SERVO magazine "<hack-a-sapien" contest entry

By Jamie Samans

Here is a PC control scheme I made using MainLobby software from Cinemar.

 

 

Upgraded speaker system with RF receiver and stereo amplifier.

 

 

Wireless camera.

 

 

Background

In his landmark 1984 novel Neuromancer, William Gibson wrote of a space station -- he called it a "cluster" -- known as Zion. Established by seperatist Rastafarians, Gibson described it as smelling of "cooked vegetables, humanity, and ganja." One of the characteristics of Zion that always interested me was its omnipresent music. Gibson writes that his protagonist, named Case, upon boarding the Zion spacestation "gradually became aware of the music that pulsed constantly through the cluster. It was called dub, a senuous mosaic cooked from vast libraries of digitized pop; it was worship...and a sense of community" (page 104).

When I first read Neuromancer in the late 1980's when I was in college, I was at the same time discovering Jamaica dub -- spacey, effects laden instrumental versions of reggae songs. To me, it was the perfect soundtrack for Gibson's futuristic vision in Neuromancer. I was hooked, and today my collection of Jamaican pressed dub records numbers in the thousands. What still intrigued me was how to make this music omnipresent...

The Hack

My Robosapien hack has several different components; an audio component, a video component, and a control component.

I have outfitted the robot with a wireless camera, a radio frequency receiver that recieves audio from my PC (or any source), an upgraded stereo speaker system, and an on-board stereo amplifier. Using commercially available software and a USB infrared tranceiver, I have also designed and implemented a customizeable, fully skinnable PC control interface. The result is an audio visual "rover" that can be controlled via PC, and over the internet using remote desktop. I can connect to the robot from anywhere, and by using the PC control scheme walk him around the house and check up on the surroundings. Of course I mainly use him and his hi fi stereo backpack to fill my own space station with "the long pulse of Zion dub" (page 263).

For pictures of the hacks in progress and specifics, please see the following pages:

PC Control how-to guide

RF receiver and speaker system development blog

Installing a miniature camera how-to guide