Grant Gibson decided to hack his son’s Chatter Telephone and make it into a smartphone! Awesome project. Check out more details on his site.
The Chatter Telephone is a classic Fisher Price toy that has been sold since 1962. The design has evolved over the years, but in 2010 the original ‘classic’ Chatter phone was brought back into the limelight in the Disney / Pixar film Toy Story 3 where the phone helped Woody escape from Sunnyside Daycare.
To coincide with this movie release, Fisher Price released a new Talking Chatter Telephone – an all-plastic model that recreated the boxy shape of the 1960s original but with the addition of some voice clips from the movie controlled by the rotary dial.
I had bought one of these for my infant son (who loved the movie) but the toy didn’t get him too excited. So, I decided to turn the phone into a weekend project… introducing the Talking Chatter Smartphone.
At the heart of the Chatter Smartphone I’m using a Raspberry Pi Model B+ to give the phone more brains than it was built with. A tiny WiFi dongle provides wireless network access, and a custom Python script (code below) running on startup provides all of the logic.
Wherever possible, I’ve used the original components and controls to interact with the phone. I also wanted to retain the ‘factory’ look of the phone, so I avoided adding a screen or any unnecessary buttons.
Inputs are limited to the original rotary dial plus an ‘on hook’ sensor I added. Outputs are audio through the built-in speaker and eye movements controlled by a servo I added.
The phone uses JSON format APIs to pull data from various online services. Right now it’s configured to pull from Forecast.io for weather and from Rotten Tomatoes for movie information, but it could easily be extended to use other APIs.
The push notification system uses a Twitter account to pull new alerts from. Those alerts are pushed onto the Twitter account using IFTTT – either pre-defined recipes or alerts driven by my iPhone (e.g. when I leave a geofence).
The Chatter Smartphone uses the OS9 boot sound (or, as I prefer to think of it, the Wall-E startup sound) on startup. This isn’t just for show, it’s also handy so I know when the Pi has finished booting and is ready for an SSH connection – every Pi should have this!
The phone can work with any standard Web Service (JSON API). It would be a two minute job to swap weather forecasts for a Quote of the Day API or, more usefully, a stocks or exchange rates api.
Need more volume? A fun hack would be to extend the Pi’s audio jack out to the back panel of the phone, potentially making a Fisher Price phone the centre of a high-end Hi-Fi system.
The push notification system can take any input from IFTTT. Currently, I have it alerting the phone when: I leave work; the weather forecast is for rain tomorrow; when my garden office temperature falls below 10 degrees centigrade; and when the International Space Station is soon passing overhead.
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