Up, not North

Portal turret plushie

When I finally got around to playing Portal, I was a bit surprised at how much the Internet loved the companion cube. Sure, the cube is pretty great, but in my mind it pales in comparison to the turrets, the real scene-stealers of the game. In fact, they inspired a Veruca Salt-esque covetousness in me.

I wanted one.


And, of course, it just wouldn’t be the same if it didn’t talk…

With the excitement of Portal 2 coming out, and in collaboration with Leigh Nunan, I finally was able to get my turret. Or, rather, to make it.

We’ve named her Trudi. Judging by her head-to-body ratio, Trudi’s a baby turret.


  • Authentic game dialogue
  • Motion detector, so it knows when you’re there and when you’ve left
  • Pressure sensor, so it knows when you’ve picked it up
  • Tilt sensor, so it knows when you’ve knocked it over
  • LED light-up eye
  • Exaggerated features for extra adorableness

I can barely hem a pair of pants, so I’m certainly not skilled enough to design and make a plush toy. Fortunately, I was introduced to Leigh Nunan; amongst other things, Leigh has created an incredible giant squid plushie that’s about twice as large as I am. Leigh both designed the turret pattern and sewed it together (which, to me, is essentially magic).

Here’s the Terminator-esque skeleton of the electronics and supporting framework.

The structure is made from heavy-gauge copper wire, a laser-cut platform, and hot glue. It may not be pretty, but it gets the job done. Internally, the electronics are housed in a plastic cup to keep them separate from the stuffing (thanks for the suggestion, Adam Smith!).

As much as we’d love to make you one or sell you a kit, the last time I suggested doing something like that I was very quickly disuaded. So, if anyone from Valve sees this and wants to talk about giving us permission, or at least turning a blind eye, please get in touch! Otherwise, sorry: you’ll have to make your own. Information about the electronics are provided below. The pattern is still a work-in-progress, but once Leigh’s ready I’ll post that here, too.


The circuit is made of:

If I make more, I’ll use something like a BBB instead of an Arduino to keep costs down, but I used what I had handy.

The Passive Infrared sensor detects changes, so it can give a lot of false positives and false negatives; in the future I might try an IR rangefinder instead, but they come with their own problems.

I’m particularly proud of the “lift” sensor: it’s just a little button on the bottom of one of the legs. The weight of the plushie keeps it pressed when it’s standing up.

The LEDs are completely independent of the rest of the electronics. In a future version I’ll have them controlled by the Arduino, so I can fade them out when the plushie is knocked over.

If you’d like, you can download the code. I wrote a function to randomly play a sound file from a given directory, and then tied a directory to each event. It’s not quite as simple as “event triggers sound”: it only places a “tipped over” event if it’s also “lifted,” after being righted it plays an “activated” sound before resuming normal behaviour, etc. All it all, the interactivity works pretty well (if I say so myself).

What’s next?

There are, of course, many little improvements that both Leigh and I want to make to our respective parts of the design. There will be at least one more revision, because we both want to have one to keep, so we’ll have a chance to incorporate things we’ve learned from this first version.

As mentioned above, I’d like to have the LEDs controlled by the Arduino, so that they can fade out when the turret “shuts down.” I’d also like to add in an additional amplifiers, to allow a wider range of volumes, and make the controls a little more accessible: right now you need to reach inside the turret to turn it on and off, which, in additional to being inconvenient, feels a little wrong.

Over at Site 3, my friend Dana Sarafinchan is working on a life-sized Turret replica. I think once that’s done we’re going to work on making it fully functional: not just sensors and sounds, but opening side panels and perhaps even throwing some Nerf or Airsoft guns in there.

As always, if you’re interested in seeing what comes next, you can subscribe to my RSS feed.

§ 223 Responses to “Portal turret plushie”

  • Michael says:

    No don’t worry about nerf darts, just get some blinking leds, that would be cool. Or possibly some lasers, but that would be dangerous.

  • Ajamedor says:

    “Who are you?!” would be nice too!

    I’d purchase one of them as well as the DEFECTIVE TURRETs if you made them too! They’re hilarious!

  • Richard says:

    I found a pack for the turret of portal 2 here: http://www.fileplanet.com/219751/download/Portal-2—Turret-Sound-Pack

    Hope it gives you more idea for your second version. I wait for it to try it myself.

  • Pejeno says:

    Holy crap! I don’t know what ‘Portal’ is, but that was one of the coolest things I’ve seen :D


  • Orkchop says:

    OMG That is soooo cool!

  • Jason says:


  • Vlad Afanasyev says:

    hey guys i really wanna buy it. does it possible? please, answer. u’ve done it amazing

  • James Angell says:

    I want one… Will pay $$$!

  • Simon Godbout says:

    I need to buy this ASWELL !

  • Tiberis1221 says:

    Wow, i would really love one… maybe if you ask Valve Nicely they would allow u the license… ^^
    Ever since the Turret commercial from Cave Johnson appeared i wanted one :D

  • Meeks says:

    I need one of these in my life. I would totally buy one. Not kidding.

  • Ash says:


  • Vertigo says:


  • civicman says:

    you need to make it so 2 will interact. “excuse me” “coming through!” that and corrupt turrets.

  • Clayaxe The Destroyer says:

    Like many others, I will buy one if your making them for sale at any point.

  • Konstantin says:

    I really wanna buy it.
    Can you answer me on email?
    I`m from russia, wanna buy it too much

  • Fred says:

    What’s wrong with you people wanting absolutely to BUY one. Are you incapable of doing any basic manual work? Even when provided relevant technical details?

    Instead of waving your money like passive consumers, why don’t you use all the info Jonathan is kindly providing you, and make one yourselves.

    Buying the parts is simple.
    Using a soldering iron is simple.
    Programming an Arduino with the program provided by Jonathan is easy.
    There’s no complicated mechanical parts.

    The plushie part is more tricky, but I’m sure grandma can help. That’s a great occasion for intergenerational skill sharing :)

    You REALLY want a Portal Turret Plushie? Work for it!

    • asadajack14 says:

      i agree with the fred person, but because i dont have the time to make it or the money to buy the materials needed i would like to buy onr in the future. at least i gave a reason

    • Jalmos says:

      Unfortunately some of us don’t have a grandma or someone else who can make the plushie part.

      I agree that outright refusal to do some very, very simple electronics work is a bit much, but Betsy Ross I am not, so buying at least that portion is my only option.

    • Dra says:

      Shoot, the sewing’s the tricky part? I’d never even heard of an Arduino before this post!

  • Famine says:

    Your code is very well commented, easy to follow! Thanks for providing it. Great Job!

  • MKM says:

    You seriously need to think about massproducing these things.
    We love it.
    Steam will love it.
    You’ll love the money.
    It’s a win win win situation bro’s.

  • Dr.jebus says:

    Take my money away so that I can has that thing you make!

  • Kilo says:

    Do want! Very do want! I would totally purchase.

  • Toby van den Brand says:

    Hi, I’m totally planning on building it myself, but i’ll need the blueprint on what part to connect to where on the arduino and did you already write a code for the leds? If so could i maybe have that as well? Would be totally super awesome…

    • The code comments contains all the connections you need to know.

      I haven’t written any code for the LEDs yet, and it will require a (slightly) more complicated circuit. If/when I create that, I’ll post about how to do it.

  • Vinny says:

    I’m trying to build one with a friend of mine and I had a couple of questions,which arduino board did you use? This would be my first time using one and I wanted to make sure I got it right!

    Also, if we went with the BBB, would the code you wrote still work?

    Thanks and if we get ours working we’ll be sure to send a quick video!

    • I used an Arduino Uno, because it’s what I had handy, but any Arduino that uses an ATMEGA328 should work with the same code. If you’ve never used Arduino before, I recommend sticking with the Uno.

      Good luck!

  • Jesa says:

    I would definitely buy a turret plushie. Someone suggested making a defective turret plushie as well, and I would definitely buy one of those, too.

  • I wish you actually sold these, I’d definately buy one!

  • Personsen says:

    OMFG I want one so bad!!! D:

  • Raven says:

    Omg, steam REALLY needs to see this, its adorable! I want one soooo bad! I would so set that next to my pc at work….ha! my workstation is secure now! XD

  • Vince says:

    Thanks for this! You’re awesome, I swear. :)

    I’ll try and have a go at it myself sometime.

  • Kayla says:

    I think if you could mass produce these things you would make a lot of portal fans very happy, especially me. I might be able to sew the plushie part but everything else you said on making the electronics sounds like Greek to me. Please look into making many many more of these!

  • Logomorph says:

    can you post the wiring diagram?:D

  • Jess says:

    HOLY CRAP MASS PRODUCE THESE NOW!!!! Seriously, name your price. That is so many kinds of awesome. WANT IT WANT IT WANT IT!!!!!
    No but really, name your price.

  • Barclay says:

    My husband and I want to jointly make one. I could figure out the pattern for the plushie, but it would be *easier* if Leigh’s pattern could be posted somewhere. Any word on when this might be available? Thanks!

    All you peeps wanting to buy one, if you have half the skills (either the sewing or the arduino), you should just find somebody with the other half to do a joint project together! Make two at once: It’s hardly any additional work!

  • Steini says:

    there should be something that will trigger
    “ouch, ouch! it burns!” but i dont know what it would be :P a sudden change in temperature?

  • Nicolas says:

    Sell the idea to Valve, become a millionnaire and make millions of happy gamers. This is your destiny.

    • Valve owns the character and the recordings, so they don’t need to buy anything from us if they decide they want to make them. However, I’d be thrilled if they’d like to involve us in some way. Just waiting to hear from them.

  • Insanekitten says:

    This is super cool. Love what you done here and love Portal, (and P2 for that matter) and yes, those poor turrets are totally under-loved… Well at least they were until I guess that commercial came along.

    I was wondering, though I suppose it is a bit more costly, if maybe a Gorillapod could be used for the legs? http://joby.com/gorillapod

    Typically plushies I’ve encountered have this type of build (I don’t even know what to call those…joints?) for that extra level of sturdiness and flexibility.

    It would be maybe also interesting to create a turret that has video capabilities, sorta like those stuffed animal Nannycams?…’Cause you know, turrets and babies go hand in hand.

    I’m definitely going to look into collaborating with someone…even though I lack a sewing machine I do have some basic sewing know-how. The electrical work may be a bit more tricky for me, but I can find someone for that.

    Thanks for sharing part of the plans for such an awesome toy! Looking forward to seeing the plush patterns so I can get started.

    PS – You can find me on Steam with this name!

  • Alicia says:


    Holy crap that is so awesome. I understand you can’t sell them, but damn I really want one…

    I can sew but all the technical stuff is gibberish to me. Do you think it’s possible to make this if I have all the materials and a lot of dedication? :P Or should I just give up already? :(

    • I definitely think it’s possible to make it, but you will need to learn how to solder, and some basic electronics. Fortunately, there’s lots of help on the internet for those things. Also, look into whether there’s a hackerspace near you (you can check on http://hackerspaces.org). Hackerspaces are clubs where people who like to tinker get together to build things. If there’s one nearby, go on their open house night and ask for help!

      • Alicia says:

        Not afraid to learn, needed to learn to solder anyway, to make my SNES run on 60hz instead of 50hz…

        Thanks for the link by the way, I work in Amsterdam and there seem to be quite a lot of hackerspaces there!

  • madox says:

    Hey man, this is simply amazing! I managed to find the sounds you refer to, have read up on and ordered an Arduino, and actually convinced the wife to make the plushie. I hope it looks as good as yours.

    Can you recommend any good places in Toronto to get the other componants from? I don’t know if Active is still any good.

    • I sure can: Creatron, at College and Spadina. Lawrence and Mary run the place, and it’s a treasure. Tell them Jonathan sent you, they know me there.

      If you’re in Toronto, you should stop by Site 3 on one of our open house nights, every Thursday starting around 7 (although this coming Thursday probably isn’t a good time, because it’s the night before MakerĀ Faire Toronto).

  • marvelgirl2010 says:

    OMG! Please let me buy one! Please!

  • dlausactor6373 says:

    Shut up and take my money!

  • Vaughn Saball says:

    Jonathan, I am very interested in making one of these guys out of fiberglass and incorporating the movements of the side doors as well, is there any way I could get you to correspond with me via email?
    My models will be full size and I would GLADLY give you one for your help.

  • Gary Bottom says:

    This is an awesome project, I hope you’ve inspired lots of people to try to tinker with their own! I certainly can already see a few hundred dollars going into my Turret creation account. Now just how to figure out how to attach two mini airsoft guns to it and fill the inside with ammo to feed into it…

  • Alex says:

    This is going to be my summer project. I’m pretty sure I can do all the electronic stuff, but the sewing is going to be the hard part for me. Thank god I have some people who can give me pointers with that type of thing, and I can start with a few plus “prototypes.” I believe the turret is just a big egg with piping around the sides, and the black piping in the middle to cover the seam. :D

  • Michos says:

    ogmygod you are so awesome.

  • Izzzie says:

    This is amazing. When I get up some more courage with wiring, I will definitely give this a try. Please let us know when you redo the code to include the LED lights! :)

  • Vega says:

    This is soo cute.
    Want one too :D

  • Joseph says:

    I think you should petition Valve with the plushy idea and get the rights to sell these, or at least sell them the blueprints. There could be a lot of money in this idea

    • If Valve wants to make something like this, they don’t need any permission from me: I’ve made all the schematics available, and the intellectual property is already theirs.

      I’ve written to both Valve and ThinkGeek about it, but I have yet to hear back. I doubt I will, to be honest, but it sure would be nice!

  • Gerlof says:


  • Thomas says:

    Hmm don`t see any place to buy one, awww :|

  • Wesley Cai says:

    Hi, I’m looking into making a turret myself but am unfamiliar with arduino. I wanted to first download a SPICE program and software that simulates the arduino processor. Is there any that you recommend? I looked into VirtualBreadBoard, AVR Simulator, and Proteus VSM, but I’m really not sure which is the best. Please help!!! Thanks!

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