Where to begin question

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msander
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Where to begin question

Post by msander » Mon Feb 07, 2005 7:40 am

My son is in the first grade. He came home with an assignment to create a "homework machine." I'm not sure if you've ever heard of this. But, basically, its a way to spark the imagination and get kids thinking about... oh, how fun it would be if I only had a machine that did all of my homework for me...<p>So, after talking, he said, I was thinking, this, and this, and this, and this... So, after a quick trip to the local hardware store, and some time in the shop, we put together a little shoe box with roller fed paper with windows, etc. It's cute. But, it got me to thinking.<p>At his level, he's basically working on Math and Spelling. I'm thinking, I should be able to create a "computer" that he talks into and it does an action. For instance, he says, "spell House" and then it spells H-O-U-S-E. Additionally, I should be able to create functionality that says, ok, here are the arithmetic functions it will do... (I'm thinking simple addition, subtraction, multiplication and division - even though he's only currently learning addition and subtraction).<p>So, where do I start? A bit of history. I'm the only NON-Engineer male in my family. I know I could tell my older brother, an Electrical Engineer, by both education and work, and my brother would be like..... Hmmmm. Let me think about this a little bit. Then, 3 weeks later he'd come by and say, hey, you know that question you asked about... I build a prototype.....let me know what you think. But, that's not what I want. I want to 1) learn something for myself, 2) have my son learn and fun in the process, and, 3) hopefully, interest my son in a new hobby.<p>I apologize in advance if this is discussed on another forum. I did search and read the FAQ, but I didn't get a sense about where to begin.<p>Now, I know. It's not going to be as easy as I think. I'm not expecting to read a book, and wala. I'm done. I'm expecting to read a book, buy a beginner kit. Tinker with the beginner kit a while to learn more, then progress to a higher level kit, rinse and repeat. I'm not necessarily asking for help (although, I always welcome genuine help and constructive feedback), but more of a push in the right direction.<p>So. If I've not bored you to death by now, let me describe kind of what I'm thinking. I was envisioning a little box with a LED display on it and a few buttons. One button would be tied to MATH, while another button would be tied to SPELLING. I would preprogram all of his spelling words for the year (or next year, as I'm not sure I'll get this done before the school year ends). Then, I would have my son Train it to associate his voice for each word. After pushing the SPELLING button, and saying, a phrase, or the word, the display would show the word... or, if I could do it, it might even spell it.<p>For the MATH features, I would just thinking my son would say, 1+2 =s and the display would either show whats happening (I.e., 1+2=) then the answer, or, just display the answer. Of course, I think it would be cool if I could get it to say the answer.<p>Let me know where I should start. I've not played with anything electronic in a long, long time.<p>TIA.<p>Michael S.

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jwax
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Re: Where to begin question

Post by jwax » Mon Feb 07, 2005 8:48 am

I'd start by touring and researching every toy store you can find. See what's been done, and modify to fit your specific needs. That alone will provide a challenge for you to "do it yourself", from there.
Speech recognition is no trivial matter, even today. Good Luck!
John

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philba
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Re: Where to begin question

Post by philba » Mon Feb 07, 2005 9:08 am

You might consider using a cheap PC for this. VR comes with some versions of windows and might be a suitable approach.<p>Building a box to do what you want is going to be a big project but not impossible. Still, you are going to re-invent a lot and if you are more interested in the end result, the PC approach may be the best.

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jwax
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Re: Where to begin question

Post by jwax » Tue Feb 08, 2005 3:05 pm

Here you go, Michael S.-
http://www.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtm ... ID=7302872<p>It even talks in different languages.

bridgen
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Re: Where to begin question

Post by bridgen » Tue Feb 08, 2005 5:19 pm

The project which you envisage, Michael S, is a very ambitious one but I don't doubt that if you are really determined you could accomplish it. <p>What I do doubt is the wisdom of something of this complexity.<p>I would hope that the object of it is for your son to learn from it, and not simply to impress an audience with it. <p>If that is the case I would seriously suggest starting simply, with things that your son can read about and understand, and progress from there. <p>One must learn to walk before running.

rshayes
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Re: Where to begin question

Post by rshayes » Wed Feb 09, 2005 2:17 am

In the late 1970's, Texas Instruments sold a toy called the "Little Professor". This was essentially a four function calculator that posed simple arithmetic problems and asked the child for the answer. Price was about 10 dollars.<p>I also seem to remember later toys that did spelling drills, such as speaking a word and then asking the child to spell it on a keyboard. The price may have been around twenty dollars.<p>Speech synthesis is relatively simple, and chips for that have been available since the 1980's. I believe that even Radio Shack sold one for a couple of years.<p>Speech recognition is another can of worms. Some software has been available for this, but it seems to require most of the capacity of a Pentium processor to run and the results may not be entirely satisfactory. The few examples that I have seen required a fair amount of proofreading.<p>I would look in a toy store for the descendants of these earlier toys. They would probably do most of what you want to do at a reasonable cost. They may be hard to find, since they would be considered "educational" toys. These tend to be located in obscure corners behind the more heavily marketed toys that generate large sales volumes.

msander
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Re: Where to begin question

Post by msander » Thu Feb 10, 2005 11:03 am

Thank you for the input. I think the best thing for me to do is to buy a beginning electronics book and start learning.<p>I think after I learn a little more, I'll buy a breadboard. Then, my son and I can have fun learning together.<p>Honestly, I'm more interested in the learning aspects of taking up electronics with my son than I am in the result of any project.<p>Once again, I truly appreciate the input.<p>Michael S.

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