Outerspace: reactive robotics

While Outerspace may not have an extremely useful function, being an art installation, we really enjoyed reading through the build information. Basically, Outerspace is supposed to appear to be curious, exploring it’s surroundings and reacting to your contact. We do enjoy a little bit of personality in robots, so this seems like it could be fun. ┬áThe head has 5 photo sensors and each piece of the “arm” has capacitive sensors. This allows Outerspace to sense what is going on. The motion itself is controlled by 4 servos in the base pulling cables that run through the body.

The programming seems like it could use a little work to achieve the effect of being “curious”, but we see potential here. You can see a video of it in action here.

[via today and tomorrow]

Look ma, no wires

[Robotkid249] details how to build a wireless power transmission system. This is similar to the commercial applications we have seen in a TED talk as well is in a Sony prototype. Power is fed to a ring made of magnet wire. A smaller loop is attached to the system that you want to power and picked up from the base unit. In this case, he is powering some LEDs but the concept can be tailored for your purposes such as an inductive charging pad. We’d like to see a hack that incorporates the base into a mouse pad (or the desk itself) and the receiver into the body of a wireless mouse. We’ve seen a commercial solution along these lines but we want one that doesn’t require a physical connection for power transfer.

[Thanks Juan]

PIC powered AVR programmer

[Texane] wrote in to let us know he has implemented AVR ISP programming using a PIC microcontroller. He wrote some code for an 18F4550 that uses the STK500 standard for In System Programming. This means that his hardware is compatible with AVRdude, the open source AVR programming software. There has long been an argument over the virtues of PIC versus AVR but we say why not both? If you have already honed your programming chops with PIC, you can build your own programmer and give the Atmel family a try.

The current implementation uses a serial port to connect the programmer to a computer. Keep your eye on this one as [texane] plans to add USB connectivity and has told us he will post schematics for the device as soon as that is complete.

Argh, thar be a big wheel

If you’re marooned on a desert island, you want to have a Professor who can build useful items out of coconuts. [LostMachine] is one of those guys, and he’s currently building a land-loving pirate ship. The wacky vehicle will use the giant wheel above to propel the vessel while the captain sits comfortably in the lofty crow’s nest. A crack-pot concept? Not really, he plans to take this to Burning Man where it will be a fairly useful build compared to the folks who have really gone off the deep end.

The story here is the build quality. Take some time to watch his videos which we’ve embedded after the break. In the first, he details his method for creating a precisely level building surface on top of his uneven driveway. This is accomplished by welding supports in a circle that are level compared to the center point. He goes on to share his liquid-cooling system for cutting the pipe supports with a custom-built jig and an old windshield washer water system pump from an RV (second video). The final video shows the construction of the wheel which came in with 2000 welds and about 250-300 hours of construction time.

If you hadn’t guessed, [LostMachine] is a structural engineer. Unfortunately he was laid-off this spring which has put a damper in his building schedule. We hope that with a quality project like this in his portfolio a new job is just around the corner for him.

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