Slick robot with tank treads can move every which way

omnicrawler

It’s always interesting to see new and innovative means of robot locomotion. At the recent “Innovation Japan 2011” conference researchers from Osaka University unveiled the Omni-Crawler, which is aimed at changing the way both robots and people move.

The Omni-Crawler’s movement is provided by Omni-Balls, an Osaka University creation that moves in all directions, not unlike a swivel caster. The Omni-Ball is simpler and sturdier in design however, making it far more robust than its office chair counterpart.

Several of these Omni-Balls are attached to the crawler, and wrapped in a rubber tank tread like gripper material. The resultant motion is predictably omnidirectional, though we’re guessing you figured that out already thanks to Osaka University’s naming conventions.

While we’re not sure this technology will be making it into production cars any time soon, we would certainly be OK with having an RC Omni-Crawler to play around with in the office.

Stick around after the break to see a short video of the Omni-Crawler in action.

[via BuildLounge]

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Build your own Portal turret in 150 easy steps

If there were a contest for the most thorough step-by-step project log [Kurt] would the champion. He recently a posted 150 step build log for his fleece-covered Portal turret project. If you can get over the need to click-through 30 pages of steps, there’s a lot to like about this project.

First, what it doesn’t do: The Turret doesn’t split up the middle and fire bullets at you. This is a relief, but the fact that it’s not lethal doesn’t mean it just sits there looking interesting. It can detect movement, it knows when you pick it up, and it can tell when it’s been knocked over. All of these interactive sensory inputs are used to playback various sound bytes from the Portal games, making it a great piece of desk art for those working in geek-centric offices. See for yourself in the video after the break.

The body itself is a food storage container which houses the barebones Arduino and Adafruit Wav shield. As near as we can tell, a PIR sensor detects movement, and leaf switches on the legs tell it when it’s been picked up or tipped over. But we only made a cursor examination of the assembly steps so we might be missing something.

If you’re not into the turrets, maybe this potato is more up your alley.

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Hone your skills by building control modules

If you ask us, there’s no substitute for learning by doing. But often the hardest part of acquiring new skills is coming up with the idea for a project that utilizes them. [Mike Rankin] wanted to develop a project using laser cut acrylic, and settled on building a control box for an RGB LED strip. He got some practice modeling objects in SolidWorks and seeing the process through to the final build. But it also let him explore an area of microcontroller programming in which he had little experience.

The LED strip he’s using depends on the HL1606. This is an SPI addressable chip that we see popping up in a lot of projects these days. It’s pretty simple to send red, green, and blue values through the data bus, and it allowed [Mike] to try his hand at programming menus and sub-menus. The controller takes input from a clickable rotary encoder. The settings are displayed on an OLED screen, with all the hardware nestled comfortably in his custom-cut enclosure.

Don’t miss the demo video embedded after the break.

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AVR chiptune project turns this simple code into music

[Mark] had seen a few examples of algorithmic music generation that takes some simple code and produces complex-sounding results. Apparently it’s possible to pipe the output of code like this directly to audio devices on a Linux box, but [Mark] decided to go a different direction. His project lets you play simple algorithms as audio using AVR microcontrollers.

Now the code work for this is very simple, but he hardware implementation is where things get interesting. Ostensibly, [Mark] didn’t have the components available to build a filter to use PWM as an audio signal. Being that he’s a ham operator, he grabbed some radio equipment he had on hand and whipped up an alternative. He’s feeding the PWM from an Arduino into the voltage controlled oscillator on a board meant for high-altitude balloon telemetry. The signal broadcast by this board is then picked up by his radio receiver, and played on some speakers.

Rube-Goldberg contraptions aside, the effect is pretty interesting, as you can hear in the latter half of the video clip which we’ve embedded after the jump.

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Hack A Watchman

I have been on the hunt in our local thrift and random junk stores lately for a small TV to hopefully modify into a decent enough computer monitor for my Apple //C and Trash80. While there are TONS of TV’s out there, none were really striking me in tube size or picture quality. Roaming around the last resource I happened to find this tiny Sony Watchman Color LCD TV.

Of course this thing is way too tiny for a computer monitor. I thought it would be a great thing to have around the bench for when I am repairing a video game system, or messing about with the TV out Arduino library (the 3 buck price tag on half off day didn’t help either). Directly out of the store this thing is totally useless as there are no inputs and its tuner is for analog “over the air” stations which no longer exist.

Join me after the break to see how I turned this buck fifty paperweight into a functional bench tool!

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DIY signal generator probe

A signal generator is a handy bit of kit and with the right components, it’s pretty easy to build one. Fabricating a proper signal generator probe is another matter entirely. [Frank]‘s DIY signal generator probe does exactly what it claims to, and is very cheap to boot.

After [Frank] made a simple signal generator with a few parts he had lying around, he needed a probe. Not wanting to deal with poking loose wires around his circuits, he decided to modify a scope probe. Six dollars and two weeks later, [Frank] had a suitable scope probe on his doorstop shipped from halfway around the world.

The strain relief on the probe was removed, and the resistors and trim cap on the PCB was desoldered. All that was left to do was solder a piece of wire from the BNC jack to the probe lead. The strain relief was put back on and clearly labeled for use as a signal generator probe. Not bad for 10 minutes of work.

Animated turn signals add a little bit of Cylon to your automobile

[StarfireMX] churned out a fantastic turn signal replacement for his Mustang. When he switches on his blinker, a chasing pattern of amber LEDs is shown on the front corner of his car. Pretty cool, and as far as we can tell this is still street legal. But once he gets onto private property [StarfireMX] can have a little bit more fun with the replacements. The LEDs are actually fully addressable RGB modules. They can display a variety of colors and patterns, with wireless control from a touch-screen unit he also built.

Both the turn signal unit, and the remote controls are Arduino driven with XBee modules for wireless communications. Pop the hood and you’ll find even more blinky lights to accent the engine, which are also tweaked using the remote control.

Don’t miss the demonstration video after the break. Near the end of the clip you can see how the controller is mounted with heavy-duty Velcro behind the grill. Inside the project box there’s a voltage regulator which drops the 12V down to 5V and can put out a whopping four amps to make sure the LEDs have plenty of current.

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