eMouse Smart Cat Toy

Team 13 Mousetronics members: Jonathan Tang, Michael Waecker, Jason Adams, and Aaron Wyand

A foot-long black contraption whirs and spins around on the floor, tempting any cat to chase it that isn’t afraid of a grossly oversized mechanical mouse. Team 13 Mousetronics’s creation, the eMouse is a pet toy that utilizes a sense-and-react system to avoid obstacles and to interest the cat.

The mouse is encased in black fiberglass, with sensors in the front and back instead of the regular head and tail ensemble. These proximity sensors keep the eMouse from bumping into walls or furniture, and from running over hapless cats. The sensors create a 12-inch acoustic bubble around the mouse, which gives the toy reaction time to change direction if an object comes within 12 inches.

“The sensor sends out an acoustic wave and it will receive the echo of it off anything. The time it takes from sending the signal to receiving the signal determines how far away is the object the sound wave is bouncing off of,” said Michael Waecker.

If the sensors are the eyes, the microcontroller is the heart and brain of the mouse, receiving information from the sensor network and sending instructions to the motors.

The mouse has a dual-motor control system for precise turning and a radio frequency device for remote detection. The remote control makes the mouse more user friendly with an on/off switch and a locator noise.

This senior project is more complex than similar commercial products, although the current prototype, at almost $750, would be priced for cats living in the lap of luxury. The team researched other mechanical toys available on the market and found the only other toy mouse, priced around $50, to be a much simpler and smaller model that just ran along the wall. Although bigger, the eMouse is much more sophisticated in design and function. The customer required that the mechanical mouse weigh less than a pound, and run on hardwood and tile floors for at least two hours on rechargeable lithium ion batteries.

“From there we wanted to figure out how we could sense objects, how we could move it around and how we could remotely stop it,” said Jason Adams. If the mouse does not sense any obstacles, it will move around the room semi-randomly.

“If it’s getting really annoying and you want to shut it off, just hit the button and the motor stops running,” said Aaron Wyand. The remote control signal is picked up by a receiver, which in turn alerts the microcontroller. The microcontroller sends a signal to the speaker, which beeps until turned off while halting motion and allowing the user to pick up the mouse. One of the project challenges was to create transmitter and receiver circuits, which could transmit the remote control signal up to 30 feet.

“This was the first time I had ever designed a power supply, so I wasn’t entirely sure what exactly was needed; what was common practice and what was, ‘oh, that was silly, you shouldn’t have done that in the first place’,” said Waecker.

Although the project was a process of trial and error for the team, in the end their working prototype and confident presentation skills won them one of two best presentation awards on ECE Day.