App-Powered PopPet

PopPet is a robot kit developed by Jaidyn Edwards. In collaboration with Jaidyn, I’ve been working on an app for use with PopPet. This app was designed for use with PopPet 2.0, but I’ve been testing it with my modded Kickstarter PopPet.

You can find out more about PopPet here:

The app lets you:
– Drive PopPet around (app works like a remote control)
– Give PopPet voice commands
– Tell PopPet to drive around autonomously and explore

The artwork in the app was created by Jaidyn Edwards.

Jaidyn will be demonstrating this and PopPet 2.0 at the “Adelaide Mini Maker Faire” (in Australia) this weekend (Sun 1 Nov, 2015). So, go check it out if you can!

Where to Get the Code

You can get the Arduino code from GitHub:

You can get the app itself from Google Play:

Some Technical Details

The app is based on the stuff I did with my MobBob and Sphero Companion projects, so it shares some similar features.

Arduino Code

For anyone familiar with how MobBob works, MobBob’s Arduino code accepts text-based commands over bluetooth. For example, the command to walk forward 1 step looks like this <FW,1>.

To support PopPet (and other wheeled robots!), I wrote a new Arduino program that accepts a new wheel-based command set:

<DW,#,#> – Drive Wheels where the parameters are motor speeds for each wheel

<LW,#> – Set the speed of the left wheel only

<RW,#> – Set the speed of the right wheel only

I’ve also added commands for some of PopPet’s Ultrasonic Sensor:

<UA,#> – Turns the Ultrasonic Sensor on/off

<US> – Requests an ultrasonic sensor reading.

And I’ve also added a command for the explore mode.

<XA,#> – Turns explore mode on/off

While explore mode is activated, PopPet will send the following response codes to let the app know what’s going on:

<XO> – Encountered an obstacle
<XC> – Changing direction just for fun (got bored going straight)

Initially, I didn’t put the explore mode in the Arduino code. I first tried to do it all on the app. The app would receive regular sensor readings, and then adjust PopPet’s course.

After some testing, I found that doing it that way had too much lag… Sometimes PopPet would hit the wall before he received the commands to back up and turn. I’m pretty confident the lag can be reduced by tweaking some of my delays between sending/receiving commands. (I’m probably overly paranoid about not spamming the serial port with commands… I think it can handle much more than what I’m throwing at it.) If I play with these settings, an app-side explore mode should work fine.

However, I decided to change tactics and put the explore mode into the Arduino-side code. This has a few advantages:

  • PopPet can continue to explore even if you turn off your phone (after you’ve started the explore mode)
  • The app is freed from driving and can do other stuff! While in Explore Mode, PopPet sends status codes <XO> and <XC> to the app to let it know what’s going on. Since the app isn’t busy driving PopPet, it has time to handle these status codes and react. In the current version, I have PopPet occasionally saying something (E.g. “Something’s in my way”, etc) in response to these codes. I found this can be a bit annoying, so I also added an option to turn off the explore mode narration! 🙂

Because this command set is pretty generic, it should be applicable to most differential drive robots… So, this Arduino code and the App should work with other differential drive robots!

If you are using a Dagu Mini Driver as the microcontroller, you can probably run my code as is and it’ll work… If you are using a different microcontroller and motor-controller, you may need to make some small changes to the pins, etc.

You’ll also need to have a bluetooth module connected to your microcontroller!

Android App

The Android app is based off a similar code-base to my other apps. I’ve tested with Nexus 5, Nexus 6 and a Samsung S6. It should work with other phones too.

You need to have the phone language sent to English for the voice recognition to work. Also, if voice recognition is not working, check if voice recognition is working in Google Now’s voice search. (If it’s working there, it should work in the app.)

Further Work

This project was done for Jaidyn’s PopPet, and the artwork matches PopPet’s web page, etc.

However, since the Arduino code and App are compatible with most differential drive robots, I will be releasing a non-PopPet-specific version of the app at some point (when people request it, or when I need it for my own projects… whichever comes first).

This work provides an easy way for robot builders to add a remote control and voice recognition to their robots! 🙂

Have fun!

As always, feel free to post comments if you have any questions or would like more information! 😀


8 thoughts on “App-Powered PopPet”

  1. I can do a poppet . I have an arduino uno and a module bluetooth,what thing do I need ? .Can you help me? thanks you!

    1. Hi Lyuduy,

      The code I wrote was designed to be uploaded into the PopPet’s Mini-Driver. It works with a Bluetooth module connected to the Mini-Driver. If you are using other boards, you can adapt the code by updating the pins (in code) to match your board.

      If you are using an Arduino Uno, you will need some sort of Motor Driver. There is a Motor Driver built into the PopPet’s Mini-Driver.

      All the best with your build!


  2. App and Arduino code worked great on my robot kit I sell at I will direct people to your site and provide instructions for my mods. I use the HC-06 Bluetooth module and tested on an LG Stylo phone. I would like to see app be able to access the digital pins and analog pins to read other sensors or use the accelerometer for navigation. What you did is really cool and I am not a programmer, but would love to learn how to do this style apps. Is almost 2am and I am having fun with this thing! I made some robot hands and arms for an InMoov robot – would love to control with phone via Bluetooth so a generic app to control all IO would be so helpful. Let me know if you can help and maybe we can work out something. Thanks!

    1. Hi Walter,

      Sorry for the slow reply. I somehow missed this comment! Apologies.

      I’m really glad the app is working for you!

      I’m currently struggling to find time for my own projects (MobBob update, for example), so I’m not able to help with the more generic app. It sounds like a good idea and something that would be useful to robot makers. Please keep me informed of how you go with this!

      I’m not sure what their feature sets are, but I noticed there are some apps that are kind of like this on the app stores. Try searching “Arduino Bluetooth” to see what comes up.

      All the best,

  3. hi! cevenius i am using an arduino uno to remake this project .
    with an l293D break out board . I am unable to connect the robot through my phone via bluetooth . I would be grateful if you can procide my with the circuit diagram and the code for running the motors.

    1. Hello, The link to the Arduino code is in the post above. You should be able to find out the motor and serial connection pins from there. Also, I suggest figuring out the Bluetooth connection separately with a simple test arduino program first. That will help you to isolate the problem before adding in more parts like the motor controller. All the best!

    1. Hi KK, I made that app as a favour to Jaidyn Edwards who made the PopPet robot. Because the PopPet kit only had regular bluetooth, I took out the BLE options to avoid confusing users. When I have time (which has been difficult this past year), I think I’ll make a non-PopPet specific version of the app that will work with all wheeled robots. I will design a 3D-printed body to go with it too… Kind of a wheeled MobBob. That new app will get the BLE features from MobBob and also some of the computer vision stuff (e.g. following balls, etc).

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