Raspberry Pi Zero W Drives Animatronic Fox Companion

Raspberry Pi
(Image credit: Katherine "Smalls" Connell)

It’s getting easier and easier as time goes on to create virtual assistants with the help of boards like the Raspberry Pi. But this trend also lends to another similar but distinctly different category of creations known as companion bots. Today we’ve got a neat example of such a project to share with you, created by maker Katherine “Smalls” Connell who has put together this neat animatronic fox head companion bot.

The animatronic fox head is programmed with a few different animation techniques. Servos are used to enable the head to move and tilt. The ears also use servo motors to turn back and forth. The eyes are fitted with screens and display animated pupils. All of the motions are programmed by Connell to run randomly rather than in response to input.

The head shape was taken from an existing fox head shape model over at Thingiverse. The model was 3D printed and used as a base for the head. Connell modified the design to suit her project by using Worbla, a moldable material that softens when exposed to heat. To finish it off, the exterior was covered completely in faux fur.

Each eye is fitted with a 1.14-inch IPS LCD module. The eyes are programmed to move at random and are controlled by a Raspberry Pi Zero W. The Pi works alongside an Arduino UNO which is responsible for driving the servos. There are two used to control the ear movement and one used to rotate the head.

As far as software goes, the Arduino was programmed using Arduino IDE while the Pi Zero W ran a custom script on top of Raspberry Pi OS. The Pi is programmed to play a looped video of random eye animations that look like the fox is looking around or blinking. You can get a closer look at the source code for this Raspberry Pi project over at Hackster and see the fox head animatronic companion bot in action over at YouTube.

Ash Hill
Freelance News and Features Writer

Ash Hill is a Freelance News and Features Writer at Tom's Hardware US. She manages the Pi projects of the month and much of our daily Raspberry Pi reporting.