Sand Flea literally leaps tall buildings in a single bound

The hidden abilities of this robot that is no larger than a dinner plate are quite impressive. It doesn’t let an obstacle like a building get in its way. The Sand Flea, like its namesake, posses a remarkable jumping ability. When it encounters a tall obstruction two levers incline the front of the robot and it launches itself up to thirty feet in the air. In the case of a one-story build this means it will end up on the roof, and it’ll do so much quicker and more reliably than any wall climber we’ve seen.

It’s being developed for the US Army by Boston Dynamics, and this isn’t the first time we’ve seen the concept. But the video after the break gives a much better look than the grainy twenty-second clip from last year. Of course they’re not giving up too many details so we have to guess a bit. We’d wager the launching mechanism is a solenoid, but at about eleven pounds you need a lot of juice to get that much of a jump. We suppose it’s also possible that there’s an explosive system like the butane combustion used in a framing nailer. The video summary mentions that there’s a stabilization system to keep the body oriented during flight. That’s got to be a gyroscope. Let us know what you think in the comments. [Read more...]

Wireless camera mount offers pan and tilt functions

[Chris] put together a bunch of common components to create this wireless pan and tilt system for a security camera or a robot.

The motorized base is simple enough, using two servos to make up a mount for the digital camera. In this case he used a parts package which is designed to mount the servos perpendicular to each other. You could also 3D print, our build your own brackets quite easily. The control circuitry consists of a pair of PIC 18LF4520 microcontrollers and a set of Xbee modules. This is where the wireless connectivity comes in.

On the transmitter side, a pair of potentiometers are read by the microcontroller’s ADC and translated into position values. The receiver takes those values and drives the servo motors accordingly. In the clip after the break [Chris] is using micro trimpots which require a screw driver to adjust. You might want to hit the parts bin and see if you can get some that have a more user-friendly shaft or knob.

Unfortunately this system doesn’t transmit video. But WiFi webcams are getting quite affordable so that might be a good option in this case. [Read more...]

Floppy autoloader takes the pain out of archiving 5000 Amiga disks


Archiving data from old floppy disks can be a tedious process at best. Poorly labeled disks combined with slow transfer speeds put it high on the list of things we would rather not do, and it turns out that [Dweller] was of the same opinion. With an estimated 5,000 floppies in his collection, he finally decided it was time to clean house.

With no idea of what was stored where, he decided the best way to go about the process was to read all of the disks, archiving everything, saving the sorting process for later. He originally started by building a floppy autoloader out of Lego Mindstorm parts, which looked good on paper, but performed pretty poorly.

He came across an old floppy duplicator on eBay and figured that since the machine was built for handling gobs of disks, that it was the perfect base for his autoloader. He pulled the mechanical bits from the machine, incorporating them into the rig you see above. He swapped out the duplicator’s brains for an Arduino, which allows him to batch copy his disks and save a picture of each label with little effort.

He says that the system works great, making his life a lot easier (and less cluttered!)

Check out the video below to see his floppy autoloader in action.

[Read more...]