Front Door Interface

January, 2012

I got the idea that I should extend the SARAH interface to the front door to greet people when the ring the doorbell.  I created a new SARAH module just for this, and have it polling the SQL database to watch for a doorbell ring.  When the doorbell is detected, it speaks a greeting depending on the status of the house occupation.  If the house is occupied, SARAH speaks:  “Welcome, someone will be with you shortly”.  If the house is unoccupied, SARAH speaks:  “Sorry, my masters can’t come to the door right now, please come back again later.”

In order to communicate with the people on the doorstep, I needed some powerful, weather-proof speakers.  My brother-in-law introduced me to these really nice looking outdoor speakers that have a flowerpot on top.  The speakers face down so have natural weather protection in addition to special weather sealing.  We put pea gravel and fake flowers in them and they look really nice.   It’s really quite comical to watch the pizza delivery guy flip out when he rings the doorbell and gets a greeting from a robotic-sounding woman.

Other enhancements:

  • In a later version, I have included a feature so SARAH checks the status of the stair lights.  If they are on (i.e. it is dark outside), then she automatically turns on the front door coach lights via X10.
  • I’ve updated the SARAH magic mirror interface to listen for a doorbell ring.  When it rings, it automatically turns on the monitor, and shows a live feed from the video camera mounted in the wall by the front door.  This way, we can see who is at the door before we open it.  The proximity of the SARAH magic mirror to the front door made this pretty easy.
  • I have been trying to add functionality to integrate a microphone to allow visitors to leave a message if desired.  I have this working ok, but it’s not optimal.  Also, I’m having a hard time finding a microphone that will survive outdoors for an extended period of time.  The interface asks the visitor who they are here to visit, and then lets them leave a message.  When we return home, Watchdog will greet us and offer to play back the recorded messages if any were left while we were out.  Hopefully I’ll have time to work on this feature more in the near future.

Pictures:

Picture2  SARAH front door interface module

Picture1  A picture of the flower pot-speaker on my front door step.  There’s one on each side of the door.

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