Making Interactive Rabbits Talk
A few years back while I was a researcher at the Department od Computing Science, Glasgow University we purchased 2 small Nabaztag rabbits to augment our prototype multimodal navigation system. The rabbit announced instructions for the users to search the map to find different locations around the world – a sort of digital treasure hunt. Fast forward 7 years and I’m doing it again.
The Karotz, the new name for the rabbit, is a special interactive device. It has ears that you can position, an LED in it’s belly that you can set to various colours, a microphone so you can give the rabbit commands, a speaker to play music either remotely or from a USB stick which can give the rabbit a voice, a nose to smell out those pesky RFID tags and a new feature that’s different from the older rabbits, a webcam to see.
We’ve bought another 2 rabbits for our research at CASA and we’ve been having a think about how we can use them to brighten up the office. For the first few months we had some issues with our corporate WiFi network, think blocked ports and firewalls, so actually getting the rabbit to talk to the outside network has been a challenge. By setting up a 3G router in the office we’ve been able to have more control of our Internet of Things devices and this has meant that we can make these devices respond to some of our collection software.
Once we got the rabbit connected, I decided the first thing we had to do was make the Karotz API friendlier to developers. I set up a small web server written in Node.JS on an internal server where we could send commands to the rabbit and it would proxy these authenticated commands to the Karotz API, which in turn sends to the rabbit.
For example if you want to set the ears to down then you would call the following web service:
To set the LED to red you would call:
And to make the rabbit talk you would call:
Oliver O’Brien had the idea to attach real world London Underground Tube alerts to the rabbit so I set up a command on the server to make the rabbit announce the tube alerts (which you can see on the video below)
These types of ubiquitous technologies allow developers to integrate real time data into our lives without users having to log onto computers or get our mobile phones out to actively check on services. We are just starting to explore the possibilities of this technology so stay tuned for some more of cool little side projects.