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Hack A Teddy Bear To Say Anything

Bringing Teddy Ruxpin back

Teddy Ruxpin

Teddy Ruxpin

Teddy Ruxpin was an iconic toy of the 1980s.

Photograph by Michael Bucuzzo

In the 1980s, a talking teddy bear called Teddy Ruxpin took the world by storm. Now, Oakland engineer Andrew Langley is bringing Teddy back. He hacked the bear’s circuitry and installed C.H.I.P., the $9 computer that his company, Next Thing, had just crowd-funded. The 1-GHz computer can run text-to-voice algorithms that let the bear read anything.

Stats

  • Time: 3 hours
  • Cost: About $85
  • Difficulty: Medium

Tools + Materials

  • Teddy Ruxpin (make sure the jaw and eye motors still work)
  • Screwdriver
  • Wirecutters
  • Soldering iron
  • C.H.I.P. computer
  • SparkFun Motor Driver, Dual TB6612FNG
  • 3.5 mm audio cable
  • 3.7-volt single-cell Li-po battery

Instructions

Step 1

Step 1

Purchase a working Teddy Ruxpin from eBay, and pop open its back with the screwdriver. Inside, identify three sets of motor connectors for the eyes, upper jaw, and lower jaw.

Photograph by Michael Bucuzzo

Step 2

Step 2

To sync the upper and lower jaws, wire them together: Clip the first two wires on the upper and lower jaw connectors, and solder together the “jaw open” and the “jaw closed” wires.

Photograph by Michael Bucuzzo

Wiring Diagram

Step 3

An H-bridge circuit will let the C.H.I.P. control Teddy’s motors. Follow this wiring diagram to connect the C.H.I.P. to the motor driver. Then, to create the H-bridge, connect the bear’s AIN1 pin to C.H.I.P.’s XIO-P0 pin, AIN2 to XIO-P2, BIN1 to XIO-4, and BIN2 to XIO-6. Finally, connect the motor driver’s A01 and A02 pins to the soldered wires controlling Teddy’s upper and lower jaw motors. Link B01 and B02 to the eye motors.

Courtesy Next Thing Co

Step 4

Step 4

Cut the audio output wires that connect Teddy to his onboard speaker, and rewire them to C.H.I.P.'s audio cable. Plug the cable and the battery into the C.H.I.P.

Photograph by Michael Bucuzzo

Step 5

Step 5

Follow C.H.I.P.’s directions to boot up and log onto the Internet. Then download Langley’s software from Github. The package includes an audio player, a Web interface, a Twitter library, and a class to control those GPIO pins on C.H.I.P. that will move the motors. Launch the interface, and give Teddy something to say.

Photograph by Michael Bucuzzo

This article was originally published in the May/June 2016 issue of Popular Science, under the title “Hack a Teddy Bear to Say Anything.”

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