What is TJ*?
- He's a remote-control toy for creative kids,
- He's a tinkering platform for electronics hackers,
- He's an education tool for tech-savvy parents and educators.
Physically, TJ* is about 3/5 the size of my head, and he’s made of fiberboard (but he’s also available in colored plastic). His eyes move up/down and left/right, and his mouth moves open/closed. His moving parts are driven by 3 micro servos (tiny motors with position control circuits built in).
By the time the Kickstarter campaign ends, TJ* will be ready to take home and play with, and ready to be on camera performing! He awaits a new home with you, or a script to perform for you!
Here's what TJ* looks like in my CAD model...
... and this is what TJ* looks like off the laser cutter. I gave him some masking-tape-and-marker eyes.
So... is he a fully functioning robot?
At his core, TJ* is a mechanical platfom with servos ready for electronic integration. Don’t tell him, but he doesn’t have a brain - he needs a servo controller to run! Fortunately for him, I’ve developed a controller using Arduino, the open-source microcontroller platform.
A Complete TJ* Kit will ship with a brand-new Arduino Uno pre-loaded with code to run TJ* with the included puppeteer’s controller for his eyes and mouth. TJ* will run with live control and record-playback functionality too! You’ll be able to play with TJ* as soon as you power up his controller (see the FAQ below for how to plug him in).
If you’re interested in servo robotics, or if you already have an Arduino or other servo controller of your own, I’m happy to ship you a Maker’s TJ* Kit with the necessary connectors so you can start controlling him yourself. Sample code to get him running will be available by the time you get your TJ* in hand!
What can TJ* do?
TJ* is a very talented performer - or at least he will be, in your hands! You can dress him up as much as you'd like, and record TJ* mouthing out monologues from your favorite movies, have him sit on top of your cookie jar and keep an eye out... or he can keep you company at work.
If you don't want at TJ* of your own, you can watch him on TV... and by TV I mean YouTube, where he's hoping to have a channel someday soon.
Sounds like my kids would like TJ*!
I bet you're right! If you like toys and technology, TJ* is for you. Not only can you and your child decorate TJ* together, but you can show your child how cool technology can be. Use TJ* as a tech puppet and your child is all set to create a story with TJ*. As your child grows older, you can introduce your child to the world of software tech by developing TJ*s programming together and have fun getting TJ* to do new and different things.
Cool. How about some sweet upgrades?
- You can get TJ* in colored plastic by adding the additional cost to any pledge. It's available in opaque and transparent colors. This is what Acrylic stock from TAP plastics (a local supplier) looks like!
- If you'd rather not see TJ*s skeleton, I'll ship you a Paper 'Skin' for TJ* that's nicer than the one he wears in the video. Over the next few weeks, I'll refine TJ*s skin pattern and post photos of the different options.
- A lot of people have told me that he’d look really cool with LED eyes. I’m building an optional LED eye upgrade for TJ* and I'll post photos of this over the next few weeks too.
For all options, you'll be able to select your color choices through a KickStarter survey once TJ* is funded! I'm sure your TJ* will appreciate all of your efforts to make him look cool. It'll do wonders for his self-esteem.
That’s preposterous... Robots don’t have feelings!
Well. That’s another topic for another time. TJ* is ready to rock your world in his current form, but the next version, Emotive TJ*, will have two more servos. He’ll be able to smile/frown and raise/lower his brow. When you see that, I challenge you not to perceive feelings coming from his sensitive robot heart... err... microprocessor.
What else is next for TJ*?
- I'll be using the funds from Kickstarter to make the first batch of TJ*s at TechShop and shoot some by-request videos starring TJ*!
- I'll be developing Emotive TJ* and sharing the progress this summer with Kickstarter backers. This version of TJ* needs an updated paper skin to make him look and feel even friendlier, and I'll be working on a few versions of that too!
- TJ* is a talented performer who wants his own YouTube channel. If I get enough TJ*s into the world, we can create a community of robot performers and inspire each other and our kids with the combination of storytelling and technology!
- (29 days)