November 19th, 2021—
The video game Portal 2 is widely regarded as a classic that introduced players to several memorable characters, including one of the main protagonists-turned-antagonists, Wheatley. This anthropomorphized personal assistance robot was able to move, speak, and listen/respond to speech from a user, which is exactly what Steve Turner was trying to recreate when he built his own version of Wheatley. His animatronic device starts by waking up, and from there it selects a folder of audio files to play at random. Additionally, its AI-powered interactivity is provided by an Amazon Echo Dot via Alexa and the Arduino Cloud.
In order to generate eye movements, Wheatley’s five servo motors are controlled by a single Nano 33 IoT, where three are dedicated to moving the eye and two move the eyelids up and down. As for storing the nearly 900 audio files, a DFPlayer Mini and an SD card hold them all for later playback by a BC127 Bluetooth audio module. This package is able to read files from the SD card and output them over Bluetooth to the Echo Dot, which in this case acts as a wireless speaker. Finally, the central “eye” can change colors via three independently addressable RGB LED rings to show Wheatley’s current status.
When put together, all these components comprise a project that closely mimics Wheatley from Portal 2 and having a way to interact with it through voice commands makes it even better. You can see this project in action below, or watch its build log here.