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Hacking the Spy Video Trakr

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Picture of Hacking the Spy Video Trakr
The Trakr is a remote controlled robot equipped with a microphone and color video camera, speaker, a near infrared LED for night vision, an SD memory card slot for recording audio/video and 8MB of on board memory for storing downloadable and user designed programs. The remote control unit has control levers to drive the robot, a speaker and color video display so you can hear the audio picked up by the microphone and display the video transmitted by the camera, and several function buttons that can be used to control additional program functions of user designed programs. In this article we will demonstrate how to hack the Trakr. We will show you how to download and install the C language compiler for the Trakr. Next we’ll explain how to compile a simple program and install it on the Trakr and then run this simple program. Finally, we will demonstrate how to open up the Trakr, attach jumper pins to the GPIO connections on the mainboard of the Trakr and compile a simple program to flash an LED connected to the GPIO pins. You will be able to confidently call yourself an elite Trakr Hacker.
 
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Step 1: Download and Install the C Language Compiler for the Trakr

Picture of Download and Install the C Language Compiler for the Trakr
What's a compiler? Have you seen those geeky T-shirts that say "there are only 10 types of people in the world: those who understand binary, and those who don't?" If you find yourself scratching your head instead of laughing hysterically, then you don't understand binary. Computers, on the other hand, understand only binary. 1s and 0s. On and off.

I have heard of some people who can do binary code, or machine language in their heads, but the rest of us normal people would have a difficult time writing a computer program out of nothing but 1s and 0s. Instead we use a higher level language like C language to write software.

Have you ever been to a foreign country and didn't know the language? You can hire a translator to translate what you say into the language that the locals can understand. That's what a compiler does. Computers can't understand C language so, a compiler translates the software you write in C language into machine code, or the 1s and 0s that computers can understand.

You'll need to download and install the C language compiler so that you can write programs for the Trakr and compile your software into machine language that the Trakr can understand. The C Language compiler is included in a fairly complete software development kit (SDK) that the folks at Wild Planet call the "Primer." So, download the Primer and save it on your computer where it'll be easy to find by clicking the following link:

http://www.spygear.net/help/files/TRAKR_APP_PRIMER_V1.2.zip
KRA5H (author) 6 months ago
Here's some trakr resources that are still available:

http://web.archive.org/web/20111127175233/http://www.trakrhakr.com/wiki/index.php?title=Main_Page

http://dev.spygear.net/help/files/
McGrude KRA5H3 months ago

What are the chances that there's an archive somewhere of what was on the Wiki? I've recently been given a Trakr and want to start messing around with it and it seems almost everything regarding it has evaporated. Archive.org doesn't have any of the above wiki except the main page. I've found the dev tools ( dev.spygear.net/help/files/ ) but not much else, and the gnu arm linux tool chain there is an incomplete file ( but it looks like it may be the same binary package as available at the gnuarm.org site)

KRA5H (author)  McGrude3 months ago

Sadly, that's the only resource I have left too. I did download rorschachUKs bigtrakr app to my PC, but otherwise I don't think I have any of the other apps or source code. You might be able to contact wild planet: http://www.spygear.net/support.

JRMN KRA5H3 months ago

Kra5h, can I get a copy of the bigtrakr app? I was late to the party and missed out on all the fun stuff. Thanks

dnicol18 months ago
Hi. I need someone who can help me with software / hardware for capturing movement on a mini camera. Will pay top dollar with help.
Spy_Chickens8 months ago
Could you post the Trakr_App_Primer_V1.2.zip on media fire or another download system. the spygear.net website is down. The setup looks cool but i can't do anything until I have the app. Thanks!
I never understood that shirt either!
eried1 year ago
Pretty cool! there is some way to control the Trakr thru wifi? or anything besides the remote?
KRA5H (author)  eried1 year ago
Unfortunately no, there is no wifi module for the Wild Planet Spy Video Trakr. I posted svereal resources for the trakr in this instructable:

http://www.instructables.com/id/Hacking-the-Spy-Video-Trakr-II/?ALLSTEPS

Hoping someday someone will figure out how to control it using wifi.
KRA5H (author)  KRA5H1 year ago

here's the link for the Brookstone trakr:

https://apps.fcc.gov/oetcf/eas/reports/ViewExhibitReport.cfm?mode=Exhibits&RequestTimeout=500&calledFromFrame=N&application_id=666178&fcc_id='ZRB719302'

...you can find the external photos and internal photos.

You can drive the brookstone robot with wifi but it's not so hackable as the trakr.

coolzzz92 years ago
I am wondering if you can have the remote as a wireless out put but control from you pc because if you go to where the batteries are at there are 2 screws to the right (when you open the battery cover) and there is a mini usb and a switch from spi to usb
KRA5H (author)  coolzzz92 years ago
Unfortunately, the SPI port is only for firmware upgrades and fixes.

Some folks have been trying to write their own/building their own apps for the trakr bypassing the compiler for the trakr. You can take a look at one of the discussions on the trakr forum here:

http://www.spygear.net/forum/viewtopic.php?f=30&t=746

...and there's some additional information here:

http://www.trakrhakr.com/wiki/index.php?title=Main_Page

click the links titled "Hardware reference material" and "Bootstrapping"
Musicman412 years ago
Rather than using two of the external ports to run the led, could you use one to supply voltage, then attach the other side to the negative side of the battery? I am thinking of making a terminal that attaches directly to ground, doubling the port capacity.
KRA5H (author)  Musicman412 years ago
You certainly can. The app I wrote was originally designed to turn a motor in forward and reverse directions--if you read my comments in the source for the app you'll notice that I fogot to change them from "motor forward" and "motor reverse." lol. I only changed the comments at the beginning becuase the same app works for driving a single motor in forward or reverse direction or flashing two LEDs. In this instructable I demonstrated how to flash LEDs as a simple introduction to writing apps since LEDs are more readily available and cheaper. If you want to see want the app was written for originally, click the link at the end of this post.

Anyway, you can edit the code to set pins GPC0 thru GPC6 to high or low depending on what you want the program to do and what kind of external devices you want to drive such as LEDs, relays, motors and so on.

Click the link below to see waht my app was originally written for:

http://hackaday.com/2011/11/03/bomb-disposal-robot-with-lego-gripper/
KRA5H (author)  KRA5H2 years ago
if, for some reason you can't view the video, you can use this link:

http://vimeo.com/24143672
Gelfling62 years ago
This glue struck me as a variant or Goodyear Plio-Bond. (a rubber cement.) I accidentally tore my speaker wires from the connector, took awhile to find something else (a cordless phone handset) to replace the connector, and later the speaker back into the TRAKR. I also replaced the MIC element with another, from the same cordless phone, an the pick-up was massive! (and so was the feedback if I had it too close to the remote!)
KRA5H (author)  Gelfling62 years ago
This is a pretty cool suggestion! I'll check my old phones and see if I have a mic that will fit my Trakr. Your suggestion also serves as a reminder that before we recycle our old electronics it's a good idea to salvage the useful bits from them first.
Gelfling6 KRA5H2 years ago
Anytime.. Actually, any 2-wire electret element mic will do, as long as you keep the polarity (in and gnd) straight. the Mic from the phone was a lucky find. Still couldn't understand why the stock mic element was so weak. The new element had more than 4X volume, roughly same size. (5/16" dia.) fitted in perfectly.

I picked-up a set of 20x IR LED's similar to the single one (for $1.00 off Ebay).. Someone on the spygear forum, found provisions on the camera board, for 2 more LED's, and 2 chip resistors.. Haven't gotten adventurous enough to add them. (the battery draw is bad enough!) Mine's been sitting off to the side, as a arduino project has been taking more time, as well as life/work.
Gelfling62 years ago
The connectors for the speaker, and the push button, are not critical, since both are no-polar.. the MIC connector, however, IS! Make sure you put the socket back exactly the same direction, or you could (a) fry the MIC element, and (b, Obviously) the MIC will not pick up anything!.

One more side hack, invert the drive belts. If you take them off the wheels, You'll notice the inside has deep teeth that match the drive wheels. Ironic, so does the small ribs on the outside.. Need serious traction grip? remove the track belts, invert them so the deeper teeth are outside, and replace them on the wheels, with the smaller ribs inside.
Gelfling62 years ago
Although not noted, Inside the reset button panel, if you remove the cover, You might or might not see a flat piece between the screw hole, and the button. If you do, you SHOULD be able to lift the flat piece out, and it'll reveal two trim POTs. These are for balancing the H-Bridge output of the two drive motors. (standard DC permanent magnet motors.)
Musicman412 years ago
I got one of these two weeks ago and planned on writing an instructable, but you beat me to it. I look forward to using your information!!
KRA5H (author)  Musicman412 years ago
Outstanding! I'm looking forward to reading your instructable about how you hacked your Trakr.
I don't know if it will be soon. I am but a poor college student with little money for an arduino.
KRA5H (author)  Musicman412 years ago
Not sure why you would need an external microcontroller. The ARM processor on the trakr is decent for many prgramming solutions. If you want to drive motors, use an h-bridge. If you want to log data, GPC8 is an ADC pin. If you must use an external microcontroller, you might consider the TI Launchpad:

http://www.ti.com/tool/msp-exp430g2#buy

The cost is $4.30 USD.
I am thinking xbee or wifi to facilitate remote control via computer (internet if possible)
You might consider a cheap Bluetooth module like this: http://www.ebay.com/itm/250887077763?ssPageName=STRK:MEWNX:IT&_trksid=p3984.m1439.l2649
Not sure if the TRAKR supports Serial or not, but there are ways to handle that in software.  They're cheap and work great.
KRA5H (author)  Musicman412 years ago
Sounds like a cool idea!

I'll tell you what: my next Instructable will be about interfacing variuos external devices to the Trakr like the Lego Mindstorms NXT, the TI Launcpad, Snap Circuits 08m microcontroller, and so on.
I am looking forward to it!
jbaker222 years ago
Can I use the program you used on my arduino?
KRA5H (author)  jbaker222 years ago
Could you load it into your arduino's program memory and run it? No.

If you want to connect the Trakr's GPC0 and GPC1 pins to your arduino and program it to do something when your arduino detects GPC0 and GPC1 are set to high or low depending on which buttons are pressed on the Trakr remote, then very probably yes.
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