A Creepy Skull is Given the Gift of Speech With Amazon Alexa

As if the idea of a talking bot inside our phones and houses isn’t creepy enough, one inventive engineer has put Amazon’s Alexa into a prop skull.

The clever design comes from Mike McGurrin, a computer and robotics hobbyist, who just wanted to add some pizazz to his Halloween decorations.

“I like to decorate for Halloween, including various talking skeletons that I’ve set up over the years,” McGurrin writes on his blog. “For Christmas 2015, my wife gave me a great 3-axis talking skull with moving eyes so I could upgrade one of the skeletons from just a moving-jaw skull. Then a friend suggested that there had to be other applications for the rest of the year. This got me thinking, and when I saw the Alexa Billy Bass I knew what I had to do, and the Yorick project was born. I’m pretty happy with the result.”

Yorick, of course comes from the line in the opening scene of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, wherein the title character holds up a skull of Yorick, who, alas, was known well, and was “a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy.”

Now he’s a talking skull who reads out the weather in Indiana:

The Billy Bass design is similar:

McGurrin was kind enough to provide a list of instructions so you too can design a talking pumpkin, witch, or Santa Clause for this year’s festivities.

The design takes about ten hours and requires a few key components: a 3-axis moving device, AlexaPi software, a Raspberry Pi, and servo controller boards for the audio and mechanical components of the device.

McGurrin then connected the audio controller to the jaw movements, and the Maestro servo controller to the tilt, nod, and turn of the head and eye control. He then integrated the Raspberry Pi to the AlexaPi software — which, you can find on the open source client — and connected the Raspberry to the controllers. Add a couple speakers and a microphone to increase volume output and voilà, you have successfully brought Alexa to life.

Others have Frankensteined Alexa into toys, home appliances, and even a man’s wheelchair. This means you can make just about anything in your house tell you the weather.

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