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Adafruit Hacks a Teddy Ruxpin for Fun and Profit — and Creepy Glowing Logo Eyes

With the 2017 computerized Teddy Ruxpin toys now well out of warranty, Adafruit is working on freeing them for all.

Gareth Halfacree
9 months agoHW101 / Python on Hardware

Adafruit is working to bring a cybernetic Teddy Ruxpin back from the dead — reprogramming the companion bot to accept new content, beginning with eyes that glow with the Adafruit logo.

"Shhh! The baby is asleep, which means the parents are up hacking baby toys," Adafruit's Phillip Torrone jokes by way of introduction. "Our first step? Parse out the SNXROM file to replace the eye bitmap frames in a 'story file' using python and Pillow. We just replaced em all with [the] Adafruit logo but you could use any 128×128 RGB drawings."

Adafruit is preparing a guide to unlocking the 2017 Teddy Ruxpin re-launch — starting with creepy eye mods. (📹: Adafruit)

The Illiop in question is an updated version of Ken Forsse's original animatronic kids' toy first released in 1985. The cassette tape which combined audio and control data in the left and right channels is long gone, replaced in the 2017 Wicked Cool Toys' redesign by a digital system powered by a microcontroller connected to a speaker, motors, and a pair of display panels behind the bear's eyes.

Adafruit's efforts are based on earlier work carried out by "Zenofex," a member of security group the Exploiteers, detailed in a presentation given at the DEF CON 26 conference. "This presentation aims to show how the new Teddy Ruxpin was reverse engineered down to a very low level in order to create new content," Zenofex promised at the time. "I will reveal the inner workings of the hardware and software within the bear and document the process used to reverse engineer it."

Adafruit's project is built atop reverse engineering work presented by the Exploiteers at DEF CON 26. (📹: DEF CON/The Exploiteers)

Adafruit, for its part, is following along with Zenofex's original presentation with a view to publishing a guide on the Adafruit Learn portal — though, at the time of writing, had only got so far as a Python program to extract and modify eyeball imagery, published on the company's GitHub repository.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire: freelance@halfacree.co.uk.
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