The “Identified Plush Object Network” (IPON) Project

by Natalia Fargasch Norman

in IPON

Plush ObjectThe Identified Plush Object Network is one of a few bigger projects that I want to work on this year. The idea is to create a network of small plush animals that interact with users, each other, and the Internet. I called it “Identified” because as a separate project I’m working with an RFID reader/writer module I want to create a simpler interface for, and once that piece is working each object in the network will be tagged as well.

The motivation for the project is non-profit work I want to do in the future with at-risk minority youth here in Orange County, CA. I want to create something that can be built in phases that get increasingly complex as the students learn, but that starts simple enough to enable hands-on participation from day one. Software improvements will be made in each iteration.

Each plush animal will house electronics that will be “surgically” implanted. While the project is being designed I’m thinking of using soft circuits or even cardboard circuits wired with EFT tape instead of stripboards to make it easy to modify them while I’m still making decisions.

Cost Considerations

One of my requirements – due to the non-profit nature of this project – is to try to keep cost as low as possible, but maintaining simplicity. For example, even though the cheapest possible Arduino may be a homebrew version, I decided I will be using the Ardweeny (it is cheap enough and simpler to put together).

Another example of the cost x simplicity trade-off is the Internet of Things aspect of the project. The WiFi RedBack costs $69 at the time of this writing (but includes the Arduino), versus $24 for the barebones WiFi module (the MRF24WB0MA by MicroChip). I’m just not sure if the savings are worth the added complexity. (Here’s an example that uses this module). I also have to consider only one of the nodes/objects needs to have WiFi capability. Communication within the networked objects will happen over XBee.

Power Requirements

Another factor that will drive design decisions is power – I want to learn how to design for lower power, and I’m aware this may be a whole subject all on its own given the many choices of battery types and cost considerations as well. Baby steps. I’ll get there.

Phases of the Project

As of yet the IPON project is not defined on a detailed level, except for Phase 0. From a high-level perspective I have envisioned the following phases in small increments over the previous one (with each going through several iterations and refinements):

Phase 0 (current):

Phase 1:

  • Semi-permanent circuit
  • 1 plush object with implanted electronics
  • Interacts with user

Phase 2:

  • Semi-permanent circuit
  • 1 plush object
  • Interacts with user
  • Interacts with the Internet

Phase 3:

  • Semi-permanent circuit
  • 2 plush objects
  • Interact with user
  • Interact with each other

Phase 4:

  • Semi-permanent circuit
  • 3+ objects
  • Interact with user
  • Interact with each other
  • Interact with the Internet

Phase 5:

  • Permanent circuit
  • 3+ objects
  • Interact with user
  • Interact with each other
  • Interact with the Internet
  • RFID tags

IPON project, the big picture:

Identified Plush Object Network Diagram

On the next post I will share the current state of the project, Phase 0 as described above, including circuit and Arduino sketch. Stay tuned!

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2014 Natalia Fargasch Norman

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Annie Andre

Natalia,
this is so cool especially the part about working with at-risk teenagers. My husband and i had a lego team. we had to meet with kids to teach them about nono technology and programming and then we entered are finished lego project in a competition where our finished project had to go through a set of obstacles, a maze all programatically. It was exhausting but the kids really enjoyed it.
I think the kids are going to love DOMO too.

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M. Simon

If you have a low power power supply that needs testing you might like this:

http://www.ecnmag.com/blogs/2012/05/low-power-low-cost-testing

I’m also interested in writing up other people’s projects – contact me. Contact information can be found through the above link.

Reply

M. Simon

I can help you with your power supply design. Contact me.

Reply

Alberto Morales

Natalia,
Only a few considerations about cost. As i comment in my post:
http://albertomorales.eu/going-from-breadboard-to-a-definitive-device-wich-arduino-to-use/
maybe you can use this:
http://www.ebay.es/itm/230935770283?ssPageName=STRK:MEWNX:IT&_trksid=p3984.m1497.l2649
Althougt it can’t be considered a homebrew version, it’s cheaper, smaller and without work.
For network connection, if you don’t need making it ‘wirelessly’, you can use this:
http://www.ebay.es/itm/033-Modulo-de-red-ethernet-ENC28J60-arduino-AVR-pic-electronica-robotica-/221239735892?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_186&hash=item3382ea7654
Or you can make it over Bluetooth with something like this:
http://www.ebay.es/itm/1pcs-Wireless-Bluetooth-Transceiver-Module-RS232-TTL-HC-05-/370834105071?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item56576f62ef
And if you need long range communication, you can check this out
http://kiwitricopter.blogspot.com.es/2013/06/better-than-xbee-and-cheaper-hobby-king_11.html
I hope this info can be useful for someone.
Kind regards.

Reply

Natalia Fargasch Norman

Hi Alberto,

thanks for your thoughtful comment! I will check out your suggestions. It’s hard to believe I’ve spent almost a year now with scattered interests and this project took sort of a backseat. I am dusting off the circuit and getting back to working on it. :-)

I also got excited about the Pinoccio, which I helped fund on IndieGoGo a while ago, they should start shipping the first units soon. I will write about it here on the blog once I get mine.

Thanks again for reading and taking the time to comment. I appreciate it!
~natalia.

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