A Journey To Iot W/father, Son, A Laser And Cats…Phase One

March 10, 2015

As I wrote about in The Internet of Things, or, the Consumerization of Engineering, last month my son, I and Joe Shonk attended the IoTPhx meet up here in Tempe, Arizona hosted by the awesome Chris Matthieu of OctoBlu.

Without a doubt, we were all deeply inspired by the technology and this great group of people.  Last night we attended the next meet up and watched two robot cars race using Twitter hashtags to move them forward (or backward):

We saw awesome 3D printed parts and control systems, killer LED matrices and circuits. If that wasn’t enough, Moheeb Zara brought IoT controlled LED Pyramids that can be smartphone controlled, or, controlled from an insane control board with motorized faders that definitely came from an Alien Spaceship! This is for a display with Intel at the upcoming SXSW. If you are wondering where the passion for tech, tinkering, hacking and innovation is-   This Is The Place!

So we got our first Arduino board at the event last month and thought,  Now What?

What we needed was some goal, our own personal MoonShot, an idea, a project to inspire us to learn, develop skills, and build something that we could take back to the next meeting. But what?

Well despite his gruff exterior Joe Shonk is quite a softy and loves cats and kittens, he has four of them at home and literally cats show up at his house asking to be adopted! My son and I came up with the idea that we could create an Arduino controlled Laser pointer game to entertain cats – why not? You can’t always be home to play with them, wouldn’t just a little automation help here?

@JoeShonk with Grumpy Cat

My son and I spent the next four weeks immersing ourselves in the process. First step was to achieve “Hello World”. In the Arduino space that is most often represented by attaching an LED to Pin 13 and creating a basic sketch (i.e. program) to turn on/off the LED.

After we accomplished that, we continued on following tutorials on adding switches, scanning for the state of a switch, manipulating timings, etc. Each effort involves reading a tutorial, wiring some components on a bread board and creating the code to achieve the desired outcome.

We worked our way up to controlling servos (little motors that you can control the position of with commands) using the Radio Shack Motor Pack for Arduino. We needed two servos- one to control X (left and right) and one to control Y (Up and Down). The combination of these two movements controlling the laser, and pointed at the floor, would give the “target” for the kitty to chase.

So to make a long, interesting and fascinating story short (involving hacking a laser sight off a toy gun, super glue, interviewing cat owners….and other fun stuff) here is a video clip of the basic mechanism of the KIT:

and here is a video of the system in action, note we upgraded the laser with a small, stand-alone laser module we got from and then hacking a ‘wall wart’ power supply to juice it (the rabbit hole goes deep, once you jump into it….)

This Project has Three Phases:

KIT,   Kitten Interaction Terminal, Local processing, NOT internet connected (Complete)

KIT-T     Kitten Interaction Terminal- Twitter Connected, i.e. turn it on by posting a Twitter #HashTag such as #PlayKitty!

KIT-N    Kitten Interaction Terminal- Nano Edition, this version would employee much smaller and less expensive components and be in a convenient casing

Happy to say that we made our goal of showing our Phase One project at the IoTPhx meet up and received great feedback. Our question to the group was how to get to Phase Two and connect KIT to the Internet. There were suggestions about doing it connected to a computer and/or doing it all on the board. There is some new code coming soon to provide TCP/IP connectivity within the ChipKit Boards that looks promising that could make it stand-alone…Good Times!

It made us feel great, like we were Batman, well we can’t both be Batman, but you know what I mean….then today I received this intriguing communication…

and Alisa is?

Did I just create this person out some weird ability to manifest what I was thinking into the material universe? How cool is that?!?!!?

Stay Tuned, same Bat/Kat time, same Bat/Kat channel for the next episode where we connect our Kitty Interaction Terminal to Twitter!


Let's discuss a strategic IT partnership today!