Twitchies are simple robots designed for both cuteness and unpleasantness. I made the first one in 1998 as a simple test program. Even with just a few random number generators the range of emotional effect is pretty remarkable. Later on I added touch sensors, motion capture, capacitive sensors and more, but the central features always remain the same.
Over time I’ve lost count of how many I made. Sometimes I might make one just to kill time. At one point I was selling them as kits through Make Magazine. We sold a few hundred, most of which are out there right now being wiggly, I hope. Not bad for an accidental project!
Twitchies are great for people getting started with microcontrollers. I have a version on my Github account that you can download and try for yourself. It uses an AVR chip and a few servos. The total parts cost is about $20. There’s also an Arduino version, and somewhere in the depths are some PIC versions. Maybe someday I’ll dig up my original Basic Stamp code, but I don’t know if that’s anything the world needs to see.
Some related media:
Me on Japanese TV! I had the host building her own robot, which is pretty cool.
And me giving a little talk on robotics, using my twitchies as a set of moving props.