Cardboard Companion: Mike Wazowski

My trial run using a Canary cardboard cutter was far more successful than I had expected, resulting in a little cardboard companion minion perched on my shoulder. I was extremely happy and joined this month’s (Virtual) Wearables Wednesdays event at CRASHSpace to show off my minion as a wearable electronic project. And also to thank Barb (who usually attends the event) for telling me about the Canary cutter.

Barb immediately (and correctly) recognized the minion’s eye as the Adafruit HalloWing default program. She had several sets of similar eyes on hand, some incorporated into projects, but all the units within reach came as pairs so there were no immediate advice on how to get my two units to synchronize. But by now I didn’t really want to synchronize them anyway, because that would mean taking apart my minion which I’m not ready to do just yet.

So I asked the attendees what I should do with the other eye. People started brainstorming and tossing out ideas. They were fine ideas but they didn’t capture me as much as when Liz said “Mike Wazowski”. I said “Yes!” and got started immediately while the meeting was still underway. This is falling back on old patterns, as it is pretty typical for work to happen during non-virtual Wearables Wednesdays meet.

I found a picture of Mike Wazowski on the internet and traced out a rough outline on cardboard. For the minion I wanted to keep the eyehole small so none of the electronics are visible. For Mike I thought I’d explore how things looked if the eye hole was larger.

Once I had Mike cut out and popped my second HalloWing into the eyehole, I decided I did not like how it looked. I much preferred the minion approach where the circuit board was hidden. If I wanted to build a Mike Wazowski with a properly obscured HalloWing eye hole while still maintaining proportions, I will need to cut a smaller Mike. There’s also a second reason to want a smaller Mike: this one is too wide to sit properly on my shoulder. Maybe someone with much broader shoulders can pull it off, but this Mike’s butt is too wide for me to carry around.

I will abandon this cardboard cutout and stick “try again with smaller Mike” on the to-do list. This is the beauty of experimenting with cardboard: cost of failure is low, and speed of iteration is fast. I could very quickly follow up this abandoned project with an absurd project.

Cardboard Companion: Minion

I’ve long admired the robot companions built by Alex Glow and Odd Jayy but never dedicated the time and effort to build a good one of my own. I still haven’t done so… but I’ve spent roughly an hour or two to build a low-effort companion out of cardboard.

This project was kicked off when I was moving a few boxes around and noticed the Hallowing I received at Supercon 2018 almost two full years ago. When I wrote about it earlier I thought it had full of promise and should be a lot of fun to play with. That is still true, it just never came to the top of my priority list. I actually have two of them now, as Emily gave me hers saying she’d never do anything with it. I said I would definitely find something fun to do but nothing had happened since.

So when I saw them again, I had an urge to do something with them right now. Today. The pair of Hallowing deserved to be dusted off, literally and figuratively. If I can’t do something unique and cool, I can at least do something to verify at least they still function.

When I plugged them into a USB power bank, they started right up. A good start!

I thought I’d use them both by following Adafruit’s instructions to synchronize two of them. Unfortunately I made a mistake somewhere and the two eyes remained stubbornly independent. So I switched to a backup plan: what do I know that has a single eye? The first one that came to my mind is a minion from the movie Despicable Me.

I made a rough sketch and cut out the shape of a minion. I wanted the minion to sit on my shoulder, so the outline was placed such that the existing fold for this box lid is roughly at the (not terribly well defined) waist of the minion. The cutting tool visible in this picture is a Canary corrugated cardboard cutter. This was my first time using it and I am now a big fan.

After I cut out the eyehole, a quick size comparison test confirmed it was in the ballpark. I decided to stop cutting at this point. A hole that’s slightly too small like this will obscure a portion of the eye, not a big deal. In contrast a hole that’s slightly too big will show the wires at the edge of this LCD module or the circuit board underneath, either of which would spoil the look and thus something I wanted to avoid.

A black marker helped make the cardboard look more like a minion.

The minion’s work overalls courtesy of blue highlighter marker.

I used cardboard to build a tripod to help the minion sit on my shoulders, but it is top-heavy with the Hallowing and prone to falling over. I decided to tape some magnets to the bottom of the minion.

Once I set the minion on my shoulder, I could install matching magnets inside my shirt. The two magnets pinch fabric of my shirt, holding the minion in place.

Voila! A low effort cardboard companion.

It only scratches the surface of what the Hallowing can do, but far better than just letting it gather dust. Will it find a place in a cooler and more sophisticated project? Check back in two years!