nuts??  (It’s okay if the answer’s yes smiley-wink.  At this point, I haven’t yet been able to figure out just what means the original engineers used in order to accomplish this, but I’m very curious.  Any insights that you can offer would be greatly appreciated. 

Jessica
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At this point, I haven’t yet been able to figure out just what means the original engineers used in order to accomplish this, but I’m very curious.  Any insights that you can offer would be greatly appreciated. 

I thought that most of these things were glove puppets. I remember reading that Gerry Anderson used a novel approach which he called 'Supermarionation' and I have the idea that involved voice activated mouths, but I don't know any details about how that worked. Perhaps with modern technology you could implement something similar?
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I like the idea. There are I think ways of doing this.

First I would split the file in to two parts 1 for the audio and one for the control. Timing information for the animatronics is held in one file long with data to control servers/motors audio in another file. You could use the one of the SD shields to hold the files (I'm assuming that I can read from more that one file on the SD card at a time.

I'll have a look for a way of playing back an audio file. Telephone exchanges use 8k 8bit samples per second which I think the UNO should be able to do.

Mark
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Thanks.  Supermarionation provided an interesting read.  As it turns out, Jerry Anderson used this technique in the Thunderbirds series in the 60s. 
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I'll have a look for a way of playing back an audio file. Telephone exchanges use 8k 8bit samples per second which I think the UNO should be able to do.
If you wanted to play just a single sound, look for an ISD1820 voice board.  I just bought this particular device: http://www.ebay.com/itm/221169565822?ssPageName=STRK:MEWNX:IT&_trksid=p3984.m1439.l2649

Adafruit makes a wave shield to play .wav files: http://www.adafruit.com/products/94

Rugged Circuits makes some audio shields:
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Thanks.  Supermarionation provided an interesting read.  As it turns out, Jerry Anderson used this technique in the Thunderbirds series in the 60s. 

Yes, that's why I thought of it. The resulting movements were quite simple, but produced a credible result.
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JT, I would be interested in helping you with this. I am actually working on something similar and was just posting to ask if anyone would be interested in the details of it. I guess first a couple of questions:

1. Are you wanting to directly record to the cartridges? Are you open to replacing the controller?
2. Are you looking for a system using exactly the same encoding scheme (it actually just looks like the same standard developed in 1976 - Kansas City Standard - for computer data storage on audio tapes.
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