Introduction: Animatronic Talking Takeout Container

About: My name is Randy and I am a Community Manager in these here parts. In a previous life I had founded and run the Instructables Design Studio (RIP) @ Autodesk's Pier 9 Technology Center. I'm also the author of t…

The animatronic talking takeout container is a fun little toy that is good for hours of amusement. This idea came about after having taken a special effects film class when I was in college. While in the class, I made a short film of myself talking to a takout container with a face drawn on it. However, not having the know-how to do anything with electronics, the initial version was being controlled by a friend pulling upon and releasing a thin fishing line. While I do not doubt that my friend was skilled at controlling the lid in this manner, I couldn't help but thinking that it would be great if I could automate the whole thing -- at the very least -- less embarassing. Even though more than a decade has passed and I no longer have much desire to be an experimental filmmaker, this idea has lingered with me. I always tell people that if given enough time, I will finish any project I start. Thus, I have finally made this long-time dream of having conversations with an autonomous takeout container a reality.

Step 1: Go Get Stuff

You will need:

(x1) Arduino Mega (Radioshack #276-127)
(x1) Seeed Studio Music Shield v1.0
(x1) 2GB (or less) micro SD card
(x1) PC Board (Radioshack #276-150)
(x1) LM741 op amp (Radioshack #276-007)
(x1) LM386 amplifier (Radioshack #276-1731)
(x1) 470K resistor (Radioshack #271-1133)
(x2) 100K resistor (Radioshack #271-1131)
(x2) 10K resistor (Radioshack #271-1126)
(x1) 1K resistor (Radioshack #271-1118)
(x1) 220uF capacitor (Radioshack #272-1029)
(x1) 10uF capacitor (Radioshack #272-1025)
(x3) 0.1uF capacitor (Radioshack #272-135)
(x1) 10K trimmer (Radioshack #271-282)
(x1) Speaker (Radioshack #273-092)
(x1) Standard servo (Radioshack #273-766)
(x1) M-type plug (Radioshack #274-1569)
(x1) 8 x AA battery holder (Radioshack #270-387)
(x8) AA batteries (Radioshack #23-1582)
(x1) 6" x 6" x 1/8" clear acrylic square
(x1) Fake food (of your choosing)
(x1) Takeout container
(x2) Googily eyes
(x1) Assorted zip ties

Step 2: Glue

Glue your googily eyes onto the front of the takeout container.

Step 3: Drill and Attach

Use the attached template as a guide for cutting a clear plastic lever out of the 1/8" acrylic sheet.

Drill two pairs of 1/8" holes along the outside of the servo horn, such that they line up with the holes in the clear plastic lever.

Zip tie the two together and trim away the excess zip tie tail in order to ensure that extra bit won't interfere withn rotation.

Step 4: Trim

Trim a thin slot in the back portion of your fake food to acomodate the clear lever.

Step 5: Program the Arduino

Load a micro SD card with audio as specified on this page and insert it into the music shield.

Place your music shield onto the Arduino Mega.

Upload the following code the Arduino:

Step 6: Build the Circuit

Start to build the circuit as specified in the schematic, with the exception of the audio connections and the servo motor.

Step 7: Plug

Cut the audio cable and expose the signal wire and ground connection.

Solder those to the circuit board as indicated in the schematic.

Basically, the signal connection should connect to the 0.1uF capacitor at the audio in connection, and the ground wire should go to the circuit board's ground plane.

Step 8: Plug Things In

Plug the circuit board's audio connection into the audio-in jack on the music shield.

Connect the servo motor to the Arduino with solid core wire as specified in the schematic.


The servo's red wire should connect to 5V on the PCB.

The servo's brown wire should connect to ground on the PCB.

The servo's orange wire should connect to pin 30 on the Arduino Mega.

Now would also be a good time to connect the Arduino Mega's ground and the 5V connections to the appropriate spots on the PCB (if you have not done so already).

Step 9: Plug

Twist the M-type plug apart and slide the protective casing onto the wires from the battery holder.

Solder the red wire to the plug's center terminal.

Solder the black wire to the plug's outer ground terminal.

Make sure that the two connections are not touching and then twist the casing back onto the plug.

Step 10: Batteries

Insert batteries into the battery holder.

Step 11: Speaker

Solder the red wire from the speaker to the audio-out connection on the circuit board, and the black wire to ground.

Insulate the solder joints with either shrink tube or electical tape.

Step 12: Put It Together

Place the circuitry at the bottom of the takeout container.

Position the servo motor in the back such that the lever is situated between the slot in the fake food and it is elevated enough to push the lid up and down.

Place the fake food on top and close the lid of the container.

It should now be doing its animatronic thing.