Siri-Controlled Beerbot

Integrated Components
  • Siri (iphone 4S)
  • Twitter API
  • PHP
  • Arduino
  • Remote Control Truck
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What if Apple’s Virtual Assistant could control the physical world?

The week Siri made her delightful debut on the iPhone 4S, we started brainstorming ways to put her to work outside the limited tasks Apple allowed – creating calendar events, locating us on a map, and playing Bassnectar when we ask. Suddenly the Big Idea came into focus: we wanted to assign the virtual assistant a physical-world task. And since we have so many beer lovers in the house, it only made sense to involve that lovely liquid gold in the project.

The Goal

Recognizing the importance of speed to the potential news interests in our idea, we decided to launch our project exactly one week after the iPhone 4s release. Knowing that left us only three days to build the whole thing, we started making quick decisions. We set the goal of getting Siri to pour us a beer, which spawned its apt name: Beeri. We also decided the action itself should be messy and complicated, which is far more entertaining and shareable than practical.

How it Worked

First, we needed to get Siri away from her restrictions and into a more open environment – thus, Twitter. So we taught Siri how to tweet by programming the contact “Tweet Beeri” into an iPhone 4S, which was linked to Beeri’s Twitter handle (@beeribot). With this set-up, we could get Siri to tweet our special phrase simply by saying, “Text Tweet Beeri – Could you pour me a beer?” Then we focused on Beeri herself – an RC truck with a WiFi-enabled gizmo that polled @beeribot’s Twitter stream every 10 seconds for new tweets that contained the word “pour.” When Beeri saw the magic word, she triggered the sequence of preprogrammed pour commands (go, stop, adjust) that control her modified circuit board. She knew to drive straight until her two proximity detectors sensed her moving away from the puncture wall after impact. Then she halted the drive sequence and adjusted to a 6-inch depth in order to get the beer to enter the funnel.

Toast-Worthy Results

Not only did we get the RC truck working right on time – the morning of Siri’s one-week anniversary – but we released the video to a shockingly warm welcome. In the first day alone, Beeri got picked up by tech sites like Mashable, Engadget, and CNET. Over the next few weeks, wider-reaching publications like Business Week and Creativity Online followed suit. In the first three months, Beeri earned $370,000 worth of media coverage and 368,000 views.