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The Foxee Animatronic Robot Project Blog

Archives for: May 2006

Pump Up the Volume! (Foxee will Really Rock!)

Posted by: The Mad Scientist

Foxee is going to be one little robot fox that will really rock! "What the heck are you talking about?" you ask? What I happen to be talking about is Foxee's internal sound system, which if all goes according to plan will be a heck of a lot better than the sound system that I currently have in my car and maybe even better than the sound system that I have in my bedroom! Recently on eBay I purchased a deluxe car stereo CD player and receiver and two 120-watt stereo speakers that I plan on stuffing into Foxee's electronic innards! So what does Foxee need such a sophisticated and killer sound system for? Well, in my earlier posts to this blog I mentioned that I want Foxee to be able to talk, sing, and perform pre-programmed and recorded shows on demand. Since robots don't have vocal cords to speak with, I figured giving Foxee some high powered car stereo speakers would be the next best thing!

The reason why I picked up the car stereo is three-fold. First of all, I plan to program Foxee's performances onto CD-R's, so I needed a CD player placed inside Foxee to be able to read those CD-R's and send their sound and servo data to the sound system and the Buffington Effects CD2Serial board, respectively. Originally, I was going to use a Sony portable CD player to accomplish this task, which was what was recommended to be used with the CD2Serial board by Buffington Effects, and what Kitt Foxx used to control his "Georgia Belle" animatronic fursuit. Despite the large number of good reasons to stick with what works and go with using a Sony brand portable CD player in my robot, the fact of the matter is that I just can't be satisfied with doing what everyone else recommends, that I do-- I have to do everything one step better!

I did have some good reasons to go with a car dash board CD player over a portable hand-held unit. One of the problems that my robot will have that currently Kitt Foxx's Georgia Belle doesn't have is the fact that for the first few performances at least, Foxee will have to interact with a human performer on stage-- namely yours truly, the Mad Scientist himself. To my knowledge, Kitt Foxx has always gotten around this by having everyone who had to interact with Georgia Belle also be in fursuit costumes so that all of their lines could be pre-recorded and played back to be in synch with Georgia Belle's servo units. As cool as fursuit costumes are, I don't have one and I as of currently do not have the desire to get one. Besides, with how much custom fursuits cost I couldn't afford one if I wanted to right now anyway! Instead I will be dressed up in my normal everyday clothes when I perform on stage with Foxee, which means that I will be dressed in my Mad Scientists' Union lab coat, protective goggles, and linesman gloves because a mad scientist never leaves home without them!

Since my face won't be covered by a fursuit head when I perform with Foxee, I won't be able to easily have my lines pre-recorded and lip-synch myself to them. Instead I will have to talk to Foxee live on stage, and then get her to say her pre-recorded lines on cue. That would be a feat that would almost be impossible to accomplish well if Foxee had a portable CD player stuffed inside of her somewhere because the portable CD player will want to continue playing the recording straight on through until the end no matter what happens. Foxee's programming could be started and stopped if she was hooked up to a laptop computer, but since I have currently been having a hard time finding a powerful enough laptop that falls within my budget, I can't depend of having a laptop be my only option. Instead, I discovered some time ago that many higher-end car dashboard stereo systems came with an infrared remote control for whatever reason, and that the car stereo's remote control could be used to play and pause the CD that the stereo was playing! Eureka! I can use that remote to pause Foxee if I need to so that I can say my lines, and then use the remote again to restart Foxee so that she can then say her own lines! I can also use that remote control to start or stop her current program or select a new program. It would be a lot more convenient than having to open up Foxee's access panels every time that I had to change Foxee's program, that's for sure! And while I know that there are small tabletop CD players out there that come with remote controls, car dashboard CD players are designed to run off a 12-volt lead acid battery like the one that is going to be powering Foxee, so I save myself from having to build or purchase a power inverter by going with the car dashboard unit!

The car stereo CD player and receiver that I chose to purchase to install into her is a Jensen MP5720XMC. I have no particular affiliation with the brand name (in fact I have never even heard of Jensen before), but it was selling for a price that I could afford on eBay, and that was the main reason why I chose this particular unit. The CD player was being sold by a subsidiary company of Circuit City department stores called "Circuit Trader" that sells used, surplus, and damaged equipment. I had to buy a used CD player to save on costs because I would really tax my meager funds to buy a brand new unit, but the auction listing said that the unit was "tested and functions 100%," so all I can do is pray that since they are a large company and have a decent positive eBay rating that they were telling the truth! I really wish that I could have bought a lower-end and lower priced car CD player that was brand new because Foxee doesn't need half of the fancy features that this Jensen player comes with, but I absolutely needed a car CD player model that came with a remote control for it to work with my robot, and it seems that only the higher-end car CD player models come with one.

Photo of a Jensen MP5720XMC 50 Watt Mobile XM Satellite Radio Compatible CD-Player

The Jensen MP5720XMC 50-Watt Mobile XM Satellite Radio Compatible CD-Player

The Jensen MP5720XMC has the following features:

  • Internal Amplifier that can pump out 50-Watts continuous power and 200-Watts peak power - Ooorah! The internal amplifier will provide plenty of oomph for Foxee's voice and singing! A lot more oomph than a portable CD player and a pair of computer speakers could provide anyway!
  • Ability to play CD-R's and CD-RW's - This feature is absolutely necessary because Foxee's programs are going to be stored onto CD-R's.
  • Ability to play MP3 Data CD's - As wonderful as this feature is, it isn't really useful for me in this application unless I was going to use Foxee as an overly expensive blue fur-covered personal stereo! Since Foxee is going to have binary data saved in an analog format on one of her stereo audio channel tracks, compressing those tracks into an MP3 file would probably corrupt the Frequency Shift Keyed binary data needed to control her servos. MP3 files are nice, but Foxee is a high-fidelity only fox!
  • Pre-Amp Outputs - Depending on how much the internal amplifier distorts the audio signal coming from the CD, the pre-amp outputs may prove to be useful for the stereo channel that contains the Frequency Shift Keyed servo data.
  • XM™ Satellite Radio compatible - Buy a super expensive satellite radio receiver to hook into an animatronic robot fox? I'm sorry, but no matter how much Foxee likes listening to Howard Stern, that's not happening!
  • Bass, Treble, Balance, and Fader controls - These controls are great if you are an audiophile, but potentially harmful if you are a robot fox that depends upon FSK encoded data to control her servo motor muscles! Pumping up her base settings to turn her into a thumping ghetto blaster would also probably not do her foxy little body any good!
  • AM/FM Radio Tuner - Foxee has no reason to ever be able to tune into FM or AM broadcast band radio signals, however because I am an experimenting amateur radio operator, I wouldn't be too surprised if I ended up soldering the antenna feed line to Foxee's copper wire frame just to see how good of an antenna Foxee's frame would make! If Foxee's frame actually makes a decent antenna (I highly doubt it!) then I will be able to use her to listen to the Chicago Cubs baseball games on radio station WGN! It would be utterly useless to have Foxee be able to do that, but sometimes the coolest things in life are utterly useless, right?
  • Detatchable faceplate for added security - If someone rips open my fox's cute and fuzzy little body and reaches into her wire and circuit board-entangled innards just to jack her stereo's already used and beat-up faceplate, that thief has some serious mental problems! I guarantee that many of the cars in the parking lots at the conventions that I will be at will have far better car stereos in them than Foxee will ever have!
  • Infrared Remote Control - "Command your wily robot vixen with ease with the infrared remote control..." Don't you wish that your girlfriend came installed with one of these? Remote controls make everything life so much better!
  • "Cool" multi-color bright vacuum fluorescent display - Which no one will ever see because it will be buried inside Foxee's stomach region somewhere. You can't win them all, especially when you are using a flashy car stereo as an internal organ for a robot fox!

The speakers that I purchased for Foxee are a brand-new pair of 120-Watt Diamond 380GX 3.5-inch full-range speakers. I know that 3.5-inch speakers are not very big as far as car stereo speakers go, however I don't have a lot of space inside Foxee's frame so having speakers as large as 3.5-inches is about as big as I can go anyway. In addition, I will probably only be installing one speaker and not both of them because Foxee is only going to have one audio channel when she is running her programs off of an audio CD because the other channel is being used for FSK-encoded servo control data. Foxee may be capable of having stereo sound for her audio tracks when her program is being run off of a laptop computer instead off of an audio CD, but since I plan to use her internal CD player more often I don't expect to have enough use for stereo sound to try to fit in the extra speaker. I realize that mono sound may not be the most impressive thing in this day and age, but once again Foxee is a robot fox and not a hi-fi system. In any case, the performance that these 100-Watt speakers will provide will blow away the performance of the computer speakers that I had originally intended to place inside her!

Photo of Pyramid 380GX Full-Range Speakers

Pyramid 380GX 3.5-inch 120 Watt Full-Range 3-Way Speakers

Here are the features of the Diamond 380GX full-range speakers:

  • 3.5-inch Bronze Poly Coated Woofer Cone
  • 20 oz. Magnet Structure
  • 0.75-inch High Temperature Ferro Fluid Enhanced Voice Coil
  • Finished In Gold Trims & Gold Dust Cap
  • 1.75-inch Pole Mounted Aluminum Film Tweeter
  • 120 Watts Rated Power
  • 4 Ohm Impedance
  • Mounting Depth of 1.5-inches

I really hope that when these parts all come in that they all work as advertised. The speakers I am not worried about because they are still brand new and factory sealed, and besides, you really have to work at it to ruin a speaker. Instead I am more concerned about the used Jensen car CD player. Anyone who knows me knows that I am not a fan of optical storage technology because of how easy optical disks are to scratch and damage and how finicky optical disk readers can become after only after a year or two (or even less!) of normal use. If only they could have put all optical discs into protective cartridges like Sony did with their Mini-disc-- the world would be a much happier place if they did! So I really hope that this used car CD player functions 100% like the Trading Circuit dealer said that it does, or my attempt to save a little money will blow up in my face. It would be nice to not have to search through eBay, surplus stores, hamfests, and flea markets for second-hand parts and just purchase everything brand new, but unfortunately I am the stereotypical impoverished experimenter, so that is how the cookie crumbles until I find a better source of funding or a venture capitalist who has a soft spot for arctic blue foxes! (*Hint!* *Hint!* Steve Jobs, if you're reading this, that means you! Foxee is going to have a stereo CD player inside her-- that means that you can market her as Apple's new "iFox" music player! Just think about all of the marketing possibilities!) In any case, we will see how everything goes, and hopefully I will have only positive things to report back to you after I receive and test this equipment to see if it works! As always, comments are always welcome on any of my blog entries!

Visitors have been rocked by Foxee the Animatronic Blue Fox!!!

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