Building a Buddy… From Scratch

Final Posting for the Semester


Press play to watch the video!

(You can also download this video here.)

I’ve had lots of struggles with Buddy. As you can see from this video, Buddy has definitely come a long way from his original inspiration. Unfortunately, Buddy has been constructed – and constructed pretty well for someone who has never undertaken a project like this at all since he no longer falls apart (I had a lot of trouble keeping his head from falling off whenever the servos in his head moved) – but does not actually work as intended. I am pretty sure that there are too many servos trying to draw power from the arduino at once. I had the servos moving his head when they were the only things connected to the arduino, and after more things were attached, I realized that the continuous rotation servos were not moving after I attached them to his body. I am still getting information from all of his sensors in the serial monitor in arduino, so I do not believe I fried the board. This is an undertaking I am going to pursue figuring out over the summer as well as to add sound to him and to perhaps give him an on and off switch or sensor so that when he is plugged into power he does not just fly out of the user’s hands (which I had been afraid of while putting him together.)

The latest version of “full” code I was using (though it is missing some of the interaction code when I could not get the autonomous movement code to work right) is here (.pde file)

and here (.rtf file). Despite these set backs, I do not feel that my robot creation has been a failure. On the contrary, the fact that I know to keep trouble shooting and that each piece worked separately and when in conjunction with some (but not all) other parts makes me confident that this issue is just something I did not foresee and not something I cannot overcome. I just need some more time to work out the kinks.

My dream for a robotic creature has certainly come true, in spite of all the set backs. I learned that the hardest part of making a robot is actually putting all the pieces together after FINDING all the right pieces. I didn’t have a glue gun before this. I feel like my thesis project might be something robotic and I am glad I’ve got some handy tools for further projects – as well as to continue perfecting Buddy. He’s a pretty cute little seal and I want him to waddle around for me. The pleasure I think people could find in this project – a robotic animal friend – is in having something to interact with that you don’t need to feed and don’t have to worry about hurting itself. I have always had a deep love for animals (yes, everyone knows I have a bunny!) and some of the downfalls of real animals are made up for in a robot – like feeding them, cleaning up after them, bringing them to the vet, and, in the case of my rabbit, worrying about their blindness getting them hurt. Buddy can move around on his own and this makes him pretty smart. If he gets stuck, he won’t continue to slam against the wall. If you wave at him he’ll be interested in you. You can pet him and he’ll be happy. In future I’d like him to even be able to follow you around after you’ve interacted with him (but of course, first I’d like him to move like I expected him to!). I actually can’t wait to see what Maddy does when I have a robot following me around… I think she’ll be jealous!

After I’ve spent all these hours just trying to make a frame and make things that fit together, I’ve still got a lot of big dreams for the future. I want to make an artificial intelligence inhabit this robotic body. I want a robot that can decide what it wants to do. I know I’ll have to make increments – better autonomous movement that can be more random so it seems like he’s making decisions all on his own – but eventually I’d like to explore giving my robot a unique personality and a mind of his own.

I’m going to estimate that making his frame after first testing each part and writing little bits of code to help me test and understand each part (though I still don’t understand why the 180 degree servos make a scary humming noise when they are on) took me at least 3 times as long as I had originally thought it would take. I thought a full weekend of work (Thursday night to Monday morning) on a body would produce a frame. Do not be misled if you are building a robot like this – it takes WAY longer. And you will likely discover you need more of a material or something new you hadn’t anticipated in the process at least twice and have to stop working and go out and find that item. It took me longer than I anticipated just to find the right parts. And it took a week to have parts delivered from spark fun. All of this time adds up and if I had it to do over again, I might have set my goal a little smaller so I had a chance to reach it with a small robot that moved around very little. Nonetheless, I am glad I have this intensely huge start to finishing off my dream robot. He’s built! He might need some trouble shooting still, but he *actually exists now!*

Please enjoy the video even though it is not very elaborate. Buddy and I are off for a summer of more hard work (do robots hold up well on the beach??).

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