Introduction: How to Make Your Phone Into a Robot

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It's amazing what pops into your head when you're at a loose end...

I was thinking about making a vibrobot, wondered where to get a vibrating motor, and my mind wandered to the motor in my mobile phone...

No, I couldn't, I need the phone.

But I wanted to build a vibrobot, or a bugbot.  Maybe a bristlebot.

But I needed the phone...

And, from the need to compromise, was born... PhoneBot!

Step 1: What You Need.

Obviously, you need a phone set to vibrate, but to make it dance around, it needs to be on springy legs.

That means you need some stiff wire to make a frame and legs.  Paperclips are ideal - I used large ones for the frame, and small ones to tie it together.

You'll also need two pairs of pliers, a vice (or some other clamping device), soldering kit and a small sponge.

Oh, and a lot of patience.

Step 2: Start With the Frame

I'm not going to give you templates or dimensions here, because there are so many different kinds of phone out there.

My phone is a clamshell-type from Motorola.  I needed to hold the phone, but also be able to open the phone, so I made the frame with a rectangular loop around the none-hinge end, and a single "bar" that hooked over the lip of the hinge end.

If your phone has no cover, then I recommend making a simple flat rectangle that fits around the outside edge of the phone, with a couple of horizontal bars shaped like a v-e-r-y wide letter U to make a cradle for your phone to sit into, or you may like to make a flatter rectangle and fasten your phone to it with elastic bands.

Start by straightening your large paperclips, then bending them to your requirements.

Lay your pieces out and fit them to the phone - all through this project, it is very important that you keep coming back to the phone with the frame to make sure it fits.

Step 3: Top Tip!

When you cut paperclips with pliers, you'll find you don't have enough hands - one hand holds the pliers, one hand holds an end of the clip, and when you cut the other end pings off into the middle-distance.

This is where you need the sponge - stab the straightened paperclip into the sponge, hold the top, and everything stays exactly where you want it.


Step 4: Tying.

My original plan was to tie the entire construction together with pieces of the small paperclips.

(This mostly worked, but more on this later.)

I started by twisting the wires "by hand", using two pairs of pliers.  This worked, sort of, but it was an absolute pig holding everything in place.  Helping hands weren't strong enough, so the business started to look very ugly, and gained no rigidity.

I then had one of those good-grief-why-did-I-not-think-of-this-ages-ago? moments, and switched to clamping the frame in my small bench vice.  If you haven't got a vice, I suggest you buy one, they are very useful, but, failing that, you could use some sort of mole wrench.

Clamp close to the point you want to wrap, and you have two hands free to control two pairs of pliers at once - far neater.

So, wrap and tie away until you've got a frame that fits your phone.

Step 5: Legs

No vibrobot is complete without legs.  To maintain the buggy image, I wanted my legs to fix out of sight, in the middle of the frame.

I folded two large clips into V-shapes, and wired them to the point where the rectangular frame for the end tied to the rest of the frame.

Unfortunately, as you can see from the photo, things started to get droopy right about now.

I really wanted to stay with the all-metal construction, so I decided to solder the knots to add stiffness - it used a lot of solder, but it worked perfectly!

I twisted the tips of the legs into small loops, both for aesthetic reasons, and to stop the legs scratching surfaces or poking flesh.

Step 6: Antennae

It's a bug.  It needs antennae.

I used another two large paper clips, and tied-and-soldered them into the same junction as the legs and the frame.

Curve them up in whatever style you like, and you're finished!

Step 7: But, Does It Work?

Define "work"...

It works as a phone, and I don't have to take the phone out of the frame to answer it! It's a little awkward, but I can hold the frame around the legs, flip open the phone and talk. OK, so I have to be careful not to stab myself in the neck with the antennae, but that's a small price to pay for having a phone that is also a robot!

But does it work as a robot?

Well, sort of.  Don't expect your phone to dash across the desk whenever it vibrates, it's too heavy for the little pager motor to bounce it enough.  It does, though, turn the annoying buzz into a pleasant hum, and the antennae jiggle amusingly.

And, a bonus feature, you won't lose your phone under piles or down the sofa, because folk will always move it to stand on top of something.

Or swat it.

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