Talkie electronics

Sound PCB (Playback)
The 60 second ISD2560 voice recorder has a better sampling rate, so I wired 2 together in a direct addressed tandem mode. Basically one plays through the other to give 2 minutes of sound.
I recorded all the dialogue myself, modified in Audacity based on things Talkie might say in the show. Though there are actually only two minutes of recorded speech, the total time for it to run through all its speech is around 10 to 15 minutes, including pauses.

Lights
A digital vu meter flashes lights based on how loud the sound level is and I arranged the LEDs to be not in straight lines like a normal VU meter but rather a circular pattern.

Sensors
To allow Talkie to hear someone I modified a VOX switch (voice operated switch) kit to output a logic level when sound was detected.

Vox to recognize there is a reply
Talkie toaster ears

Everything is turned on by the shadow cast on a light dependant resistor (LDR).
The toaster itself had built in LEDs for frozen bread or bagel selection so I used these to give visual feedback of the current mode; the LED’s lit when it was waiting for a reply.
I wanted the toaster to cry “Help! Help! Toastercide!” if the it was moved so I added a push button switch to the base of the toaster which activated when the toaster was lifted.

Brains
I purchased some Picaxe 28x micro controllers. These are similar to a Basic Stamp but have the advantage of being cheaper and very easy to use. I created a small development PCB for the Picaxe and programmed them (I actually ended up using 2 Picaxe 28x because I ran out of ports).

Improvements
Once installed I was never happy with the light dependent resistor (LDR). Levels of light had to be just right. So recently I changed this and added a SRF05 ultrasonic detector. The hardest part of the conversion to ultrasonics was finding somewhere that is a good lookout point that is not really noticeable. It was the longest part of the conversion and, after trying 3 or 4 places, I finally settled on a location. It actually works very well.

Talkie Toaster

Would you like a piece of toast?

Talkie Toaster
A tea cake?

Talkie Toaster first appeared in Series 1 of Red Dwarf, and then again in Series 4. In both appearances it looked and sounded completely different.
In Series 1 it was in the form of an old style toaster, chrome with rounded edges. In Series 4 it was boxy and red, and had more dialogue. Mine was to be a mixture of the two with the look and voice of Series 1, and the attitude of Series 4.
When I dreamed up the idea to build a Talkie Toaster my plan was to find a toaster that looked like the one from the TV show, remove all the insides, and fill it with some electronics to make it talk. I wanted to build something for fun and have no moving parts to get bogged down with.

What makes Talkie Toaster a recognizable character?

  • The look of Talkie Toaster from Series 1
  • Characteristic sound and attitude
  • Front light that lights up in time with speech interactive speech and motion detection

Total cost would have been about $200-$250 except I reused some parts I had purchased previously.

Halloween project

In between working on my web page I have been looking at other peoples projects…..
I was trawling the pages of the Make magazine site and saw lots of projects to scare people. One in particular that caught my eye and it was built around a winbond 10 second voicecorder IC. I looked through my boxes and found enough parts to make my own mini Halloween project.
Total time taken 2 Sunday afternoons to make the electronics and one evening to record the sound bites into the voicecorder IC. I went to the grocery store and got a Candy bucket 99 cents
the parts were all parts left over from previous designs.

Candy bucket
Spooky candy bucket Halloween 2006

It works by covering a light dependant resistor (LDR) and a picaxe microcontroller
senses this and starts the next sound bite,The code is extremely simple. The downside to this method is the lighting in the room has to be just right and there is a slight delay before sound is heard.