Jul 17, 2016 | By Andre

It seems as if there is a popular artificial pet for every generation. The 1970s had the pet rock craze in which the owner would keep a rock as a pet. It was deemed the perfect pet because it didn’t need a whole lot of attention, didn't get sick and would never die. When I was a teenager in the 1990s, little virtual pets like Tamagotchi became all the rage and Nintendo had their shot last decade with pet simulator Nintendogs.

It now appears Adafruit is championing the idea of virtual companionship for the Maker generation with their recent announcement of Adafriend, the Virtual Pet Cube.

Just like the many virtual pets that came beforehand (with the exception of the pet rock perhaps), Adafriend is a virtual pet that responds to external inputs via an array of emotional cues from sad to neural to happy to angry through its built in LED screen. Beyond that, it can also sing, get lonely if left alone and annoyed if pestered too much.

It really is quite the resilient addition to the ever-growing family of virtual pets if you ask me. The only difference this time around is that its up to you to put it all together with a jumble of wiring and technical know-how in addition to, of course, a little help from 3D printing for the enclosure.

Adafruit does warn that there is a lot to the project so time and an intermediate level of soldering, screw tapping, heat shrinking and general hacking is all but necessary. From an electronics perspective you’ll need to source Adafruit’s custom Pro Trinket microcontroller, a 1.2” LED Matrix and backpack, a Piezo buzzer, IR LED and receiver, wires, nuts and bolts and of course a battery to breathe life into this future-ready companion.

From a 3D print perspective, the two case files can be made using any decently reliable desktop 3D printer and is compact enough to fit onto even the smallest of build trays. While bridging can probably neutralize the need for requiring supports, any modern slicing software should be able to produce them so as to break off easily and cleanly.

All said, the site does suggest rather tight tolerances so if you don’t think your 3D printer is up to snuff (the STLs are available here) using a service provider to get your prints made for you would work as well (the project case seems to have been 3D printed using SLS technology or something very similar).

Just as is often the case, the hard part really takes place once the 3D printer is done its work. But worry not, Adafruit has your back with a very detailed visual guide of how best to wire, solder and piece together all of the electronic components into place without too much worry of burning your house down in the process.

I’m not going to lie, user John Wall’s second contribution to the site definitely ranks high in terms of “that’s so cool!” I do believe I have the 3D printing and soldering know-how to make one myself. It’s just a matter of finding the time to get it done!



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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