Intro: The TapeScape Audio Robot
The idea was to make a robot almost entirely out of tape player parts, and mounting a tape head that continually drags itself over a flat field covered in audio tape (the TapeScape). So you're not playing a tape, you're playing on a tape. The resulting audio output is a glitchy sound experience with enormous opportunity for creative expression.
Check out how it was done.
-Discarded Chalk Board
-Audio Cassettes. Lots of em!
Make the TapeScape....Just pick some old tapes that you never quite cared for (your Mom's old Aerobics workout tapes, Raffi, have some fun with it).
Find a nice big flat surface (I used a chalkboard that I rescued from the dumpster outside Laguardia High School in Manhattan) - get some 3M Super 77 and start adhering!
Step 2: The Sacrificial BoomBox
This one here was an oldie but a goodie. A GE AM/FM Stereo Radio Dual Cassette Recorder Model # 3-5635A. After loosening no less than a dozen screws, we entered the mechanical belly of this beast to find that both players were powered by a common motor mounted between, with belts going in opposite directions. So what we had was a metal frame with 4 spindles in line- an open book if you will. To turn this into a robot we knew we'd have to close the book.
Step 3: Simply Fold in Half
The assembly was cut into three pieces- one holding the motor, and two with the tape player mechanisms. All other accoutrements were stripped.
We were lucky to have frames with an abundance of holes already drilled (which didn't make much sense to us, were these so you could hang ornaments?)
So we cut some small tabs with which to re-attach the motor so it would be oriented correctly relative to the drive pulleys on the tape players.
This part was tricky because if the wheelbase was too narrow it would be unstable and unmaneuverable, but too wide and the angle of the pulley would be too severe and pop off. So we married the players with anchor bolts and tightened them bit by bit until we got to a gap where all was working well.
Just a note: You can get these tiny belts online, but we used rubberbands because they were handy, free, and worked better on our robot than in a landfill.
Step 4: Usurp the Governors
Some things that are handy and useful in a tape player are quite the opposite in a robot that needs to roll around. Wasn't it neat how when you played a tape and it got to the end it would stop automatically instead of ripping the tape off the spool and/or burning out your motor?
Yeah, well we had to get rid of that part or else the robot would just click-click-click in place and be very boring.
It's a little too detailed to go into, but you have to probe around the insides with a jeweler's screwdriver or tweezers, and once you've figured it out its simply a matter of ripping off a plastic piece or removing a spring.
Step 5: Givin' It Juice
Sometimes it can be daunting to open up a piece of electronics equipment and find gadzillions of diodes, transistors, capacitransforminometeriodes etc.
But its great to just ignore that hog wash for a second and simply wire a motor to a battery. That's what we did next. Mike had a 9 volt bracket mount from an old guitar pedal which we attached using two of the tape players' pre-drilled holes.
Step 6: Rollin'...Rollin'...Rollin' on a TapeScape
Seems like this would be one of the simplest steps, right? But you'd be amazed at the complications we ran into.
First, while trying to fuse the tape spools together with krazy glue, Mike got himself attached to one of the wheels-to-be, resulting in some sore skin, and a wheel with a thumbprint on it.
While it would have been way cool, we knew the wheels couldn't be made completely out of tape because there wouldn't be enough traction, so Ilan found these awesome washer type doodads at Build-It-Green in Astoriahttp://www.bignyc.org/ that we used as "tires".
Well turns out they were just a tad too big and rubbed against each other, so out came Ilan with the dremel and started shaving away- rubber dust on the nose is not a good thing.
But we got 'er done and we think these authentic wheels are mighty purdy.
The idea behind its mobility was that with FF and REV function on each one you could make the robot go forward or backward by using identical functions. To turn you'd just have each side going in opposite directions to make it swivel. Check out the vid.
Step 7: Mount the Head
Since the tape head has to remain in contact with the TapeScape to generate sound, some very careful measuring was done to get it just so. The tape head already conveniently had its own mounting hardware, and then the leads were wired into a small preamp from a test amplifier.
Step 8: Pump Up the Volume
Next we had to get the TapeScape sound out to the world. The first idea was to take the speaker from the boombox and mount it on the robot itself, but once we tried this it was very very quiet. A decent compromise was to go and purchase a small FM transmitter like you'd use to listen to your ipod in the car. This did the trick and was simple as it fit the 1/8th inch stereo output of the preamp.
Except now this was getting a bit unwieldy, so we whipped up this little rear dash for the audio controls out of a tape casing and a zip tie.
Step 9: Making It Autonomous
The eventual plan for the TapeScape Robot is to make it remote-controlled. We knew servos would be needed, but mashing down those heavy buttons was a real head scratcher, so we actually found the mechanism that switched the directions of the tape. It's a tricky little sucker, just a gear that meshes with one spindle or the other by way of a toggle. Melt a hole through the plastic tab with a hot safety pin, then tie some strong twine to the servo and presto! You've got control over direction.
The next step is to make it wireless using XBee, and make the controller out of tape player controls (perhaps a walkman would be most aesthetically pleasing.)
Step 10: Now Play With It!
Just another happy kid enjoying a toy made from retro junk. (Ilan's son, Ouri)