Farm hacking: 7 amazing corn mazes

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If there’s one thing we’ve got a LOT of here in America, it’s corn. In the past few years Corn Mazes have become a wildly popular fall activity for all ages. We’ve enjoyed many ourselves and part of what we like about them is that they’re a hack. Whether made by the farmer down the road or a professional company most now use GPS to ensure a fun, challenging, and cool looking corn maze.

We spoke with [Scott Skelly] who owns Corn Mazes America, read the interview after the break. [Read more...]

Dean Kamen’s prosthetic arm

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60 minutes has covered [Dean Kamen]‘s modular robotic arm.  This thing is light weight, adjustable for different body frame sizes, modular, and eventually thought controlled. The system is currently functioning quite well, as you can see in the video. Current testers are controlling it with buttons under their toes, but the thought control is in the later stages of development. Sounds like science fiction right? You can see a monkey using a thought controlled arm to feed itself grapes, though we don’t think it is [Dean]‘s arm.

Another cool feature of this arm is the fact that it changes its grip on your body depending on how much weight you are lifting. Lift something heavy and it grips harder.  Though it has a lot of the same information, there is a little bit of different footage in [Dean]‘s TED talk about the arm.

It seems to us, with microcontrollers becoming so cheap and accessible that we should be seeing more home made contraptions in this area. Are any of you working with prosthetics?

Multi-camera rig makes trees say cheese

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[Nick Nichols] set out to take a photograph of a full redwood tree. Here’s the catch, these redwoods are over 300 feet tall and they’re not just standing in the middle of a vast desert. If the photo is taken from a distance, you will only capture the top part of these majestic beauties. How can you take the shot from close up? Build a custom rig to take multiple shots and stitch them together for a composite photo.

[Nichols] built the rig to hold three cameras focused to the left, middle, and right of the tree. The frame includes a gyroscope to keep the cameras steady. By lowering the cameras from the top to the bottom of the redwood they were able to capture 84 pictures to assemble the final shot. The result is featured in the October edition of National Geographic magazine. We’ve included the final picture and embedded a video of the rig in action after the break. [Read more...]

Arduino powered singing table

This musical Lazy Susan, or “Crazy Adam” was brought to us by students from MIT.  It basically plays [Soul II Soul]‘s “Back to Life”  as it turns.  In their words: “Through the interaction with the Singing Lazy Susan, we found the eating patterns and behaviors unique to each person, which reflect our personalities and interests. The dining experience expands to a new domain.”  Are we the only ones who think this is silly? Not only is an Arduino overkill for this, how does this help reflect our personalities and interests? We know, someone will say that art doesn’t need to make sense, but  this would just get annoying really fast. Good job coming up with an idea and making it happen. Please don’t bring that to our next office party. It is also worth noting that musical Lazy Susans aren’t exactly a new idea.

Pick-and-place Lego prototyping

[Ned] tipped us off about his project for a class at Carnegie Mellon. Utilizing a Denso 6-AOF robotic arm they have built a rapid prototyping machine that uses Lego as the building material. LDraw, the open standard Lego CAD program, is used to build a model which is then translated into MATLAB files that the robotic arm can use for placement commands. Right now pieces need to be placed on a template for the robot to find and pick up.

It’s great that Lego pieces are used because they are readily available and inexpensive, but this type of precision robot makes the project unattainable for most tinkerers. Still, the concept is interesting and we could see an end goal being a more widely available machine. It’s not too much of a leap to image a RepRap type machine that takes internal measurements of a circuit board and the components, calculates inside case dimensions, then builds a prototype enclosure from common Lego pieces.

Laser triggered photography

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Popped balloons or bullets fired into apples, anyone can photograph with a quick sound based camera rig. Lasers have been used forever in motion detection. And even door bell chimes have been used before for remote camera shutter releases. No, [SaskView] wanted to go further and created his Laser Triggered High-Speed Photography setup, to photograph (of all things) milk splashes. We liked the simplicity of the project however;  requiring no programmed microchips or overly complicated circuitry – rather he took a quick trip to the local dollar shop, used the amazing CHDK firmware, and he produced perfect results every time.

[Update: CHDK, not CHKD firmware. My mind must be elsewhere. Thanks jbot and agent smith]

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