by Lydia Bugg
A Modern Rogue sees the world for it what it can be. Where some people might see a pile of discarded toys, no longer worthy of a sticky handed mini person’s affection, we see an opportunity for awesomeness. Classic toys have become a playground for hackers who can purchase them for next to nothing at garage sales, Craigslist, or out of the back of a not-at-all suspicious van, and upgrade them to the centerpiece of any rogue’s home.
A Guy Made An Organ Out Of Furbies
You might remember Furby as the toy parents were shanking each other to obtain around Christmas of 1998. Over 40 million of these annoying little robots were sold during the three years of its original production, which has left the Internet millions of opportunities to crush them with a hydraulic press, or cut them in half to see what’s inside.
While less creative people were torturing Furby (because, let's face it, that's fun), YouTuber Sam Battle, also known as "Look Mum No Computer," broke them down only to make them stronger. He made a fully functioning organ out of 44 Furbies, an electronic keyboard and, as he describes it, “A beautiful oak finish that wouldn’t look out of place in your Grandma’s living room.”
Pictured: The 412th layer of Hell.
According to Battle, it took him several years of trawling eBay and rummaging through thrift stores to collect the required 44 Furbies, (plus one to use as a conductor, of course). Then he had to rewire each toy so that it would respond to commands from the keyboard and produce specific notes and vowel sounds. At first they mostly just chanted, “Me Domo, kill me.”
The creativity and technical savvy displayed in the Furby organ is absolutely nuts. Many media outlets profiling the organ have called it “horrifying” or “an abomination” but the music it makes is actually kind of hauntingly beautiful. You should hear it play Ave Maria. It’s just a little heavy on the AAAAAAAAHHHHHHH.
For those of you hoping get a closeup look at this genius device, you’re probably out of luck. Although Battle does tour, he unfortunately built the organ too large to fit through the doorway of the room that it’s in. I hope that room can function as a recording studio, because the world obviously needs the Furby organ to drop a full album. Or at least record some duets with Fergie.
Someone Combined An Amazon Echo With A Big Mouth Billy Bass
Sure, Alexa is cool, but what if instead of your news being delivered by a disembodied robot voice, it was coming out of a novelty wall mounted fish robot? This is the question developer Brian Kane (who we're dubbing "nightmare engineer") posed to the world when he hacked together an Amazon Echo and an old Big Mouth Billy Bass. Welcome to the future friends, it’s full of fish robots.
Back in 2016, shortly after the release of the Echo Dot, Amazon made it easier to embed their smart assistant in third-party hardware. Thankfully, they didn’t specify what hardware you could or could not embed their software in, and nerds of the world apparently took that as a challenge.
A quick trip down the YouTube sinkhole will lead to videos of everyone’s favorite toy to mutilate, Furby Alexa, along with Bearlexa (made from a Teddy Ruxpin), Christmas Tree Alexa, and Skull Alexa, made from a Halloween decoration.
The majority of these projects use Arduino and Raspberry Pi boards, along with the software provided by Amazon to get the toys to interact with the Echo. It’s a pretty complicated process, but you can find detailed directions here if you’re interested in ruining the grace and dignity of Alexa by making her talk out of a Google Home, or something.
A Girl Hacks Her Power Wheels Into An Amphibious Vehicle
Power Wheels are the best toys ever for reminding your children that they are going to die someday. As they get older and heavier, the car gets slower and harder to fit into, until they are discarded like all of your unfulfilled childhood dreams.
Plenty of brave YouTubers purchase old Power Wheels and upgrade the battery to make them go faster, but Mikalah and her Dad went a step further on their YouTube channel "Make Science Fun" and hacked a Power Wheels car into an amphibious vehicle:
They made a ton of modifications to the car, starting with a thorough waterproofing. Then they added some additional buoyancy with spray foam in the under carriage of the vehicle and inside the tires. They also added empty milk cartons for extra floating girth. Next, they installed taller doors to prevent water from leaking over the sides; then balanced the bottom of the car with empty juice containers.
Finally they attached an outboard motor and wired it to the front axle so Mikalah could steer the motor with the car's steering wheel. When they were finished, for the first time ever, a parent said, “Fine drive your car into a lake for all I care,” and really meant it.
"Roads? Where we're going, we don't need roads."
The resulting toy had a little trouble with the transition from land to sea, but once it was successfully in the water, it functioned perfectly well as a boat. I know what you must be thinking: "Wow, there’s nothing cooler than that. Surely this article is over now."
Guys Turn A Hasbro FurReal Friend Into A Fire Breathing Pony
We dare you to watch this video of Butterscotch The Pony, hacked to breathe fire and not hear a death metal cover of the Hall and Oates classic, “You Make My Dreams Come True”. This project is what toy hacking is all about. Taking something beautiful and making it also dangerous.
Fire breathing Butterscotch was an experiment at the 2011 "Maker Faire" in Detroit. The creator first purchased the now discontinued toy off Craigslist for $20 and later picked up a second one for $25 (presumably for fire related reasons).
You can find detailed instructions for making your own fire breathing pony on the only website that uses the sentence, “Before you get into the really fun parts, you will need to skin your pony,” and it’s not weird. This project not only looks awesome, it’s also a great test of a hacker's skills. It requires a ton of modification.
Inside the pony, there are two micro controllers: one in the head, and one in the body that must both be hacked. A Wii remote is used to control the Pony’s motion. The ignition system is an electric grill igniter that’s located just over Butterscotch’s mouth, and a Teflon tube runs fuel from a hole in the bell through its head and out its nose.
Man, if we could animate tattoos ...
For everyone who got freaked out by the video of the Boston Dynamics robot that can open a door, please understand that it’s opening that door for Butterscotch. And Butterscotch is displeased.
A Guy Turns A Mr. Microphone Into A Full-On Spy Device
Most of these toy hacks, while awesome, haven’t been exactly practical. So, what if I told you that a Mr. Microphone toy can be hacked into a pretty awesome spy device?
For those of you who don’t remember, Mr. Microphone was an early 80's toy, marketed to the key demographics of children and perverts. It used a low power FM modulator to play your voice through the radio.
Its first commercial showed a group of children, using it as a lyric-free karaoke machine, and a man driving by a woman in car and yelling, “Hey, good lookin', we’ll be back to pick you up later,” while starring directly at the camera. Which, definitely doesn’t read as a threat.
Today, there’s no need to harass women from a moving vehicle, because the internet exists, so most Mr. Microphones have fallen into disuse. That is until YouTuber KipKay found a way to turn this deviant amplification device into a CIA caliber spy machine.
He took the microphone apart, leaving just the wiry guts. The original microphone is pretty weak, so he upgraded it to a much stronger one. Then he modified the antenna to a more compact, coil antenna and switched from two AA batteries to single, much smaller three volt button cell.
The resulting, more compact device is insanely easy to hide. For his demonstration, he used the case of an air freshener. Then, tuning a radio to the proper Mr. Microphone frequency, he was able to hear what was going on in a room 100 feet away. Man, even when you hack it, Mr. Microphone still works for the pervert demographic.
Like this article? Check out "5 People Who Wanted More From Nintendo (Then Made It Themselves)" and "5 People Who Got Fed Up With Expensive Stuff And Just Built It Themselves".