Programming robots like you would train a pet

[Jim] has been working with a team from various Universities to develop an intuitive way to guide and train assistance robots. They focused on one particular technique, training a robot to follow on a leash in the same way you would a pet dog (PDF).

He was inspired to send in a link to his research after reading about the Kinect-powered shopping card robot. He figures that that project is similar to his own, but his does have several added benefits. The first being that if a robot is on a leash, everyone knows who that bot is following or assisting. But there is the added benefit of the user needing no training whatsoever. That’s because the act of walking a dog on a leash is commonplace in developed societies; you may not have ever owned a dog, but you’ve seen others walking them on leashes numerous times and could do so yourself without any training.

The leash connects to a sensor-filled turret in the center of the robot’s body. The bot can sense when, and in which direction the user is pulling the leash. There’s also an emergency kill switch on the handle for added functionality. Take a look at some of the test video after the break to see how quickly humans can adapt to this type of user interface.

[Read more...]

Canon A70 CCD replacement/repair

Looking for an underwater camera setup, [Imsolidstate] picked up a Canon A70 and a Canon water-tight housing on eBay for around $45. Unfortunately the camera arrived with a non-functioning CCD. Another trip to the online auction site landed him a replacement CCD which he set about installing.

We have this exact model of camera with a cracked LCD display. Being that we like to hack around on things we’ve pulled it apart in order to replace the screen and believe us, there’s no extra room inside that thing. The video after the break shows the teardown, and you can see what a pain it is to get the unit apart. That process in only eclipsed in difficulty by the reassembly itself.

In the end it wasn’t a problem with the CCD itself, but with the connector on the PCB that received the flat cable. It wasn’t holding the contacts tight, but [Imsolidstate] fixed that with a strategically placed piece of foam.

[Read more...]

Shop lighting: weighing cost and efficiency

[Ben Krasnow] wanted to upgrade his shop lighting but before he made any decisions he decided to educate himself about the options that are out there. Luck for us, he shares the facts about different lighting in terms of cost and efficiency.

His old setup uses fluorescent light fixtures with T12 bulbs. These are rather bulky and inefficient bulbs. Many folks, ourselves included, would think of LED as a logical replacement. [Ben] started by looking into the various high-intensity LED modules that are available. He grabbed a catalog and started doing a couple of different calculations to compare Lumens/dollar for the upfront cost, and Lumens/Watt for the operational costs. Hands down, newer fluorescent bulbs come in cheaper on both counts and provide a wider spectrum of light.

The next decision was between purchasing the newer T5 bulbs which are rated at very high efficiencies, or to go with T8 bulbs which are better than the T12 standard but can use the same fixtures. After doing some digging he found that T5 is not much more efficient than T8, but they use an electronic ballast to boost efficiency. He ended up replacing his old magnetic ballasts with electronic ones to get high T8 efficiency at a cost that was lower than buying new T5 fixtures.

See [Ben's] own recount of this process in the clip after the break.

[Read more...]

Help 2600 Magazine Compile a List of Dates for their Hacker Calendar!

2600, the magazine familiar to many as a preeminent hacking quarterly, is publishing a calendar. While, according to the 2600 site, most calendars only mark holidays, 2600 intends to “provide as complete a guide to milestones in the hacker world as humanly possible.” Not an easy task considering that, depending on your definition, hacking could extend to the discovery of fire, or at least the wheel.

2600 gives some examples in which they only list events back to March 3, 1885, when AT&T was founded.  If this example is followed, that “only” gives one 126 years to work with, but compiling a full list of hacking dates is still a daunting task. If you can think of any dates worthy of consideration, email them to: calendar@2600.com.  We think maybe September 5th, 2004 might be a notable date to include. We’ll leave it up to figure out what that date is, in case it wasn’t painfully obvious.

Build your own panoramic pinhole camera

panoramic_pinhole_cam

While it seems that the digital camera is king, some people still love shooting with good old 35mm film – [Costas Kaounas], a high school teacher and photographer certainly does. He recently published plans for a great-looking 35mm pinhole camera over at DIY photography that we thought you might enjoy.

[Costas] put together a set of simple hand-drawn plans for the camera, that you can easily replicate with a bit of free time. The camera is built mostly from card stock, both in 1mm and 3mm flavors, also incorporating popsicle sticks and an aluminum can. The popsicle sticks are used to create a manual shutter for the camera, while the pop can is used to form the pinhole aperture.

It’s a pretty simple hack as you can see, with nary an electronic part to be found. It will take you a bit of time to construct however, since you’ll need to let the glue dry between certain steps.

Love it or leave it, you’ve got to admit that the panoramic shots it takes are pretty nice!

If we’ve piqued your interest in pinhole cameras, be sure to check out this Lego pinhole camera as well as this beer can pinhole camera.

[via Lifehacker]

Two Kinects Plus One HD Projector Makes the Coolest “Snowglobe” Ever

Looking for something to replace the flat screen display that was amazing in your house ten years ago?  How about a circular display similar to a snowglobe (crystal ball?) that will display the image you are watching correctly no matter at what angle you view it.

This amazing student project from Queens University combines elements that many hackers are familiar with, including: Kinect sensors, a 3-D projector, and a giant acrylic sphere.  Actually, most people have never worked with a giant acrylic sphere, but they look like fun.  Check out the video after the break. [Read more...]

Amazing 3d telepresence system

encumberance_free_telepresence_kinect

It looks like the world of Kinect hacks is about to get a bit more interesting.

While many of the Kinect-based projects we see use one or two units, this 3D telepresence system developed by UNC Chapel Hill student [Andrew Maimone] under the guidance of [Henry Fuchs] has them all beat.

The setup uses up to four Kinect sensors in a single endpoint, capturing images from various angles before they are processed using GPU-accelerated filters. The video captured by the cameras is processed in a series of steps, filling holes and adjusting colors to create a mesh image. Once the video streams have been processed, they are overlaid with one another to form a complete 3D image.

The result is an awesome real-time 3D rendering of the subject and surrounding room that reminds us of this papercraft costume. The 3D video can be viewed at a remote station which uses a Kinect sensor to track your eye movements, altering the video feed’s perspective accordingly. The telepresence system also offers the ability to add in non-existent objects, making it a great tool for remote technology demonstrations and the like.

Check out the video below to see a thorough walkthrough of this 3D telepresence system.

[Read more...]

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