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Building things for the office - the final day

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Yasser Rashid Yasser Rashid | 17:01 UK time, Wednesday, 17 September 2008

After three days of physical prototyping we made it! Behold Dog Vader...

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You might be wondering what it does? Incoming SMS to Radio 1 affect the mood of the dog; when it sits up the dog is happy and when it's sad it lowers its head. Someone touching its paw causes it to read out the latest SMS that matches its current mood.

This diagram explains some of how it works.


Some Ruby code reads all the incoming SMS and matches each message against two lists, one of 'happy' positive words and the other of 'sad' or negative words. This is averaged over a number of messages to give a regularly updating mood score between one (sad) and nine (happy). Nic also managed to write code that reconstructs an average SMS based on words from all the messages queued up. Hopefully he will be able to explain more very soon.

This code then sends the messages and the mood score to a Processing sketch which interacts with the Arduino board to raise and lower the dog's head (using a servo motor) and read from the sensor in the dog's paw. Whenever this is activated we use Apple text-to-speech to read out the SMS.

The team was fantastic and worked really hard to get everything up and running by 4pm today when they presented Dog Vader to the rest of the department. It went down really well with everyone. Finally, well done to the team:

Pete Warren - Kennel builder and mechanical genius.
Nat Gochin - LED and sensor maestro.
Conor Curran - Ruby master
Nic Ford - Super sub and SMS manipulator
David Cooper - Scavenger of materials
Chris Thorne - the Dog Father


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