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Matt Brailsford, aka Circuitbeard, wondered why Tamagotchi virtual pets weren’t more user-programmable, and so he decided to invent the Maker version with his “Petduino” project. This “pet,” which looks like a small plastic animal with a screen in its chest, features an Arduino-compatible processor, sensors, an 8×8 LED matrix, a laser-cut body, and several other goodies for the pet’s owner to play with. Although he’s come up with quite a few routines for this device, you can program it to display your favorite shapes on the LED matrix, or respond to stimuli via the light or temperature sensor.

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photo credit: Frederik Raabye

According to Brailsford, the project is not currently open source, but “is made of a lot of off-the-shelf components, so it’s not a very complicated board.” Although they’re neat in the form that Brailsford built, I could see this becoming inspiration for entirely different robo-pets, perhaps with servo-actuated ears, a speaker, or who knows what else. The code that powers the Petduino is freely available online, so that is out there to modify as well.

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If you are thinking about making something similar yourself from scratch, Brailsford says, “I think it probably took around a month on and off. Because the Petduino is mainly simple components (this was on purpose to show that even with simple components, you can make some cool little projects), figuring out how to connect everything didn’t take that long. Coding the Petduino library took a bit longer as I would constantly make changes during testing to try and create the simplest and most intuitive interface to the Petduino I could.”

As he’s actually selling these little guys as a kit, Brailsford says that “This was deceptively harder than I thought, but I think I managed to get through it all in a couple of weeks. I signed myself up to the Bristol Maker Faire so I knew I had a hard deadline to get them ready for, so I had to push hard. Banners, boxes, packaging, labels, step by step instructions, website, it all adds up.” So having a deadline is probably a good idea for this type of thing!

For another excellent project from “The Circuitbeard,” check out his ROMBUS3000 miniature arcade machine.