Soft robots given veins the let them change their stripes

If it were alive this robot would be classified as an invertebrate. It lacks a backbone and interestingly enough, all other bones are missing as well. The Harvard researchers that developed it call it a soft robot. It’s made out of silicone and uses pathways built into the substance to move. By adding pressurized air to these pathways the appendages flex relative to each other. In fact, after the break you can see a video of a starfish-shaped soft robot picking up an egg.

Now they’ve gone one step further. By adding another layer to the top, or even embedding it in the body, the robot gains the ability to change color. Above you can see a soft robot that started without any color (other than the translucent white of the silicone) and is now being changed to red. As the dye is injected it is propagating from the right side to the left. The team believes this could be useful in a swarm robotics situation. If you have a slew of these things searching for something in the dark they could pump glowing dye through their skin when they’ve found it. The demo can be seen after the jump.

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Learning the ins and outs of USB with a simple dev board

We can’t count the number of projects we’ve seen on Hackaday with a USB port.  Unfortunately, most of these builds – from RepRap controllers to wireless data loggers – don’t use the full capabilities offered to them with USB. [Ben] came up with a very cool USB breakout board that allows you to explore the USB protocol with just a single inexpensive ATtiny.

Instead of relying on an FTDI chip or otherwise sending serial data down a USB pipe, [Ben]’s project is meant to be the hardware compliment to his book on programming USB devices. His hardware board is exceedingly simple, just an ATtiny 2313, a USB port, and a handful of other components, but allows [Ben] to receive data on eight pins on a breadboard and send them over USB to a computer.

[Ben] had sent in his USB figure eight controller, a board that displays the numbers 0 through 9 according to what data is received via USB, a while ago. It’s a truly useless build aside from learning how USB works, but an excellent tool if you’d like to program your own USB device.

Turn your old Bluetooth headphones into a DIY car audio receiver

wireless-car-audio

[Tim] drives a 1995 Mitsubishi TS Magna, which is equipped with a less than stellar accessory package he lovingly calls a “poverty pack”. He outfitted his ride with an aftermarket head unit that can support the Bluetooth A2DP profile, provided he buys the ridiculously overpriced kit sold by Pioneer. Reluctant to shell out more money on an audio kit than his car is worth, he whipped up his own Bluetooth kit for far less than Pioneer’s asking price.

He had a set of Nokia Bluetooth headphones that he was willing to part with, so he disassembled them to see how he might interface with his car stereo. Connecting the headset to his head unit was a relatively easy task, but he had to work a bit harder to get his Bluetooth receiver powered properly.

After both undervolting and then nearly cooking his wireless audio rig, [Tim] managed to get things operating to his liking. He says that the audio is a touch quieter than he would like at the moment, so he will likely be revising his design in the near future. For now however, he can stream tunes from his phone while he cruises around town.