Rudolph uses a Propeller Platform USB to log into the email server, trigger animations, and generate the speech. An E-Net module handles the Internet connection. First, I'll answer a few questions, then I'll show you how I built it, and I'll give you a few ideas on how to customize it for your own projects.
Step 1: FAQ
Rudolph regularly connects to your email server via POP, logs in, and checks the number of emails in your inbox. If you've got a new email, it triggers an animation on the stuffed animal, retrieves the name of the sender and plays it back.
A Propeller Platform USB runs everything, using an E-Net module to handle the Internet connection. The 'Text-to-Speech' engine also runs on the Propeller; It's really a text-to-phoneme engine, but works well enough to read the name of the sender.
What about reading something other than email?
Rudolph can tell you the weather, read a sports score, or blink when you get a tweet! I'll show you how to use any data that's available on a webpage in your own project.
How do I make it work with a different stuffed animal?
It should work with any stuffed animal that has a switch to start/stop animation, and a speaker to play audio. You could also take emails and display them on a TV - Rudolph isn't a requirement.
Everything is open source. I'll go through the program, but if you're impatient, here's the code.