Giving the Hexbug Spider freedom to explore on its own


[Eric Gregori] recently spent some time messing around with a Hexbug Spider, and wrote in to share some modifications he made to the toy. In its unaltered form the robot can be controlled remotely, and while it’s fun to play with, the excitement is short lived. Using a TI MSP430 along with a small motor controller kit he put together, he gave the Hexbug a bit more personality.

The kit is really just a simple board used for mounting the MSP430 and FAN8200 motor driver, along with an IR emitter/sensor pair. It would be easy enough to put something similar together yourself, though if you are looking for a protoboard/deadbug/PCB etching-free solution, his Spider Hack kit is a quick and easy solution.

[Eric’s] walkthrough shows how to disassemble the Hexbug, and details which components need alterations before the controller board can be properly mounted. A few soldered wires later, the toy is ready to be reprogrammed, a process [Eric] carries out using the Launchpad board from which he lifted the MSP430.

As you can see in the videos below, calling the robot autonomous might be a bit of a stretch (I don’t see it walking to the kitchen to make me a sandwich), but it can navigate and avoid objects with ease.

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Self Balancing Robot with Wii parts

[Moser] is looking to build a quadrocopter sometime in the future, without plunking down a good chunk of change for a kit model. Looking for a good place to start he figured why not work on the control system. Thinking that the balance of the flying platform of doom would be similar to working out a self balancing robot he spent a couple days and made his self balancing robot.

Armed with a plan, and a logic analyzer, he went out and got a  Wii Motion Plus, which is an inexpensive three axis gyroscope, and a nunchuck which features an accelerometer which both can be found in just about any strip mall. After fiddling for a day getting the Wii nunchuck and motion plus to play nice all it took was a little more time to code up the self balancing routines.

And while its not perfect, all its going to take is a little tweaking and maybe some faster servo motors to get things up to top notch.

Join us after the break for a couple quick videos.

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Hackaday Links: January 5, 2012

Now make it life size

Here’s a scale model of the classic Playstation game Wipeout. It uses quantum levitation, superconductors, liquid nitrogen, and incredibly detailed models of the cars in Wipeout. They’re able control the speed and direction of the cars electronically. Somebody get on making one of these I can drive. Never mind, it’s totally fake, but here’s a choo-choo that does the same thing. Thanks for the link, [Ben].

Found a use for eight copies of Deep Impact

Where do you keep all your wire? [Paul] keeps his inside VHS tapes. It’s one of the most efficient ways of storing wire we’ve seen, just don’t touch those VHS copies of the original Star Wars trilogy.

There’s MAME machines for pinball?

MAME arcade machines are old hat, but we’ve never seen something to emulate pinball. The build uses two LCD monitors, a small computer and PinMAME. There’s videos in the build log; tell us if we’re stupid for wanting to build one. Thanks go to [Adrian] for sending this one in.

LEGO binary to decimal conversion

[Carl] is doing a few experiments to see if it’s possible to build a calculating machine out of LEGO. He managed to convert four bits of binary into decimal. We’ve seen a LEGO Antikythera mechanism but nothing on the order of an Analytical Engine or some Diamond Age rod logic. Keep it up, [Carl].

Lubs and Dubs that aren’t for dubstep

The folks at Toymaker Television posted a neat demo of heart rhythms emulated with a microprocessor. It cycles through normal sinus rhythm, atrial fibrillation, atrial flutter, and everything else that can go wrong with your heart. We know some nurses that would have loved this in school.

LED cube is a little bit of kit, a lot of point-to-point soldering

[Craig Lindley] recently finished building his own RGB LED cube project. It’s made up of four layers of 4×4 LED grids, but you may notice that the framework that supports the structure is not the usual ratsnet of wires we’ve come to expect. They’re actually long, thin circuit boards. [Craig] grabbed the Rainbow Cube kit sold by Seeed Studio for this project. But instead of pairing it with their Rainbowduino driver, he built his own to give him more options on how to control the blinky lights.

He’s using an Arduino Uno to control the display, choosing TLC5940 driver chips to safely provide the juice necessary to light up the grid. These drivers also offer 12-bit pulse-width modulation for easy color mixing. Driving the LEDs directly would have taken a large number of these expensive chips (over $4 a piece), but if multiplexed the design only calls for two of them.

Check out a video of the finished cube reacting to music thanks to the microphone and amplifier circuit [Craig] build into the driver board.

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osPID: the Open Source PID Controller

Need PID control in your next project? Perhaps this little beauty can help. It’s an Open Source PID controller that also follows the Open Hardware guidelines. [Brett Beauregard] based the project on the newly minted Arduino PID library which he wrote. In the video after the break [Brett] takes apart the device, walking through some of the ways this might be hacked. If you want an overview of every part of this project to-date the best resource is probably his personal blog post.
The front circuit board is the meat and potatoes of the device. It hosts the user interface in the form of buttons, LEDs, and a graphic LCD screen. You can also see the USB mini-b connector which gives you access to the Arduino compatible ATmega328 microcontroller on the back. There is also a piezo buzzer for your alarm needs.
The prototype that [Brett] shows off uses pin connectors to join the main board to the two daughter boards. Unfortunately, the production model moved to dual-sided edge connectors. That’s fine if you you’re using it in its stock condition, but it makes it a bit harder to replace those boards with your own hardware. None-the-less, we love to see great Open Hardware projects brought to market! [Read more...]

Custom screensaver on the non-touch Kindle 4

[Kubbur87] put together a guide to replacing the Non-touch Kindle 4 screensavers with your own images. We’ve already seen a way to remove the Special Offers banners from the newest version of Kindle Hardware, this hack lets you use your own 600×800 Portable Network Graphics (.png) file instead of the images pushed to the device by Amazon.

Frankly, we’re shocked at how easy this hack is. [Kubbur87] puts the device into developer mode, enables SSH, and then goes to work on the Linux shell within. It seems the only line of protection is the root password which he somehow acquired.

After the break you’ll find his videos which show how to enable developer mode and how to perform this hack. By putting a file named “ENABLE_DIAGS” with no extension on the device when it is recognized as a USB storage device you’ll gain access to the diagnostic menu system. From there it’s just a matter of cruising that menu to get SSH access. Like we said, you’ll need the root password, that that’s as easy as naming your favorite video game character from the 1980′s.

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Bang-banging your way to a perfect cake


[Rob Spanton’s] house is equipped with a rather cheap oven, which was discovered while his roommate tried using it to bake part of a wedding cake. If someone took a shower during the baking process, a large portion of unit’s gas pressure was diverted to the boiler, causing the oven to shut off completely. This is obviously not a good situation for baking cakes, so the housemates decided to construct a makeshift controller to keep temperatures in line.

They started by installing a pulley on the oven’s knob, which is connected to a small motor via a long rubber belt. The other end of the belt connects to a small motor, which is controlled by a Pololu 18v7 motor controller. A K-type thermocouple monitors the oven’s temp, feeding the data through a MAX6675 converter to (presumably) [Rob's] computer.

Since they were in a bit of a time crunch, [Rob] and his roommate [Johannes] decided the best way to keep the oven at a steady temperature was via bang-bang control. While you might imagine that cranking the gas knob between its minimum and maximum settings repeatedly wouldn’t be the ideal way to go about things, their solution worked pretty well. The cake came out perfectly, and the maximum temperature swing throughout the entire baking process was only 11.5°C – which is pretty reasonable considering the setup.