The Making of RoboPaul – The Psychic Octopus

Robo Paul 1

Since the start of the World Cup, VPS’s robo octopus Paul has been predicting the outcome of the event’s football matches. But how exactly was Paul made?

RoboPaul is pretty popular. Heat mapping information from the VPS site, which shows the parts of the site that are most used by VPS.net customers, reveals that the RoboPaul icon on the homepage is getting a lot of attention.

Hardcore Paul fans have even been asking how Robo Paul was made and how his curator, Cody Erekson, installed his groundbreaking, biomechanical, octopus features.

In this article, we let the cat out of the bag. Or would it be more appropriate to say the fish out of the net?

“I’m always looking for opportunities,” reports Cody Erekson. “To make something that I can be part of, or that lets me make something new, so I can learn how to work with different technologies.”

In case you’re not familiar with RoboPaul yet, he’s a robotic octopus that uses social media awareness to predict World Cup scores. The idea for Robo Paul started as an idea for a prediction website, but then Cody got bigger ideas.

“When the idea of turning this concept of RoboPaul, into an actual tangible device, was presented, (it really was a joke at first) it only took me a few moments for me to visualize at least some of the basic components needed to make a robotic octopus.”

Robo Paul 2

The body of RoboPaul is made from a stuffed octopus toy, which has been laced with mechanical features that allow him to move and react to commands with the push of a button. Paul is equipped with all the expected bells and whistles any octopus would be proud of, including dazzling LED lights dancing around his ever-seeing eye. He also is wired with a ‘voice box’ so that he can announce winners on his own YouTube channel.

“We can make him say whatever we want. He can also play any mp3 or wav file. Eventually, I’ll have him automatically moving and lighting up to the music.”

Cody’s creation started with the use of Raspberry Pi, a single-board computer that was created to promote the teaching of computer science in school.

Robo Paul 3

“Because the algorithm that RoboPaul uses to predict winners is already on a server and is API based, I realized that using a Raspberry Pi with a programming language like node.js to connect to that server would be a very simple matter. So, I decided to combine the best parts of Raspberry (rpi) and the Arduino and got an add-on called a Alamode. It is basically an Arduino board that plugs onto the top of the rpi and provides all of the ability and features of an Arduino. The Arduino is used to control servo motors and LED light patterns. The rpi does all of the network communication, the sound output, and the controller input.”

The actual moving mechanics of the robot were designed using inspiration from actual bone structures.

“I structured off of how spinal columns work. There is a central chord that holds it all together; each disc rotates and pivots upon a “vertebrate” below it. Four steel wires allow compression from any of four angles so that it can be twisted and turned simply by pulling on one of the wires.”

Though there were a few bumps in the road, Cody is very pleased with the results, “My goal as a kid was always: make a robot. As an adult and a programmer, I have accomplished that to a degree. I’ve made a number of devices and gadgets that fit squarely into the category of ‘robot’. But I’ve never made THAT ONE that will be my buddy like I saw in the movies.”

RoboPaul will live on throughout history as our ‘buddy’ and most likely the only prophetic, robotic octopus to make headlines for quite some time.

For more information about RoboPaul, follow him on Twitter @RoboPaulLives, or watch his predictions on YouTube here.


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