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Make Your Own Amazon Alexa-Enabled Furby

Picture of Matthew Mensley
by Matthew Mensley
Nov 30, 2017

The cuddly toy everyone loves to hate gets a useful makeover courtesy of Howchoo. With $50 dollars of parts, you can make your own Amazon Alexa-enabled Furby.

Love them or loathe them, Furbies have left an indelible mark on modern memory. The embodiment of the ridiculous hype that can build around particular toys at Christmas  time, and subsequent media furore, it’s strange to think that these little lumps of synthetic fur and plastic that caused near-riots at release are almost 20 years old now.

And though they may have gained app-connectivity in the intervening years, they’re still as irritating as they were the moment they arrived, babbling “furbish” and waggling their ears with abandon.

No small thing then, that DIY project website Howchoo has gutted one of the little blighters and stuffed its own circuitry inside, gifting the Furby Amazon Alexa powers in the process.

Now, with a simple say so of “Alexa (insert command here)”, the Furby can take command of your Internet of Things devices… Having said that, staring into those cold dead Furbish eyes, maybe this isn’t such a good idea afterall.

Hack Your Own Furby

To make your own according to Howchoo’s design, all you need (in addition to basic tools) is a USB microphone, a Pimoroni Speaker pHAT DAC/amplifier, a Raspberry Pi Zero W and an Adafruit 1.2A DC/stepper motor driver.

Howchoo’s guide uses a 1998 Furby, so your milage may vary depending on the model year Fuby to opt to operate on.

Firstly, you need to prepare the Furby. Removing the skin is possible by severing a zip-tie at its base. Beneath this skin lies an endoskeleton, which protects its electronic innards. Remove this too.

It’s a case of wholesale replacement of parts once you’re in. Switch the original CPU with the Raspberry Pi Zero W, speaker with the USB speaker, and find space for the Pimoroni board too.

The new stepper motor driver is inserted between the Pi and the Furby’s original motor and gearbox, which it will be… well, driving, obviously.

Three crucial pieces of software are needed for the mod to work. Amazon Alexa, which must be loaded onto the Pi, plus two scripts. One that controls the Furby’s motor, and one that impulses the motor program to operate whenever Alexa is detected as speaking. In all, it is reckoned the build can be completed in a few hours.

The full (and entertaining) build guide complete with parts list and scripts can be read over at Howchoo.

Source: Engadget

Furby Alexa mod
Anatomy illustration of a Furby specimen discovered mid 18th-century.

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