Computer engineering student Andrew Gray built a small, robotic car for his pet African grey parrot to keep him from “constantly screaming.”
“It’s as simple as that,” Gray told ABC News. “We’ve had our parrot, Pepper, for 10 to 11 years, and I wanted to come up with a solution to all the noise. Nothing was working.”
Gray, a 29-year-old University of Florida graduate student, says when he came home on leave from the Navy, he took about a month to come up with an invention.
First, he built a sound-activated squirt gun that sprayed water on Pepper every time he squawked.
“Eventually it became a bird bath,” Gray said. “Pepper would start making noise just to get sprayed.”
Next, Gray built a remote-controlled drum that would rattle every time there was loud noise in the room.
“After the third or fourth day, it was just a norm to the bird and became even more noise in the room,” Gray said.
Finally, he came up with a solution.
“I realized the bird needed to be around people constantly. He just needed to be in the same room,” Gray said. “So I built the Bird Buggy.”
The Bird Buggy is a robotic car that allows Pepper to cruise around the house at ease, all with a four-way, beak-operated joystick.
The car is electric, with powered wheels in front and casters in the rear. In addition to the joystick, the car can be switched into robotic mode, seeking out its charging station by computer vision.
There are even sensors in the front of the car to prevent Pepper from hitting anything.
“He knows how to drive, forwards, backwards, left and right,” Gray said. “He loves his new toy.”
Gray built the model around the measurements of a folded-up newspaper, so Pepper could feel as though he were still in his cage.
He said that while perhaps the invention will help restore his sanity, he hopes it will pay off in other ways.
“It was just an experiment that will maybe get me a job down the road,” Gray said.