Picture of Sparky Jr. - DIY Telepresence Robot
"You might call Sparky a state-of-the-art schmooze machine" - Wired Magazine

SPARKY: The name Sparky is based on an acronym for Self Portrait Artifact / Roving Chassis - an art project started in the early 90's using trash, found objects and discarded technology. Sparky Jr. can also be made with a wide range of found or scrounged hardware and components, but this one was created with a mix of new and existing materials

All together, this assemblage of hardware becomes a unique machine - Sparky Jr. - a wireless rover capable of face-to-face video chat over the Internet.

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Step 1: Here is a list of the basic hardware used to Build Sparky Jr.

Picture of Here is a list of the basic hardware used to Build Sparky Jr.
For the Robot Chassis
Mac Mini computer
Lilliput 7 VGA car-puter monitor
iRobot Create robot chassis
Keyspan serial to USB adapter
Logitech USB desktop microphone
Creative Labs Ultra webcam VF0060
USB powered speakers
12 v. 7Ah hobby battery
12 v battery charger
100 watt inverter
Cigarette lighter female socket
Small hardware corner braces
Assorted small 10/32 nuts and bolts
Assorted Erector set parts
Thin plastic sheet
10/32 hardware

For the control computer:
Any web-enabled computer with Webcam
Chat headset
Logitech USB Game pad

Tools needed:
Hot glue and gun
Drill/driver and bits
Zip ties
Matt knife

2nd monitor (for setup)
Table saw/drill press
1/8 and 1/4  Acrylic plastic
small acrylic cubes
Acrylic solvent and applicator

Step 2: Part 1a: Computer Hardware Set-up

Picture of Part 1a:  Computer Hardware Set-up
First set up Sparky's Mac and monitor as you normally would, as well as the webcam, speakers and mic. Also plug the iRobot Create into the Mac using the Keyspan serial/USB adapter. We will test this connection later while setting up the software.

Step 3: Part 1b: Control Computer Set-up

Picture of Part 1b: Control Computer Set-up
Control Computer Set-up: This should be straightforward. You can use any Macintosh with a Webcam that connects to the Internet and can handle video chat. It can be a desktop, laptop or netbook. I personally chose a Dell Mini 9 netbook with a hacked Mac OS installed. This computer will need a USB game pad and USB chat headset attached. Install Skype.

Step 4: Part 1c: Test Skype

Picture of Part 1c:  Test Skype
Install Skype on both Macs and test that videochat is working. You may need to go into the preferences pane and make adjustments.
macwhiz2 years ago
Is there a PC version yet?
zombeastly3 years ago
the mac mini is CHEAP????
Jronald3 years ago
The http://www.sparkyjr.com no longer working!!
How much does all this cost?
sparkyrust (author)  BatchBoyProductions5 years ago
It's not exactly cheap if you go and buy everything off-the-shelf, but many of these parts are likely in the back of your closet or junk drawer.  However, at any price, it has better functionality that robots costing $10,000 and up!

Check out www.sparkyjr.com for more details.
=SMART=5 years ago
Wow this is really awesome, super detailed too !