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October 16, 2008 12:45 PM

Categories: Robot Hacks and Mods

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RetroPlayer

Member
Joined: 03/07/2008

First let me warn you, if you have small children that love Elmo with all their heart, you may not want to let them view this thread. :)

For all the help Sevik has given me while working on reverse-engineering the Elvis bust, I decided I needed to send him a thank you gift. I was originally going to send him a bust since he didn't even have one, but he isn't so much into that anyway. So I stumbled on the Elmo Live (which actually JUST hit the stores...) After showing him some videos he decided he must have one. So, I pre-ordered two of them and one will be shipped off to the Ukraine to meet its new happy owner.

 HI, SEVA!

But... one of them had to be opened up. And this is the story...

First of all, let's go over his movements.

Elmo Live can stand or sit, and can cross his right leg in the sitting position.

Each of his arms move up and down. His right arm also is also articulated at the elbow to allow him to bring his hand to his mouth.

His neck moves back and forth and his head can rotate upwards

Finally his mouth opens and closes

There are only 3 motors and 3 encoders to provide all of the movements. There is some trickery in how the movements are done and what must be some very interesting cams and clutches inside the two gearboxes within the torso. Obviously, I was a little disappointed about this, but it still has some potential, I think.

Unbelievably, as much as I find Elmo annoying, this toy is actually pretty entertaining (he is just a little too loud, though.) He has some cute stories, games, and animations. This generated a small amount of sympathy while I was skinning the fella.

Elmo has four switches that allow you to interact with him.

Left foot, back, belly, and his nose.

He also has a tilt switch in his left foot, which is weighted by the batteries.

While fully fur-clad, it really looks like he has a ton of articulation and his movements are very fast, springy, and life-like. The illusion is well done and all of the stories, etc... are programmed to make great use of his limited movements. Overall, a very well engineered toy that looks hard to break.

I will be "toying" around with this for a bit to see what kind of mayhem I can wrought. This thread will detail my adventures.

So far, I have managed to remove all of his fur without damaging it and will be posting the pictures and a how-to soon. I took 22 pictures just for the process of removing the fur, so it might be a little long for a forum thread.

For now, I present:

Elmo Live Dissected

Discussion:    Add a Comment | Comments 91-105 of 227 | Latest Comment | « Previous 15 6 7 8 9 1016 Next »

December 25, 2008 10:57 PM

I doubt it, but you could try fixing it the same way that it broke. Hold his head still while he tries to talk. This might knock the encoder back into alignment.

When it happened with mine, though, I had to remove the motor, manually align the encoder (back to the center) and then put the motor back in.

Still, if it got misaligned by some mistreatment, it theoretically could re-align with some mistreatment. Worse case scenario (barring one using gorilla force on it and physically breaking it), you have to open it and fix it anyway.

YMMV

December 26, 2008 9:23 AM

RetroPlayer said:

I doubt it, but you could try fixing it the same way that it broke. Hold his head still while he tries to talk. This might knock the encoder back into alignment.

When it happened with mine, though, I had to remove the motor, manually align the encoder (back to the center) and then put the motor back in.

Still, if it got misaligned by some mistreatment, it theoretically could re-align with some mistreatment. Worse case scenario (barring one using gorilla force on it and physically breaking it), you have to open it and fix it anyway.

YMMV


Thanks for the quick reply - I'll try holding his head while he talks (sounds like fun anyway...especially after 24 hours of high-pitched cackling).

Assuming I will need to reset the encoder, do you have any tips or things I should watch out for? I found an earlier post where you addressed removing the fur around the head to access the encoder, so that seems easy enough. Is the center position of the encoder obvious enough, or could you post a picture pointing out where I need to reset it?

Also, does the position Elmo is in when I start this repair going to matter?

Finally, any tips for getting the fur back on...this seems like it could be a little tricky.

Thanks!

View unverified member's comment - posted by mommyc16

December 26, 2008 7:51 PM

jsaugustyn said: Finally, any tips for getting the fur back on...this seems like it could be a little tricky. Thanks!
The only way to put the fur as you call it back onn is just sew it back togeather as they did in the factory. If you feel the back of the head you find a bump and thi is where you cut out the stiches down the line, after the repairs just sew it back up with red thread.
Jax

GWJax, To Hack and make mods on robots is a life style and comes natural and not by choice. If a robot has a screw to open it then it must be opened!

December 26, 2008 7:58 PM

mommyc16 said: take the ************ back to walmart and exchange it for one that works

We are here to help out our members that enjoy repairing the bots them selfs. Once the warranty has expired and something goes wrong these threads will help them out in getting their bot working again. Not everyone just wants to return their bots to the store, but instead learn how to repair them and learn how they work inside, Just think of it as a learning school with hands on and help from around the world as your teachers. There is no better place to be for this kind of stuff.

 Jax

GWJax, To Hack and make mods on robots is a life style and comes natural and not by choice. If a robot has a screw to open it then it must be opened!

December 26, 2008 8:44 PM updated: December 26, 2008 8:47 PM

jsaugustyn said:
Thanks for the quick reply - I'll try holding his head while he talks (sounds like fun anyway...especially after 24 hours of high-pitched cackling). Assuming I will need to reset the encoder, do you have any tips or things I should watch out for? I found an earlier post where you addressed removing the fur around the head to access the encoder, so that seems easy enough. Is the center position of the encoder obvious enough, or could you post a picture pointing out where I need to reset it? Also, does the position Elmo is in when I start this repair going to matter? Finally, any tips for getting the fur back on...this seems like it could be a little tricky. Thanks!

Take a look at this post: http://www.robocommunity.com/forum/thread/14258/Elmo-Live-Dissected/?page=2#26106

It shows the picture of the encoder. The correct position is facing away from the wires. But, you will need to remove the motor first and move the head to the natural position, then position the encoder and put the motor back in.

To get the fur back together, you are going to need 2 long zip ties, because you are going to have to cut them to get the fur off. And like Jax said, you will need to sew him back up.

I won't lie, putting him back together will probably not be easy. I have not bothered to put the fur back on either of mine.

If you can return him and don't have the stomach for this :) then take that option. You will need to at least get to the bottom half of Elmo to get to the head motor and encoder.

The motor is under that circuit board, two screws to remove it. This is under the left shoulder.

And the encoder is on the other side just above the right shoulder. It is in the natural position in this photo.

These shots were taken with the back shell removed, but not the head. You have to dig a little to get to the parts you need to mess with. It should not be necessary to remove the fur on the head.

December 28, 2008 2:06 PM

Hi all :)

We have bought our 6 year old daughter one of these for christmas and guess what...its broken!!! It doesnt open its mouth when it speaks!!! We've lost the receipt and got no packaging. My Dh has tried emailing fisher price only to have an error come back. I showed him the threads on here and in fact i think it looks pretty cool with no fur on a bit like the Smash Martians but he isnt happy at opening it up so he is going to ring Fisher price up tommorow and see if he gets any joy that way.

December 28, 2008 10:00 PM

Hi All! Is it just me or is Elmo's shedding like a Dog in Summer?

F-ing cheap Made in China Fur. Won't be surprised if there's Melamine innit somewhere....

December 29, 2008 2:06 PM updated: December 29, 2008 6:39 PM

My daughters Elmo is making a constant clicking sound when it talks. I can hear something rattle by the battery compartment when I shake it. Also the click seems to be coming from its head. Any help would be greatly appreciated!!! Thanks!!!

December 29, 2008 5:57 PM

Janie said: My daughters Elmo is making a constant

 constant what?

Reminds me of an old joke...

"How do you keep a RoboCommunity viewer in suspense?"

"I don't know. How do you keep him in suspense?"

?

?

!

ScottE -- collecting and building robots for 40 years - details in profile

January 11, 2009 8:56 PM

Can anyone help me? After a few weeks my sons Elmo Live no longer crosses its leg. Whenever it tries to move it's leg, it rattles a lot. I thought that perhaps the joints were loose so I took the footpads off and peeled up the fur to get to them. I tightened them slightly but that didn't work. After more analysis, it appears that the string connected to the leg does not retract to pull up the cord and thus the leg.

Any insights on how to fix the problem? My kid loves it and I was hopping for a more durable toy. Don't have the box anymore so can't go back for replacement.

Thanks in advance

January 11, 2009 10:33 PM

Retro & Sevik, this is great :) If I follow the last 100 comments correctly, the motors are controlled by voltage levels and the encoders make one of 5 pins hot depending on the position of the motor.

I've had some fun in the past hooking up animatronics like this to a PC and creating a conversational character, e.g.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jDNXG09vFqo

I'd like to do the same with Elmo Live. Can you offer any suggestions? In the video above, I used a relay board and parallel port to drive the motors, but I've never tried to read from an encoder like this (I've only used hobby servos). Hobby servos would be another option, if you think I could reasonably replace the Elmo motors with those and still have everything fit inside.

January 11, 2009 11:18 PM

@Andrew Olney,

What Text To Speech did you use in the video? It sounds pretty good. Was it open ended, or limited domain synthesis like Festival can do?

-- roschler

Nanabot - And One Robot To Rule Them All The under $100 game playing, conversational robot

January 12, 2009 4:14 AM

@Andrew Olney

Yes, it's works this way, so for full control you need 2 h-bridges and ~10 input pins.

For H-bridges you can use original board - just unsolder 4 resistors between cpu and inputs and control them with logic levels.

I'm going to restart work with reversing original eeprom, but it will take some time :)) And this will be targeted for authonomous mode, not PC control.

Free RoboPanda!!! :)

Yes! If something has a dump, it must be hacked :))

January 12, 2009 4:21 AM updated: January 12, 2009 4:25 AM

@ElwoodBlues:

probably you got misaligned encoder too, you need to fix this in gearbox, not on leg itself.

Look at previous posts from RetroPlayer, it's not so rare problem seems. Previous post was about head encoder, but you need to fix legs encoder - it's in lower part of gearbox.

Free RoboPanda!!! :)

Yes! If something has a dump, it must be hacked :))

Discussion:    Add a Comment | Back to Top | Comments 91-105 of 227 | Latest Comment | « Previous 15 6 7 8 9 1016 Next »

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