Zipper, a Furby Robotic Pet


Using the original Furby robotic toy, combined with the Nikko Humvee RC car, we can make a robotic centaur pet test-bed for developing robots with personality. For control and sensor acquisition, we can connect an Arduino, and then for a brain, we can interface it with a Raspberry Pi. The Furby offers access to a range of tools that can be used, including switches, a photoresistor, IR communications, a speaker, and, of course, the motor that controls all of the Furby's facial expressions. Further, this platform is easily expandable using a USB camera and a USB Wifi adapter. Perhaps as a watch dog security drone!

The Parts

The toys for this can be found pretty cheap on eBay.

  • 1 Furby (the one outlined in this article is one of the original series)
  • 1 Nikko Humvee RC car (Nikko H2 should work as well, though it's not been tested)
  • 2 Servos (used here are the HiTec HS-311)
  • 1 Pan-tilt kit
  • 1 Arduino compatible development board
  • 1 Raspberry Pi
  • 1 Protoshield Kit for Arduino
  • A couple of small nuts and bolts from a hardware store to mount the Furby on the servos

Disassembling of The Nikko Humvee

The Humvee is relatively simple. After removing the screws for the primary cover, antenna, and the main board, you can cut and strip the wires going to the motors and battery housing.

Furby Disassembly

There are plenty of sources out there, so I'll save some space and suggest that you take a look at the infamous Furby Autopsy. When stripping down the Furby, it may be helpful to use a nibbling tool or similar to make a precision break to remove the pivot bar under the battery that allows the Furby to bounce and move freely from the base.

Mount The Furby To The Humvee Base

After assembling the pan & tilt kit, you'll find a mounting piece that attaches the speaker to the Furby at the bottom of the Furby's head. You'll need to remove this, drill holes in it, drill holes in the pan & tilt piece, re-attach the piece to the Furby, and then mount the Furby to the top of the pan & tilt kit with the nuts and bolts.

Further Exploration

We can find schematics here.

Select which sensors you want to utilize on the Furby, and incorporate them using the ADC pins on the Arduino. This will vary with the Arduino variation that you've chosen, but Protoboard will come to the rescue with bridging the gap with any necessary adjustments to your voltages or currents, allowing you to use custom circuits. Finally, wire up the servos and the motors in your standard Arduino ways, attach the Arduino to the USB on the RaspberryPi, and the electronics should be good all to go!

If you need assistance on coding, wiring, or expanding an Arduino compatible device, a good reference is the Arduino Cookbook.

Wrap Up

If you wanted to continue on this vein, it may be worth your while to explore ROS on the RaspberryPi. With a little work, this would allow you to register subscriptions to a sensory topic for the Furby, register an interface for working the motors and servos, then expand the platform into a remote host that processes the information and eventually allow for mapping your environment.

Bobby Larson

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