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The best Secret Santa gift in an oversized Furby

Arduino TeamDecember 22nd, 2023

Some of YouTube’s most famous makers get together every year for a Secret Santa gift exchange. We already showed you the heartbeat-controlled drum machine that Sam Battle created for Ali Spagnola, but what did Battle receive? Roboticist extraordinaire James Bruton drew Battle and decided to build him this oversized robotic Furby.

Bruton started by skinning a normal Furby to take a look inside and find out how it ticks. The current models are a bit different than the originals from a couple of decades ago, but they’re still pretty simple. There are basic mechanical linkages for the animatronic movement, sensors to detect touch and movement, a speaker for the sound, and cheap LCD eyes. Bruton didn’t reuse any of those components, but this dissection gave him some direction.

With a Furby anatomy lesson under his belt, Bruton designed the scaled-up version with a 3D-printed skeleton. That houses several servo motors to actuate the eyes, eyelids, ears, and mouth, along with two small linear actuators that let it rock back and forth. An Arduino Mega 2560 board controls those motors, as well as a DFRobot DFPlayer Mini MP3 player for the sound effects. An infrared proximity sensor lets the Arduino detect nearby movement, so it can react. Under normal conditions, it just cycles through pre-programmed movement and audio. But if the infrared proximity sensor triggers, the Arduino will switch to something new immediately.

The final step was to cover the giant Furby in its signature fur. Bruton left an opening in the chest where there is a cavity big enough for a normal Furby to reside, complete with LED illumination. That has some concerning implications, but the entire Furby aesthetic skirts the creepy line and so it seems fitting.