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Pikachu is coming for you (especially on carpet)

If you look closely, you’ll see that Pikachu isn’t sporting a pair of funky throwing stars, but is actually suspended between there. Our furry friend is just putting a happy face on this carpet roving robot called the Carpet Monkey V5. It’s been in the works for years, and this is just one more stop in the prototyping process as the development of version 6 is already under way.

The project is a testament to what can be accomplished using all of the design tools at your disposal. The motive mechanism was conceived as a cross between the qualities of legs and the ease of using wheels. Each of the appendages are covered with strategically placed points meant to grab onto carpet, and allow the ‘wheel’ to grip objects as the machine vaults over them. You can see that each has a spring mechanism to further facilitate gripping with each turn of the axle. This seems to go far beyond what usually comes out of hobby robotics, and we think that’s a great thing!

After the break there’s a video showing how all the parts of these grippers are assembled. See the bot cruising around the room at about 3 minutes in.

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Candy chucker – weapon, or advanced Halloween delivery system?

Now we know why kids in this neighborhood wear plastic Halloween masks instead of just painting their faces. They’re trying to protect themselves from the onslaught of hard candy spewing out the front of this candy chucking pumpkin.

The mechanism operates very much like a baseball or football throwing device. Now that we think of it, it’s also the same concept as the chicken launcher. There is a feed shoot that drops the projectile into the grips of two spinning chuckers. Those chuckers are built out of a couple of fans, with layers of fabric to account for different sizes and shapes of candy.

The video after the break shows some test firing. We love the sickening ‘whap!’ that the Werther’s Original (or whatever crappy Halloween offering they’re using) makes when it slams into the wall of the room.

This thing’s just begging to be mounted on a parade float, don’t you think?

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Reverse engineering MyKeepon


[qDot] recently got his hands on a MyKeepon toy and after messing with it a bit, decided to tear it down to see what was inside. He had hopes of easily modding the toy, but like most adventures in hacking, things might take a while longer than he first imagined.

In his teardown you can see the various components that make up the MyKeepon, including a trio of motors for movement, along with a series of buttons and a microphone used to interact with the toy. Of course, the part that interested him the most was MyKeepon’s circuit board, since that’s where the real work would begin.

There, he discovered two main processor Padauk processor chips, described as “Field Programmable Processor Arrays” in their data sheets. He says that the brand is well known for lifting text verbatim from PIC data sheets, so he doesn’t have a ton of faith in what’s printed there. Sketchy documentation aside, he poked around on the I2C bus connecting the two chips and was able to sniff a bit of traffic. He is documenting his findings as he goes along, which you can see more of on his Github project site.

He has made a few simple modifications to the toy already, but there’s plenty more to do before he has complete control over it. His work is bound to make tons of MyKeepon fans happy, including our own [Caleb Kraft], whose love for the toy can be seen in the video below taken at last year’s CES.

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Hacking a VS200 Food Sealer

This food sealer just wasn’t cutting it for [Tinkering Engineer], so he decided to do something about it. The issue with this sealer was that it didn’t have a mode where it could simply seal bags without pulling a vacuum on it. Going through the whole process takes a reported 40 seconds in order to evacuate the air and then seal the bag. Without pulling a vacuum, the sealing process took only 9.

After taking everything apart and looking around, a PIC microcontroller, and vacuum switch were found as well as other assorted electronics. Although the first thought was to replace the onboard PIC with an Arduino, a much simpler solution was arrived at. Two switches were added, one to disable the vacuum pump and the other to manually turn on the heater. This would allow the machine to function as originally intended or simply let bags be sealed without the vacuum function.

This hack may not be the most advanced one that we’ve ever seen, but it’s a good reminder that some projects can be done very simply if you’re willing to look around!

Build a Kinect bot for 500 bones

[Eric] sent in his tutorial on building a Kinect based robot for $500, a low-cost solution to a wife that thinks her husband spends too much on robots.

For the base of his build, [Eric] used an iRobot Create, a derivative of the Roomba that is built exclusive for some hardware hackery. For command and control of the robot, an EEE netbook takes data from the Kinect and sends it to the iRobot over a serial connection.

The build itself is remarkably simple: two pieces of angle aluminum were attached to the iRobot, and a plastic milk crate was installed with zip ties. The Kinect sits on top of the plastic crate and the netbook comfortably fits inside.

A few weeks ago, [Eric] posted a summary of the history and open-source software for the Kinect that covers the development of the Libfreenect driver. [Eric] used this same driver for his robot. Currently, the robot is configured for two modes. The first mode has the robot travel to the furthest point from itself. The second mode instructs the robot to follow the closest thing to itself – walk in front of the robot and it becomes an ankle biter.

There is a limitation of the Kinect that [Eric] is trying to work around. Objects closer than 19 inches to the Kinect appear to be very far away. This caused a lot of wall bumping, but he plans on adding a few ultrasonic sensors to fill the gap in the sensor data. Not bad for a very inexpensive autonomous robot.

Big Head costume would make Max Headroom jealous


[Dan Rosenfeld] does a lot of thinking in his spare time, and one thing he returns to pretty often is videoconferencing. He’s often wondered why it hasn’t caught on enough to become a ubiquitous piece of technology, and his examination of the topic in regards to eye contact and spatial awareness inspired him to create a very unique Halloween costume.

His “Big Head” costume consists of a front-mounted 24” LCD panel that displays the wearer’s face in real time. Inside the large headpiece [Dan] installed a microphone, another LCD screen, a half silvered mirror, and a video camera – not to mention all of the power-related goodies required to keep it running. While the main LCD displays his face, the internal monitor is fed by an externally mounted camera that shows him everything going on outside the box. This image is reflected off the half silvered mirror, allowing him to gaze directly at the camera, while also seeing what’s going on in front of him.

As you can see in the video below, the effect is pretty cool, and devoid of the ‘disconnected’ look most people have when talking to others via a camera and computer screen.

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Single-column Rubens’ tube

Here’s a fiery project which [Patrick] calls his Pyro Jam Can. It’s the simplest Rubens’ Tube build that we can think of. For the uninformed, a Rubens’ tube uses flammable gas to reveal wave forms passing through the supply vessel. In the past we’ve seen projects with multiple columns, which very clearly show a standing wave. But this version lacks the resolution for that, so the wave is seen as a modulated flame height.

You can see the propane feed tube coming into the can from the right. This keeps the gas flowing steadily, but a diaphram on the bottom of the can made of a latex balloon allows for modulations in flame height by pushing the gas through the aperture a bit faster than it is flowing. A speaker in the base bounces sound waves off of the diaphragm for the effect seen in the video clip after the break.

We wonder if the can will ever heat up enough to melt the balloon on the other end?

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