Talking LEGO robot skull reciting movie lines
Roaming the net for interesting stuff, we came across the fabulous website ThinkingBricks.com, which feature a talking LEGO Endoskeleton Terminator, reciding lines from the different Arnold Schwarzenegger movies. Interested in more info, we contacted the owner of the site, who in the end was very happy to hear from us... since he was just about to scratch the project.
After some contacts, the project got kickstarted into some new cool videos, and one even featuring the TerminatorFiles.com promotions. To get our FanProjects filled and to keep a central new place collecting all info on this project, we agreed that his project would also be featured here. Soo... without further adue, lets talk LEGO Terminator!
My first LEGO creation in over 20 years! In August 2008, I ordered a few LEGO Mindstorms NXT sets for a project that I wanted to build for decades. However, after the LEGO sets arrived, I quickly realized that my intended creation was too ambitious - I hadn't created anything LEGO in over 20 years and I was unfamiliar with LEGO pieces created after 1985!
I gave up the original project and built this silly programmable talking LEGO robot instead. This FanProject has been hastily documented with some images and videos so that I can tear it down and build something new... (Thanks to the intervention of TerminatorFiles.com, it will LIVE, for now...)
Basic workflow that created this LEGO abomination:
- LEGO Mindstorms NXT programmable bricks were used to control the motors, the lighting of the eye, and to play back each recorded syllable of the individual movie lines.
- A first generation MacBook. Apple Macintosh Text to Speech technology was used to translate text of the movie lines to audible machine speech.
- AppleScript and Script Editor. Used to help select the default Macintosh Text to Speech voices and to read the movie lines.
- WireTap Studio. Fantastic application used to record Macintosh System sounds as the movie lines were being translated from Text to Speech.
- Apple Soundtrack Pro. The actual movie lines recited by the talking LEGO robot Skull had to be isolated to individual syllables.
- wav2rso. A Perl script that converts *.wav files to *.rso files playable on the Mindstorms NXT brick.
- A first generation Tablet PC. Used to download the programs and the individual syllables of the movie lines (*.rso files) onto the Mindstorms NXT brick using the LEGO NXT-G programming environment.
- A cheap consumer point and shoot digital camera captured all video and pictures.
- Final Cut Pro 5. Used to quickly edit this whole mess. Currently, all the videos (and images) are initial test shots. Sorry, I rushed to document this project so that I could move on...
After abandoning LEGO building more than 20 years ago, I've spent the last month preparing:
- Locating and purchasing LEGO sets containing most of the pieces I desired.
- Taking apart and washing the thick layers of dust off my ancient LEGO models. I had kept many of LEGO's "Expert Builder" sets assembled - fun to build, hard to clean. It felt like an archaeological dig.
- Finally assembling some of the few assorted LEGO sets that I'd purchased between 1999 and 2003 but never assembled.
- Painstakingly sorting and organizing the bounty of new and old LEGO pieces.
LEGO building, ARTOO...
I started building the talking LEGO skull by stacking many plate pieces.
While I was awaiting delivery of the LEGO Mindstorms NXT sets, I came across LEGO set 4998, Stegosaurus, with a "power Functions Light brick". The Light brick immediately reminded me of a Terminator T-800. Initially, I was trying to cram 2 servo motors along with the "power Functions Light brick" into a heavily plated and tiled LEGO head. Even though the head was at a nascent stage, it was getting heavy. I was also getting frustrated at destroying my fingernails and having to use my teeth to gnaw apart the skull's plates with each little design change.
Even though I hadn't created anything with LEGO for over 20 years, between 1999 and 2003, I purchased a few random LEGO sets, but never built them. I purchased LEGO set 9748, Droid Development Kit on clearance nearly 10 years ago, and I just recently assembled R2-D2 on June 11, 2008; it influenced the construction of this talking LEGO robot skull.
I forced myself to finalize the build on the current modular design utilizing many cross axles, bushings, and corrugated tubing a few days ago after dozens of revisions.
I began by Googling for images of Terminator T-800 models - there are so many and they are all subtly different. I guess its no different than the variation in real human skulls.
Eventually, I found myself looking through my old Human Anatomy textbooks (notably, the second edition of "Color Atlas Of Anatomy").
Using Human Anatomy textbooks for reference accounts for the skull-like shape of the head. Observe the bulbous "incandescent light-bulb" form when viewed from the back and the sides, as well as the skull's characteristic tear drop shape when viewed from above.
Wood-handled ice pick
What's that stuck in its left eye? It's supposed to be a LEGO wood-handled ice pick.
I tried to build a LEGO X-Acto knife but couldn't get it right. Another LEGO pastime was building LEGO weapons (good to see that I wasn't alone: LEGO weapons)
Being a cheap-ass, I purchased only one LEGO set 4998, with a "power Functions Light brick", so early versions of the LEGO skull only had one eye. To reconcile the single eye, I built a sharp LEGO implement to impale the left eye.
Somehow I obtained enough of these used barrel pieces to build the wood-handled ice pick.
Even though we were too young to sneak in to see The Terminator in a theater, it was just too easy to rent R-rated movies on VHS.
Those are real, vintage Gargoyles sunglasses - just like the ones Arnold wore in the Terminator, purchased in 1987. The sunglasses helped keep me honest with respect to the proper scaling of the skull.
The Terminator postcard was purchased in 1986 at either a Creation Convention or at a Great Eastern Convention in New York City.
By chance, I walked into a Bed Bath and Beyond and found this cheap turntable that was simple to motorize and make programmable for display purposes.
Text to Speech
After seeing voice command demoed at MacWorld New York ("My voice is my password"), I'd occasionally explore AppleScripting Macintosh Speech technologies. As illustrated in the image, AppleScripting Macintosh Text to Speech was perfectly helpful for this project. (Even better, I was reminded of the useful [[rate n]] parameter).
I'm sorry that the sound isn't better.
The playback sound specs for the programmable LEGO Mindstorms NXT brick is only 8 kHz, 8 bit mono. The digital camera I used only records ambient sounds in mono and the NXT brick purposely has a low powered speaker. There is also only about 121 KB of total storage space for sound files and programs. Though, I am glad that LEGO even provided this basic sound playback functionality.
Tablet PC and NXT-G
I had no intention to use the LEGO NXT-G programming environment, I was considering other programming options.
LEGO Digital Designer didn't work on my first generation MacBook, so I was reluctant to install NXT-G onto it. Instead, I decided to try the visual NXT-G interface on my first generation Tablet PC. Honestly, NXT-G seems decent enough. Though I just had a cursory introduction to the NXT-G environment, even for the simple programming needs of this project, I'd have much rather tweaked the parameters in a text file (or at least had a Tablet PC with a much larger screen).
Check out some images from this FanProject.
Left click to open gallery interface and/or right click to save.
Click the specific thumbnail for a compressed file, download it, unzip and watch!