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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

"motor

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.
"connecting

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.
"Wiring

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.
"connecting

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.
"backside

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.

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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