Lawrence The Butler


New Zealand
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Okay here's a bit of a tangent but if you follow my thinking for a bit you'll see where I'm coming from and hopefully going to.

I am currently trying to make "Lawrence" - a combination Viki/Jarvis from the movies I-Robot / Jarvis & Ironman.

I have been trying to do this for years but always came up against the brick wall of needing more time and having to learn more code... time mostly (I am a technology teacher in New Zealand.)

Well this year I completely revamped my teaching programme and brought my neglected hobby into the classroom... and the students and I got hooked.

We tried Arduino but this was amazingly simple compared to where I had come from 30 years earlier but still too complicated for most of the kids. Then I discovered the EZ-Robot.... watched a number of DJ Sures videos and then saved like mad... for the EZ-Robot kit.

Now I have done more in three weeks tan I have done in the last 30 years of tinkering.

So here is a bit about my journey and how I hope to bring it to reality starting with automating my workshop and then building my robot fleet (with the help of Lawrence of course!)
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New Zealand
I have built, or rather attempted to build, three robots.

The first was so heavy it sat there and twitched and did nothing else as I could not get past the controlling of stepper motors.

The second was incinerated in a garage fire just before it's first roll off the assembly line. All that remains are a few melted planetary gear setts.

The third was from a magazine series. It cost a small fortune but I managed to make someone elses day... progress but not the best start.

The fourth is attached here... I started with an old PC motherboard, added a laptop power system, USB mic, wireless nic, speakers and camera... then some nice little student shorted out the battery and blew the motherboard.

I used an old ATX mini, cut down its case and then hacked two put it onto Skill electric drills for the motor...
New Zealand
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It remains ... heavily dust covered in the corner... just put on the work bench for a cameo appearance.

He may be resurrected at a later date... when the new EZ-B minis arrive and I get a Raspberry Pi !

Here's another shot!

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New Zealand
Here are a couple of the Cybots I mentioned earlier... I'm on the lookout for these to create a little fleet of beetles that run around the place at full speed like the little one that Chewy from star wars scared in the Death Star walkway back in the 80's when I was a kid.

I've already pulled the old PIC out and put an Arduino in but then gave up for the hassle of coding...

Then I came across the EX-B. I've already had one in and pulled it out again for my Lawrence project... Just waiting for the new compact boards to put one back in and leave it in.

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I've got half a mind to work towards going to the next Sci-Fi conference in 2013, dressed in black and red, with a robot cat in my arms and my little blue robot minions intentionally following me in a semi cloud formation...

Lol... and lol some more!

I've just got my third one and my goal for these little creatures is to have them scurry around under foot... cockroach like but able to seek and find their own re-charger stations... and explore that robot herd instinct like at the end of i-Robot.

Around about 6 months ago I started pulling apart my old Tomy 2000 robot to put an Arduino into it... the project was intended to teach my students the desig
n process... Here is a link to the project (now stalled while I save for another ARC)

Here is the digital portfolio showing the project
Tomy Hack demonstrating the Design Process

Anyway along the way I wondered if anyone else in the world is trying to do the same and started looking on youtube ... that's when I saw DJ Sure's video clip.

He had done exactly what I had been trying to do - only 100 times better.
New Zealand
Today I did some more work on Lawrence. I paid for a good quality Voice file from Cepstral a couple of yours ago and it works just great with ARC.

I can walk into my office in a little granny flat outside and say "Hello Lawrence - please Skype ...." or "Please open a new Word document...". While I know this was already possible with Speech Recognition it did not give me the opportunity to script together several commands, replies, etc.

I also use a very old copy of BMS music station player that plays sound files at set times. I use this for anouncing times of the day and other recurring notices.

Using the same voice adds to the impression that Lawrence is 'everywhere' and sounds awesome. Especially when it says "Thank you Master Wayne" ... lol.

Only drag is I want to do the same in the workshop so keep pulling the board out of the office and taking it to the workshop.

This weekend I wired up one of those 4 channel relays to an old multi board. It took a bit of working cause when the EZ-B connection is dropped because of a bit of bad programming on my part (Eg. Calling a connect when already connected) all the data lines go high and turn on everything.

I had to put a fifth relay in the loop to enable/disable power to the grid so that when things got confused the initial state of the data lines would be off. In other words if the power fails or my EZ-B fails due to power loss everything turns off in stead of on.

I can now say stuff like "Lawrence power up the workshop " and the workshop starts up.

I can also say:
Lawrence - turn on/off the workshop lights
Lawrence - turn on/off the sodering iron
Lawrence - turn on/off the extractor fan
Lawrence - turn on/off the dramil
Lawrence - turn disable/enable the workshop power grid.

When I say "Lawrence shut down the workshop" the data lines are set low and I am given 30 seconds to leave the room before the lights turn off.

Here's a shot of today's multi-board hack

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Oh that made me smile. :o)

I def do not need someone else leaving me out of a conversation.


could i use your idea dont worry i wont be taking credit of it or anything its just it would be cool to have a bunch od beetle like robots like the ones you are making:) oh and i was wondering what grade do you teach?
and where do you get the cybots , i googled some for sale and all that shows up a a game and some other stuff
Sometimes you get these for very cheap here on german ebay ( -these things had to be self-assembled. you had to buy a magazine that came with one part for each issue. at some point, parents stopped from buying these magazines for their kids cause the whole thing got too expensive. same thing every time, the very first issue is severly promoted, then once you hvae started it you want to finish it - bad thing is, the first magazine cost basically nothing whereas all the following issue were to buy for way more than the first issue price.
so there is cybots fully assembled, cybots missing some parts, cybots...., you name it....
New Zealand
Hey Robotdude11

Ideas posted to the forums are free for all to use so go for it... we post because we love to share.... just do the same so we can all benefit.

As for Cybots, you just have to keep an eye out... kids leave home and parents wanting to claim back some cash try to spin them off... I have managed to get 4 here in New Zealand as they were popular.They vary in price but as more people cotton on to EZ-bot toy hacking I am sure the price will go up.

In contrast there are very few Tomy robots in NZ compared to what I see in the forums in the US.
Actually tameion I'm taking donations for my ideas. All donations can be PayPal ed to : D lol
The gold robot daily deals thread has lots of ideas under 100 dollars at can be shipped to you.
New Zealand

So here is Lawrence in action in the workshop. I can ask him to turn on or off an number of different workshop devices from sodering irons to drill press, lights, etc.

I had to laugh cause when I first played this video after uploading it to YouTube Lawrence heard my voice commands, reset everything ashe is programmed to as part of system startup. This plunged me into into darkness while he re-initialised the workshopand turned on the lights.... lol

Now that I have my equivalent of Vicky from iRobot / Tim from the Tomorrow People / Jarvis from Ironman I'm going to start on a docking station for my robots ... just as soon as I save enough for another EZ-B.

Anyone know when ther new boards are coming out?
Great work !
It's nice to see so many talented people over here ! Congratz !


New Zealand
Project update...

I had intended to use one master computer in a central location in the house to control everything but there were problems with my idea. Mainly the need to mic every room and set up speakers around the place as well. After a while it dawned on me that I could simply use the computers already scattered around my place and at work !

It seemed more sensible to me to to have a single EZ-B project running on all the different PC's that I have contact with than the other way around... the lounge media centre PC, each child's bedroom PC, my home office laptop, my school office laptop, my classroom, my personal laptop, ....

Always running, and all using the same speech synthesis voice file for consistency throughout.

So now my EZB project checks to see if it is up to date every 15 minutes by loading a global variable file from my Google drive. This file contains all the common variables for my project including a project version date written at the end of a programming session.

If the project, already running on any of the computers I mentioned earlier, at one of these 15min intervals happens to find itself to be out of date it writes its local variables to a file. This file includes the number of the new version.

The project then commits applacide (software suicide) by using the EXEC command to run a KILL process .bat file to stop EZB, waits a moment by pinging a non-existent IP address and then re-RUNs EZB with the Autostart active.

As the variables are lost in a reboot my project re-loads the Global and Local variables and compares itself over again.... this time noting that everything is up to date.

As my project file and the global variables file are all stored on a Google drive they are always available to all PC's at work or home...

All I have to do is tell one copy that it is out of date and all others will be reloaded to the new version. NICE!
United Kingdom
The only concern I'd have is if the internet is down would it will have no access to the variables? Or is google drive like dropbox where it updates a local copy?
Just as "idea" but have you thought of pairing a Bluetooth audio device like earpiece to the computer. You could have one earpiece to keep with you or one in each major area of the house. That way regardless of if the physical robot is nearby to hear you the controlling computer will still hear your requests.:) -Josh S
Have a bluetooth headset
Only problem is you have to re-install after each boot up
Researching how to have a number of Bluetooth Devices Permanently setup ,but don't think its possible at present
United Kingdom
@Bravia, why would you need to re-install after each boot up? On my desktop in my home office I have a number of bluetooth devices permanently set-up. I was unaware that anything was only temporary.

The only issue I had with a bt headset is the drivers for Windows 7 were unavailable (don't try the tutlebeach PS3 headset, no drivers for PC which is a shame as it can connect to 2 devices at the same time).
At present I just have Ez-b and a wii remote on bluetooth ,to get the wii to work I usually remove and re install otherwise it will not work after boot up on win 7
It may be his Bluetooth adapter ya think, giving him a limitation of Bluetooth profiles that can be active? That's strange I have not seen that problem at all.
New Zealand
Google Drive allows for offline work as does Dropbox. Dropbox is probably the better choice in this case as it keeps earlier copies for you 'just in case' ! With Google Drive once its gone, its gone!

Consequently I am using one for critical data and the other for ... well... non critical !

Both sync to the cloud and the local machine pulls down file changes so it becomes easy to update your projects that way.

What I have been trying to do is automate that project updates at this stage.

The Load Project function in EZ-B goes some way to doing this but doesn't yet let us autostart a script when switching or reloading a project. (That's why I had to resort to the batch file method... and EVENTGHOST is a little lacking on the programming manual side of things)

Trouble is I have EZ-B running on an XP at school for voice alarms, Vista in my workshop for play around, Win7 in the home office and Win8 in the school office.

I have not yet decided how I will manage application updates ....
New Zealand
On the Bluetooth subject - - - I am 40% deaf and while this is usually a disadvantage there are benefits like bluetooth hearing aids...
I am currently connected to my house via this device:

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The ICOM pairs first with my hearing aids and then with my computer running EZ-B and also my phone... I've often thought about making it look more Ironman-ish but .....

I can truely say I hear voices in my head.... and the hearing aids are almost invisible to others.... unfortunately when I talk back to the computer people think I am a bit on the strange side! LOL

It can pair with up to 7 devices at one time which solves the roaming issue and only cost around $150NZ.... mind you the hearing aids cost me $10,000!

Now you can see @RICH why I am interested in the EZ-B being informed when a device comes into range.... as I am the only one directly connected my BOT could be programmed to report to me via the bluetooth instead of the speakers...

Can you give me a pointer for how you did this in EVENTGHOST ? I have found this... but I admit to being a little reluctant - I don't want to kill my BT setup and loose connectivity with my EX-B all together

BTW That is not my chin.... I'm a little rounder and a little older - LOL

United Kingdom
I'll have to check through my old files to see if I still have anything on it when I get home.

From memory, I think that when my phone was in range and paired with the PC, in eventghost an entry is added in the log for a device being attached, I used that as a trigger. Not 100% sure on that since it was a while ago I used it that way but I do something similar for when I turn on my TV (as it's on my HTPC), when turned on a device is attached which then triggers a macro and from there anything you want can happen.
New Zealand
My idea to have a number of robots each with their own mother boards but sharing common files has hit a snag with Google Drive.

Google is great for editing work online and having it pulled down to your local drive.... but not so much the reverse. Seems that if different computers are using the same Google Drive folder online any shared file updates will be duplicated and the second called for example Config[2].exe , and the next time config[3].exe and so on.

Thats a real problem if your looking in a specific folder....

This is a documented error with a log file going back to 2012 without apparent resolution from Google. Fortunately Drop-box is smarter than Google in this case and recognises that the files are intended to be updated.

So Google Drive is out and Drop Box is in for this one!


Just got it working across five PC's - all sync'ed their projects at roughly the same time. Those that were out of date automatically closed and re-opened their projects.

Now I can work anywhere and have my other PC's automatically load and update their projects...

- Nice
New Zealand
It's been a while since I posted about my Home A.I. project "Lawrence"

Well I've been saving for a bit now and last month had finally accumulated enough funds to buy a new motherboard for an older perspex PC case that I purchased four or five years ago. I purchased the economical B75M R2.0 ASRock motherboard, added 4GB memory and an Icore3 CPU...well it won't break any speed records but it is perfect as a home server and new home for my EZ-Robot installation - Nice.
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So with school holidays in full swing I found a little time to replace my aged Vista laptop with a shiny new Win8 install.... :D

So below is a photo of an LCD screen in portrait mode fastened to the wall in my workshop. The EZ-Robot logo is smiling happily at me... (Under house double car garage with workshop)
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Opening the broom cupboard reveals the central server for the house... all nicely lit up...
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I was very concerned about an initial performance drop in voice recognition, after having spent many hours training Lawrence, but have to admit that this was not the case. In fact I am more happy with the result and this combined with a good Logitech USB mic placed in the middle of the room means I can talk naturally anywhere in the workshop and have a good response from "Lawrence"

Next step will be to get my v3 EZ-Boards into the various devices around the workshop and in range of the bluetooth dongle ...

I was going to hard wire audio into each of the rooms but the new v4 board may mean I don't have too...can't wait!