Furby’s Final Progress Report!

In our last two weeks with Furby, Ruth and I have been learning more about adding a cart to the Furby, which was part of our original plan. We originally wanted to wire the Furby to the cart such that the activation of its infrared sensors would make the Furby turn and move in a […]

In our last two weeks with Furby, Ruth and I have been learning more about adding a cart to the Furby, which was part of our original plan. We originally wanted to wire the Furby to the cart such that the activation of its infrared sensors would make the Furby turn and move in a different direction, but this became less doable as we had less and less time, and as we researched more about the cart we wanted to use. However, we still wanted to give it our best effort by at least creating the cart and trying to attach the Furby to it. Continue reading "Furby’s Final Progress Report!"

Furby Evil Eyes

After some members of the class suggested that we try to make the Furby “evil” somehow, either by changing its voice or appearance, Ruth and I decided to continue our work with LEDs on the Furby by giving it glowing red eyes. First, to make sure that the light could be seen through the pupils, […]

After some members of the class suggested that we try to make the Furby “evil” somehow, either by changing its voice or appearance, Ruth and I decided to continue our work with LEDs on the Furby by giving it glowing red eyes. First, to make sure that the light could be seen through the pupils, I decided to tear down the Furby and remove its face (yikes) so I could drill through the eyes and create an opening. Once I got the eyes out (yikes again), I used a dremel to carefully drill down to the clear plastic layer on the front of the Furby’s eyes, but not through it like I originally planned. It looked a lot better this way: you could still see the bright LED through the eye, but when the Furby was inactive it wasn’t too obvious that the pupil was missing. Next class, we got the face back on and removed the blue LED that we had attached previously. We sautered two new red LEDs in series, attached them to the first voice wire, fed them under the Furby’s face so the LEDs were behind each eye, and then completed the circuit with the second voice wire. It worked perfectly! Next we’re going to try and move on to more arduino work with the Furby. We’re currently 3D printing a base for it to sit in so we can attach it to moving components.

Silencing Furby

Now that we had taken the Furby apart, Ruth and I were able to see all of the wires and identify them in the specs. The most important wires for our project are the 6 leading from the head sensors (light and infrared) to the rest of the circuit. They’re pretty clearly identified in the […]

Now that we had taken the Furby apart, Ruth and I were able to see all of the wires and identify them in the specs. The most important wires for our project are the 6 leading from the head sensors (light and infrared) to the rest of the circuit. They’re pretty clearly identified in the specs, but Heaton also draws them on her copy of the Furby specs, seen below.
Head sensors can be seen in the upper left corner.
Continue reading "Silencing Furby"

Dissecting a Furby

For our final project, Ruth and I have decided to take apart and repurpose a Furby, mostly by keeping the body and circuitry intact and adding our own circuitry to it. My greatest hope is that we can eventually use the infrared senors on its head to detect motion/objects in front of the Furby, and then […]

For our final project, Ruth and I have decided to take apart and repurpose a Furby, mostly by keeping the body and circuitry intact and adding our own circuitry to it. My greatest hope is that we can eventually use the infrared senors on its head to detect motion/objects in front of the Furby, and then use this to control circuitry of other components that we add (for example, if we give the Furby wheels so it can move around the room, we could use this to keep it from running into walls). We have no idea how likely it is that this will work, but Kelly Heaton used the Furby's infrared sensors in her work, so we think that we can use some of her methods and studies in this project. The first thing we had to do was skin the poor guy. We took him apart last Tuesday and documented the process with a lot of pictures, seen in the slider below. Our next steps are to figure out how the infrared sensors work and find some kind of robotics/wheels/something that we can attach to the Furby.
 

Kelly Heaton’s Furby Hacking

While browsing through maker projects, I remembered a conversation that I had with my dad about potentially “hacking” a furby’s CPU and changing something about the voice or sensors to reverse engineer it. He had joked about making Pulp Furby: a hacked furby whose sensors behaved the same way, but who responded with Samuel L. […]

While browsing through maker projects, I remembered a conversation that I had with my dad about potentially “hacking” a furby’s CPU and changing something about the voice or sensors to reverse engineer it. He had joked about making Pulp Furby: a hacked furby whose sensors behaved the same way, but who responded with Samuel L. Jackson’s Pulp Fiction quotes instead of the furby’s usual sounds. Regardless of how possible that was to create, reverse engineering a furby still seemed like a worthwhile project to consider during the semester, so I quickly began digging through articles on “Furby Hacking 101”.

A lot more could be said about the furby’s sensors than it’s CPU: according to schematics and other makers’ research, hacking the furby CPU is difficult because Tiger Electronics actively tried to prevent 1998 furbies from being hacked by protecting the key components. 1998 furbies are also considered collectibles and can only be found on eBay with enormous price-tags or risky problems. I’m currently looking into how likely it is that I could hack a 2012 furby, since those are newer and hopefully a little less expensive.

In the meantime, I discovered the artist and scientist Kelly Heaton, who makes incredible works of art that combine analog electronics with environmentalism and organic subjects. All of her work is worth talking about, but I wanted to spotlight her work on furbies. She created several works in the late 90s and early 2000s that focused on furbies — one of the most iconic technological children’s toys of the time — and how we connect with them. She’s both inspirational for her ideas and her engineering on these projects, which can be found on her website.

I also love this furby schematic that she drew. More can be found here.