Enginursday: The Dug Collar

Here at SparkFun, we love our dogs. When we searched deep in our dog-loving hearts, we found one true question: What if they could talk?

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It’s no secret that SparkFun loves dogs. Well-behaved mavens of the canine variety accompany us to our desks, force us to take healthy breaks from sitting, and inspire us to create ridiculous projects like this.

Like many people (maybe), I have often wished that our dogs could talk. As I was watching Disney’s Up for the umpteenth time, I thought, “I work at SparkFun and we can MAKE THIS HAPPEN.” So I put together a “Dug Collar.” It’s not the same as giving our pooches a true voice, but it’s pretty close. And it’s funny.

Meet Lucy. She is not my dog, but I wish she was. She is a therapy dog in training who visits SparkFun with me every Thursday, and has her own fan club. She may be the best dog ever. She is certainly patient.

Lucy the Golden Retriever

I originally prototyped this thing with a SparkFun FTDI Basic Breakout to program an Arduino 3.3V mini, a SparkX Qwiic MP3 trigger board, a couple of buttons, and our RFM69 radio modules. Easy enough but oh my gosh, the WIRES, y'all. Even without power it was unruly.

So many wires!

BUT THEN! SparkX to the rescue!

If you haven’t heard of SparkX, it is basically a tinkerer’s heaven. They get an idea, make it work, and then send it to market on a short run. It’s not polished and has little to no SparkFun support (i.e., don’t call tech support), but they make some seriously cool stuff. This time they created the SparkX Pro RF - RFM69 915MHz, which is basically a Pro Micro and an RFM69 module built into one, with a Qwiic connector port! And a JST connector for my LiPo battery! And a charging circuit! I need more exclamation points!

Look at the difference. SO much better.

Pro RF has so many fewer wires

Programming was straight forward. I mashed up the code examples for the Qwiic MP3 and the SparkX Pro RF and added a couple buttons to increment an internal counter to determine which track would play. I recorded and uploaded a few tracks that would be similar to what Dug/Lucy would say.

I think in future iterations I would make this shinier - probably add an OLED to see what increment I’m at and/or add hardware so I could talk to people (as Lucy) in real time instead of using pre-recorded clips. But for a quick (Qwiic, ha ha) and dirty project, this was good.

A note on safety: While this is a fun project, I would not recommend leaving a LiPo battery attached to a pet for any length of time. Lucy had great fun wearing this for short periods of time, but I immediately removed the collar when we were done. Keep your furry friend safe!

Have you used SparkX products? Have you done any projects for your pets? Tell us about them in the comments!


Comments 2 comments

  • Although the Dug Collar is relatively compact compared to Lucy, I think my kitty would find it objectionably large and heavy to wear! ;-)

    As for Qwiic projects, I’m looking forward to Week 4 of “4 Weeks of Free”…

    • Ell C / last week / 2

      That speaker would be a bit heavy for a kitty. We have a lighter “thin speaker” (COM-10722) that might work though! The boards themselves are fairly compact, with a smaller battery perhaps?

      Hmm. I need to find a cat to prototype for now… :D

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