Dog toy/treat dispenser

Hello there,

I’d like to put together a mechanism for providing my dog with treats (e.g. a filled Kong) or a squeaky toy at staggered intervals when she is home alone to keep her occupied. My initial thought was to build a set of wooden boxes (minimum 2, maximum 4) with hatch doors that open downwards. The doors would pop open at set times or every x minutes giving her access to the treat or toy.

I’m a complete newbie to Arduino but I’m keen to learn. I’m a web developer by trade so the coding part of the project shouldn’t pose a problem.

What I’d like from this post is some pointers regarding what I need to read up on and what kit I’m likely to need. I’ve searched the forums for similar posts or projects but I’ve not been able to find anything that fits my requirements yet.

What Board
I’m assuming I would need 4 (max) servo motors to open each hatch door. Would I need a specific board that could support this many motors?

Timings
Would it be possible to choose what time each hatch door opens? or would it have to be every x minutes after the program starts? Will the timing requirement effect which board I get?

Future Enhancements
A neat idea I had to work around possible timing issues was to be able to trigger a door opening with a sms message or email. Is this even possible? Could buying a particular board allow this as possible future upgrade?

Any pointers or links to existing similar projects you could provide would be greatly appreciated. If I haven’t explained myself enough or you have any further questions just let me know and I reply with as much detail as I can.

Thanks for taking the time to read this post

Pete

I'm assuming I would need 4 (max) servo motors to open each hatch door. Would I need a specific board that could support this many motors?

Any Arduino will be able to drive 4 servos (not power them, they need there own power supply).

Would it be possible to choose what time each hatch door opens?

Without an external clock, the Arduino only knows how long it has been running. So, no.

or would it have to be every x minutes after the program starts?

RTCs are cheap. Get one.

Will the timing requirement effect which board I get?

No.

A neat idea I had to work around possible timing issues was to be able to trigger a door opening with a sms message or email. Is this even possible?

Neat, and possible, but not trivial. Next, you'll want a web cam handled by the Arduino so you can see when the dog gets bored. Forget it.

Could buying a particular board allow this as possible future upgrade?

Any board that supports shields can be made to work. The twits on the development team have made using the official GSM shield on anything but a UNO unnecessarily difficult. Unfortunately, the UNO lacks sufficient memory to be ideal for SMS...

Thanks for the quick reply Paul. I'll do some more reading on servos and RTCs. Sounds like the remote trigger options would be beyond my skillset at the moment but i'll get a board that supports shields anyway.

Nice idea about the webcam. How about extending the idea to include canine facial recognition which detects the boredom automatically ???