One-eyed, one-armed metal rolling Roomba robot

roomba_robot

[Erik] was looking for a sturdy robotics platform and was initially considering the iRobot Create, until he found that he could score a Roomba Discovery series for a fraction of the price. The Discovery includes a battery, which is missing from the iCreate, though it also has all of the standard vacuum bits included as well.

He immediately removed all of the vacuum parts once he got his hands on the Roomba, and began adding the support structure to house the rest of his robot’s components. The robot is controlled via a small laptop which sits on top of the Roomba’s base, and features a panning and telescoping webcam to provide feedback to the operator.

The robot has been under construction for a little over a year now, and has had a few upgrades over that time. The original laptop was swapped out for a newer dual-core model, and the webcam was upgraded to a model featuring motion tracking. The whole thing has been skinned in thin sheet metal for a sleek look, and he has added a servo-driven arm as well.

The project is not quite complete, and he hasn’t really stated what he plans on using the robot for, but it looks good so far – we can’t wait to see it when it’s finished.

A breakout board for your Android phone

[sparkfun] announced a new board called the IOIO (pronounced “yo-yo”) this week that allows communication from your Android devices to your upcoming projects.

The board hasn’t been released yet; [sparkfun] is still pulling together documentation and waiting on their first production run. We do know that the board contains a PIC24F MCU, and will give your phone analog input,  and Digital I/O, PWM, I2C, SPI, and UART control. Communication with the board is over the USB port on your phone.

The brilliant thing about this board is that an external programmer isn’t required. Everything you connect to this board can be controlled from within Android apps. We covered Android development in a hackaday tutorial series before, so now it’s possible to put these skills to give your projects a touch screen, internet and bluetooth connections, a camera, or your phone’s accelerometers. Very slick.

Video of some basic functions demonstrating what possible with this board after the jump, but feel free to comment and tell us what you’d like to see done with this board.

Sticky sweet animatronic Peep show

peeps_peep_show

With Easter quickly approaching, [Kyle] decided to finally build a project that is as tasty as it is wrong.

Behold, the Animatronic “Peep” show! Using nearly a dozen marshmallow Peeps, he constructed a stage for his “performers” and a seating area for their “clients”. The structure was built mostly from balsa wood and foamboard, featuring a retractable curtain, stage lighting, and music.

Once triggered, the embedded Arduino gets to work animating the stage lights and blaring “Cherry Pie” while the sugar-coated onlookers await their entertainment. The curtain is drawn back and a trio of winged dancers emerge one by one, ready to entertain the crowd.  The onlookers even offer up dollar bills to the dancers via a servo-mounted arm.

The project uses a total of 10 servos driven by the Arduino, along with an audio decoder chip to provide the proper ambiance for the marshmallow debauchery. [Kyle] says that he put together about 650 lines of code to get the whole thing running, but there doesn’t seem to be any way to download it at the moment – hopefully we’ll see something posted soon.

It might not be high-brow, but it sure beats blowing up old, stale Peeps in the microwave!

Stick around for a trio of videos demonstrating the Peep show as well as revealing some of the stage’s inner workings.

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Geiger counter built in an Ohmmeter enclosure

Here’s a Geiger Counter that makes itself at home inside of an old Ohmmeter (translated). [Anilandro] set out to built this radiation detector in order to learn how they work. Like other diy Geiger Counter builds we’ve seen, this project assembles a circuit to interface with a gas-filled tube which serves as the detector. [Anilandro] takes a few paragraphs to discuss how this works; the Geiger tube is basically a capacitor whose electrical characteristics change as an ionizing particle passes through it.

Once he had the theory worked out he scavenged some parts to use. A broken emergency light donated its transformer to provide the high voltage needed. The rest of the circuit was built on some protoboard, and a speaker was added to output the clicking noises that have become a familiar part of the detector hardware. The tube itself is housed in a wand that attaches to the base unit through a cable. Check out some test footage of the finished unit after the break.

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Shift register is all it takes to make a 3-wire serial LCD

This hack is a bit older, but one aspect of the setup makes it worth sharing. Shift registers are a common component to include in a project when you need to increase the number of I/O pins available. We’ve used them to drive LCD screens before, but we never realize you could use a 595 chip to make a 3-wire serial LCD interface. That’s because we’ve always thought of shift registers as having three control pins which must be addressed: data, clock, and latch. But it seems that’s not the case. This hack gangs the pins for clock and latch (called the storage register clock input on this chip) together. This causes the shifted data to be latched to output register one clock cycle after it is shifted into the chip.

This means you can operate the 595 chip with just two pins, but alas, you do need one more connection to drive the LCD properly. This is an HD44780 compliant display. It is being used in 4-bit mode; four of the shift register pins provide that data, while a fifth controls the Register Select pin. Since the shifted data from the 595 appears on the pins after each clock strobe, you must control the Enable pin on the LCD separately or it will behave sporadically.

So there you have it, control an HD44780 display with just 3-pins by using a $0.42 part. Are we going a little too fast for you? Check out this 595 tutorial and give the shift register simulator a try. That should bring you up to speed.

[Thanks Rajendra]

Art installation lets you be your own Souvenir

3d_souvenir_printer

The team at [blablabLAB] have been hard at work on their latest project, which they unleashed on the streets of Barcelona in the La Rambla pedestrian mall. Their art installation allows you to pose in the middle of the mall and receive a plastic statue of yourself as a souvenir.

Not unlike the “Fabricate Yourself” installation we saw a short time ago, this project also uses the Kinect to create a 3D representation of the subject, though it uses three separate sensors rather than just one. Each sensor is positioned around a centralized platform, creating a complete 3D model, which is then sent to a RapMan 3D printer stationed nearby.

Each user is then gifted a plastic representation of themselves to take home – it’s almost like an interactive human Mold-A-Rama. While the figures are neat, it would be great to see what sorts of plastic statues could be made using a higher resolution 3D printer like the one we featured a week ago.

Check out the video below to see the souvenir printer in action.

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Hacking Electronic Price Tags

Something new is coming to a store near you: electronic price tags. [deadbird] decided to get one and see what makes it tick. First off it just looks like an LCD with some coin batteries and a simple board, but removing the batteries it was found that the text still appeared on the screen meaning its an E-Ink display.

Close examination of the chips on board shows that this model has an ATMEL ATMEGA16L, and a ATMEL952 25128AN (a 128k eprom with SPI interface), which makes this thing possible to bend to ones will. Also, dumping the eprom with an Arduino gets everyone a bit closer to decoding the instructions this thing needs to display its graphics, similar to the HP VFD hack we posted about not too long ago.

We have not seen these yet in our local shops, but give it time and it is bound to start popping up in our favorite surplus locations soon enough.

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