A sound Arduino sandwich

At Maker Faire or two ago I bought the Voice Shield kit that is produced by SpikenzieLabs (http://www.spikenzielabs.com).
It fits on top of the Arduino and only uses a few pins of the Arduino so there are lots of other pins available to do other things like trigger a sound, or whatever.

It is based around the ISD4003. (I have used the ISD2560 in previous projects).

I was a little intimidated by the instructions on how to get the interface up and running, but I eventually figured out what I was missing and then it was pretty easy.

Basically you load the ISD4003 with sounds using the separate program, (available from their website) by sort of giving the words a number. Then after that, that program is gone and you can play them using by calling the numbers in your own program.
There are some code snippets there to sort of give guidance.

It actually sounds better than the ISD2560 and it comes with a small amplifier so testing does not require you to build an amplifier to hear things. I found trying to take the sound from my computer wasn’t so easy. There was some crackle noise coming through the computer which was also being recorded. I used my MP3 player and took the output from the headphone jack and the sound was very clean after that.

Board for speech recognition
Voice recognition board

I made a carrier board to take some inputs from the Voice Direct speech recognition module.

Here are the electronics that I plan to add to the 1812. There is a servo motor, a speaker, a Sharp gp2d12, Voice Direct module, Arduino and Voice Shield. Missing are the batteries and some LEDs.

Arduino and sound shield
Voice shield

Eye stalks

Here you can see the eye stalks have been added to the body and the whole thing is starting to take shape.

The microphone is hidden in the utility stalk that sticks out at the front. Not sure if I will add a claw or something there.

The electronics are all working, with the exception of the servo. The servo is still to be wired up to an output on my Arduino board.

Getting close to finishing. I just need to add a little detail to the paint and connect the LEDs, add the servo and some sort of linkage to move the eye stalks.

DRD with eyes stalks attched
Eye stalk added to body of DRD



Whistle while you work 1812 style

I bought this speech recognition kit a while ago (well, around 5 years ago). Initially I had all sorts of ideas on how to use it until I found it was a little limited. The board was made by Sensory Inc. and it was called the Voice Direct II. I say was, because it is no longer available.

I discovered after reading the sparse documentation many times over that it has 15 keywords that can be programmed in. However, for it to listen for a word in a sentence, you had to recreate the room ambiance almost exactly every time for it to recognise the speech efficiently. I also discovered that it was the very small brother to a much more expensive, better system that could recognise anything and be programmed to react in many ways.

This meant that most of my plans were pretty well shot. I had been thinking about 1812 the DRD and how it would be cool if you could whistle the first few bars of the 1812 Overture and have it reply back.

The Voice Direct module was basically a development kit board, and so after testing that the functionality I wanted was available, I decided to build my own PCB that could do what I needed. Here is the photo of it.

It is basically the development board with a transistor to switch 5v input to an Arduino.
The switches allow me to program it on the fly, however in the mode I am using, I need to press a button to tell it to listen for a word and then as soon as it recognizes the word, it immediately outputs a logic low for 2 seconds.

board for Voice recognition
Voice recognition board

I can now whistle the first few bars of the 1812 Overture and it will respond. If I continue whistling it will respond with the next few bars. This will be mounted in my 1812 very soon. The Arduino sort of takes care of everything else. More about that in my next post.


Quick update
I have done an initial paint job on my DRD. My DRD will mimic the 1812 DRD from Farscape.

painted body back view
back view of painted body

There still needs to be a second coat of paint and I have not actually painted the white yet (it is just white Gesso at the moment). And of course some detailing.
Have been working on other aspects and features, more to come soon.

Painted body
Initial paint job for body

Don’t bat an eye

Painted eye stalk
Eye stalk painted

I have been busy working on various parts of the DRD and I finally finished and painted the eyes and stalks.

For the lens pieces I got some Friendly Plastic beads and tried various methods of moulding the lens.
First attempt was with fingers. Wow, that stuff gets really hot.
The second attempt was by making a mould out of polymer clay. This worked better but no matter how much I tried, I could not get two curved surfaces with the same thickness, smoothness and the same curve,
My solution was to purchase a couple of ping pong balls and I cut a lens cover out of the surface.

I say it is a lens cover because ping pong balls are too thin to be used on their own, they need something else. I ended up using the Friendly Plastic beads and the ping pong lenses. I tried two ping pong ball lenses but that was still too bright.


While waiting for the filler to dry on the DRD shell, I started to play around with the eye stalks.
I had been to my local home do-it store and I purchased some corrugated cable tubes that are used behind monitors or computers where the cables are neatly dressed together.

I also got some plastic electrical conduit pieces. The pieces have a nice bulge at the end that look about right. I cut the conduit down to a smaller size and these are going to be the basis of my DRDs eye stalk.

To give it some stiffness I added two plastic tubes from the plumbing section and finally a metal coat hanger wire to allow it to hold its shape.

Eye stalks
Electric eye

I have just glued some paper around the plastic and have added some detail to the end of eye stalk and then I need to sand and paint it.

Eye stalks
Making eye stalks

Here are the eye pieces with the paper and additional detail added. I got two LED flashlights from the dollar store. Both will be cut down as above from the original size to the one below.

Here is the lamp part of the flashlight added into the eye piece

Light inside eye stalk
Eye stalk with light

Not sure how I will do this yet, but I would like to attach the eye stalks so they will bob up and down by turning the servo.

Paint, sand, fill, paint sand fill

I have been busy sanding, filling and painting the DRD shell. The process started with wood filler and is now at the drywall mud stage.

The grit of the sand paper has become quite fine now and then, once it appears to be smooth, painting a matte white finish of gesso shows up the imperfections that you may or may not want to actually see. It is amazing how many there are.

Side view
Side view features


Here is the DRD side view, right before the next sanding stage. This is really the bit I do not like. Not only is it messy but it also takes so long to do.
Knowing when to say that it’s enough sanding is really hard to do. This is what it looks like. I have just added more filler and I think hope this will be my last layer of filler.