My plan for Bosco was to cheat and buy a something that is more or less parrot shaped, then add a skeleton with a couple joints that are controlled by servo's and toda! Animatronics. (only if life worked out so easy) Hand puppets seemed like a good starting point, but I didn't even it get out of the box before I released that was never going to work. Atomically it's weird as it's body and neck need to be big enough to get your hand in and it didn't have enough range of motion to sell it being a parrot. So between waves of painting, sanding, and constructing the bar, my "off" time was spent researching different solutions. I looked into 3D printing parts and how to cover it, but time was running out for when the bar needed to open, which was only about 2 weeks away to be ready for Virgina's birthday party.
It was time to find a more turn-key solution....
Remember Furreal pets from the 2000's, well it turns they were pretty sophisticated for a kids toy. Good old, Squawkers McCaw has some basic movement, but looks the part, more importantly after looking at sites online, I think I can hack him without much difficulty.
Unfortunately Squawkers has been out of production for about 10 years, but through the magic of ebay I was able to find one generally used at a meager double the original price. I need to wait a week to get the bird but in this time, I found a voice actor that was willing to record over 50 phases as a parrot for me. Greg Kissner is a local actor, and his amazing voice talent was really going to help bring Bosco to life. A short week later I was able to cut into someone childhood friend and bypass the built in board and wire into a Arduino of my own.
This is why Bosco sits on a small chest, that's were my hardware is. While the bird came with a built in speaker it was blown, so wired in a cheap "pool" speaker from amazon as they come with a built in amp.
This is an early Bosco test, as I got the wiring sorted out.
Stephanie thought the bird needed an outfit to help his fabulous personality pop. She made him a shirt, and picked up a little hat.
During my research of how parrots talk and interact with people, I listened to 100's of hours of talking birds speak.
Allot of them mix in whistles and talking, I stole a number of parrot whistles from various videos to make a library of them. The code that plays the voice recordings will pick a random whistles to chain up with the speech. (or not)
In the final week of the project during off time, Stephine and I worked out a system for making the bird talk. There is a thread that looks in a flat file for file names, when it finds one it plays it via the bird + random whistles. There is a thread that will drop in a sound file every 90 seconds to 3 minutes. So the bird will talk at random.
There is also a web site that will drop a sound file name into the text file, this allows people to use a sound board to make Bosco say a specific thing. Finally there is a third process of voice recognition that is listening for certain phrases to be said, if it hears them it will drop a file name into the flat file, and Bosoc will seemly respond to what was said.
This is the final version of Bosco as he says whatever was requested via the website.