Build a bipedal companion robot

Dan from Dan Makes Things is a complete beginner when it comes to robotics, but he managed to build this super smart bipedal friend, which includes custom PCBs.

Motion sensors let the robot detect someone’s presence and spring into action. This feature also saves energy, as the robot goes into power-saving mode when nobody is around. It possesses face detection and speech recognition skills too, allowing for smarter interactions with humans.

How it’s made

A Raspberry Pi 3B+ and an Arduino Pro Mini each sits on its own custom PCB. As a beginner, Dan felt that was much easier than using breadboards to wire everything up. The Arduino Pro Mini controls the servos: there are two of these for the neck and head, but the legs need nine between them. The Raspberry Pi does some heavier lifting and controls all the other components, which include a camera so the robot can see, a buzzer for audio output; a NeoPixel ring to jazz up the eye that doesn’t have a camera in it; a Coral USB accelerator to speed up the robot’s face tracking and image processing; and a microwave sensor to detect movement. A logic level converter lets the Raspberry Pi communicate with the Arduino.

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The body is 3D-printed, and Dan has published the design files on GitHub.

Years in the making

This two-legged companion has been a work in progress for a couple of years now, and Dan has created a dedicated YouTube playlist so you can chart its build process.

Snazzy screen grab from Dan’s build video

While Dan is a software engineer, by his own admission he has no experience in robotics. Even so, he was able to learn everything he needed to know to make this Raspberry Pi-powered playmate from free online courses and YouTube videos. This build is also fully open source, so you can build the exact same one if you like. There’s also a dedicated discussion around the project, with separate chats for questions about things like the neck mechanism, Chat GPT integration, and Bluetooth control.

If Dan can do it, you can too! Or, if you’re short on time, you could just go the Castaway route and slap a bloody hand on a volleyball.

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