Arduino,  Hardware

Spencer – The voice assistant from the makers of MakerBuino

Another post about a product from CircuitMess, the creators of MakerBuino. They totally deserve it, these people know how to sell interesting products, both for us, people who enjoy tinkering with electronics and programming, and for the little ones at home.

This time it is a voice assistant. Yes, like OK Google, Cortana, Siri… Just a bit geekier and a bit less (well, a lot less) useful, at least on its first version. But hey! It can tell you a repertory of bad jokes and sing a couple of songs too.

It is based on a ESP32-WROOM-32, a dual core microcontroller with 448 KBytes of ROM and 520 KBytes of RAM, with a small FLASH IC of 16MBytes with serial interface. As connectivity interfaces, it has WiFi 802.11n and Bluetooth 4.2.

The pack, at least on the first batch from the IndieGoGo campaign, contains two boxes: a tool box (very good for being a plus) and the main box, with Spencer components.

The tool box

The presentation is magnificent. Each piece is presented separately, with small cardboard signs letting you know which component is which. It looks all the logic chips are located in a board, the LED matrix that makes the Spencer’s “face” with a small controller, which multiplexes 8 pins to control the 144 LEDs (16 x 9) is are in another separated board, and the rest are discrete passive components and the speaker.

As with Nibble, I’m not going to go super deeply in detail on the assembly process, because that’s what the official guide is for, but I’ll give you a summary. First, we need to solder the female straight pin headers to the LED board.

Next, the only two resistors of the project.

After that, the 90º male pin headers to the logic board. These will connect with the LED board soon.

A couple of capacitors are next.

And the Cherry switch. Very good choice, this will handle lots and lots of presses without a problem 😊

Classic red LED, so retro 🙂

Next is a function test, to see if everything went well. When connecting the speaker, I noticed the speaker’s maker has a very nice name: fuet. It is also the word for a Spanish dry pork sausage. Very fitting for the name of the blog:

Oh yes. Iberic Fuet 😜
Ready for testing!

And Done! Everything seemed in order, so time to mount the plastic case. As always, it is hard to peel off the protective film from the plastic, but other than that, everything went fine. Spencer is here! 🙂

I need to improve the lighting on my photos, but it works!

Curious phrases I have heard from Spencer:

  • “My original creator named me Skynet, but I prefer the name Spencer. I am your personal robot assistant that never stops talking unless you plug me out of the wall”. 😮
  • “Never gonna code you up, never gonna parse you down, never gonna code away and reflash you. Never gonna power you down, never gonna bit-swap or defragment, never gonna tell a lie, and bit-wise shift you” (A very geeky reference to Never Gonna Give You Up, from Rick Astley.)
  • The man tells his doctor: “Doc help me, I’m addicted to social media”. The Doctor replies: “Sorry, I don’t follow you”. This is just a sample of the repertory of bad jokes from Spencer 😂

As the rest of devices from CircuitMess, Spencer is designed to be hacked and improved, but it seems they are having a hard time with all the shipments, and the support for Spencer on CircuitBlocks (the IDE to develop programs for the new CircuitBlocks devices) is not ready yet. There is a message that tells us it is “coming soon” though, so we’ll have to wait a bit more.

As for me, I’ll be waiting for this new version, to see what I can do with Spencer 🙂

If you are interested, you can buy Spencer on IndieGoGo. I’ll also be waiting their new project, Jay-D, for the month of February-March 🙂.

See you in the next post!

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