Swumanoid: a swimming humanoid robot

If you just happen to find yourself at the Fifth International Symposium on Aero Aqua Bio-Mechanisms this August in Taipei, you might get a chance to see this half sized swimming humanoid. Swumanoid was created by researchers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology by doing a 3d scan of a human, then simplifying the shapes and breaking them up to 3d printable parts. Waterproof motors are needed… since it is a swimming bot. The articulation is pretty incredible, the Sumanoid can do the crawl, like you see in the video below as well as breaststroke, backstroke, butterfly, and even doggy paddle.

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Calculating with 3D printed gears

Here’s a 3D printed electromechanical computer built by [Chris Fenton] over at NYCResistor. It uses plastic registers printed on a Makerbot, a bunch of pogo pins, and business-card sized punch cards capable of storing 32 bits of instructions and data.

In case you’re wondering, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen [Chris]‘  FIBIAC. Since the last update, [Chris] managed to get a program that walks through the first three digits of the Fibonacci sequence. There’s really no limit to what the FIBIAC can theoretically do, but with only three registers he’s limited to calculating the first three digits of pi.

With more registers, [Chris]‘ computer could be expanded, but each register takes about 8 hours to print. We’re sure [Chris] would gladly accept any donations of additional 3D-printed registers, so if you’d like to make a few of these gear registers you can get the files on Thingiverse.

As a proof of concept, [Chris]‘ FIBIAC is amazing, but it doesn’t live up to its intended design. The punch card format [Chris] created is capable of storing 8 registers, and the registers themselves can be expanded far beyond their current 3-digit width. Still, it’s an incredible build and has the bonus of being easily expandable thanks to a very clever design.

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Adding a router and wireless camera to a remote controlled helicopter

Last Christmas, [bonafide] received a WiFi enabled remote control helicopter from his employer. The heli is an interesting bit of kit, able to be controlled with an Android or iDevice. Being the good tinkerer he is, [bonafide] took a screwdriver to his Wi-Fli Bladerunner Helicopter and reengineered the toy to use an off-the-shelf wireless router.

The protocol used by the Wi-Fli helicopter is closed source, but a few people have had their hand at reverse engineering this cool toy. Instead of simply controlling the helicopter over WiFi, [bonafide] wanted to add a few unsupported features like sending images from a webcam. This isn’t supported in the toy’s firmware, so after a valiant attempt at flashing new firmware, [bonafide] decided to replace the electronics with a WiFi router.

In the stock configuration, the helicopter receives commands from an RT5350F-based WiFi module. This module communicates to the servos and motors with a serial connection. [bonafide] replaced the WiFi module with a very small router capable of running OpenWRT. The new router was easily configured to send commands to the motors, and allowed [bonafide] to add a small keychain webcam to stream video back to his desktop.

Interestingly, the makers of the WiFli helicopter, Interactive Toy Concepts, are putting out a streaming-video version of this toy next fall. The current version of the WiFli helicopter may hit the Toys ‘r Us clearance bin before that, so if you’d like your own unmanned aerial drone [bonafide]‘s may be worth looking over.

Special thanks to [MS3FGX] for sending this one in. Also, the non-coral cache version of [bonafide]‘s site is here, but try not to turn his server into a pile of molten slag.

[Balint] is starting a software-defined radio tutorial series

A few months ago, we saw a hack where a $20 USB TV tuner was transformed into a software-defined radio capable of reading GPS signals, listening to radio transmissions between aircraft and a control tower, and even a simple FM radio. This project is a perfect introduction to the RTL-SDR and Ham radio scene, but getting these projects up and running can be a bit overwhelming for anyone who hasn’t played around with this before. [Balint] is tackling this problem head on with a series of YouTube tutorials to get SDR noobs up and running with GNU Radio and the Realtec USB TV tuner.

To demonstrate the power of software-defined radio, [Balint] is using GNU Radio and the USB TV tuner that started it all, the Ezcap EZTV668 (conveniently back in stock at DealExtreme, but other options exist). Because software-defined radio is a touch confusing for a beginner to wrap their head around, [Balint] is beginning his tutorial series by explaining radio sources, sinks, and the GNU Radio interface.

Already, [Balint] has put up 5 tutorials and made the flowgraph files available in his gr-baz project. He’s doing a wonderful job opening up the software-defined radio scene to beginners, but he’s still looking for some feedback. If you have a suggestion on what [Balint] should cover next, leave a note in the YouTube comments and we’re sure [Balint] will get around to that eventually.

Talking resistor calculator speaks component values

If there’s one thing that will surely blind us, its reading resistor color bands. It doesn’t help that red looks exactly like orange, brown and black are indistinguishable, and different component manufacturers – for some reason – don’t use identical paints for coding their resistors. [Jeff] over at Gadget Gangster has been having the same problem, so he built a talking resistor calculator to speak resistor values to him.

The electronics part of the build is extremely simple with just an MCP3208 ADC providing 12 bits of resolution. The software side is where this project really shines. [Jeff] used a Gadget Gangster QuickStart board housing a Parallax Propeller. With 8 cores running in parallel the Propeller is more than enough to run [Phil Pilgrim]‘s software speech synthesizer. When a resistor is connected to the two alligator leads, the Propeller goes through a lookup table and finds a resistor value matching the number coming from the ADC. From there, it’s just sending a string of phonetic text to the speech synthesizer object.

Even though text-to-speech chips have been around for decades now, [Jeff] chose to build his speech synthesis tool with software. It may just be a testament to the power in the Propeller microcontroller, but anything that keeps us from squinting at resistor color bands is alright by us.

Programming FPGAs with Python

If you’ve ever wanted to jump into the world of FPGAs but don’t want to learn yet another language, you can now program an FPGA with Python. PyCPU converts very, very simple Python code into either VHDL or Verilog. From this, a hardware description can be uploaded to an FPGA.

The portion of the Python language supported by PyCPU is extremely minimal, with only ints being the only built-in data type supported. Of course ifs and whiles are still included along with all the assignments and operators. A new addition is a way to get digital IO access with Python, and obvious requirement if you’re going to be programming Silicon.

PyCPU surely won’t replace VHDL or Verilog anytime soon, but if you’re looking to get into FPGAs and the ‘telling a chip what to be’ paradigm it offers, it’s certainly a tool worth looking into.

Hats off to [hardsoftlucid] for sending this in. Our wonderful (we mean that, really) noticed a few mistakes when this was first posted. Those mistakes have been corrected.

Adding a backlight to the ‘ol Game Boy brick

For being more than 20 years old, [Max]‘s old brick-sized Game boy still has a lot of life left in it. Even though his Game Boy was still in good condition, there were a few vertical lines in the display, making it a perfect candidate for a restoration. While he had his DMG-01 open on his work bench, [Max] also decided to put in a back light.

After researching the blank vertical lines in his Game Boy’s display, [Max] learned the problem was probably a loose solder connection. [Max] whipped out his tri-wing screwdriver, disassembled his classic plastic friend, took a soldering iron to the LCD’s flex connector, and fixed the problem easily.

Since his Game Boy was already taken apart, he decided to add a 3rd party backlight. The installation was a snap – [Max] only removed the reflective LCD backing and shoved an edge-lit backlight panel into the Game Boy.

If you’re wondering why anyone would still be interested in a 20+ year-old Game Boy, the DMG-01 is highly regarded in the chiptune scene when paired with Little Sound DJ, in part because of the noisy amplifiers and unique sound. Anything that keeps these wonderful machines out of the garbage is alright in our book, so we’ve got to hand it to [Max] for putting together this wonderful tutorial.