The Internet Of Interactive Cats

[Tuco] is a cat who shares the space of [Micah Elizabeth Scott]. He is a large tabby tomcat, and he is polydactyl, which is to say he has a congenital excess of toes. He is an extremely active and engaging creature and enjoys playing and interacting with her. We covet [Tuco].

Sadly for the rest of us who love cats, of course, unless we know [Micah] personally we’ll never have the opportunity to play with [Tuco]. She appreciates the cat-shaped void that will leave in our lives, and to help us she’s building a telepresence robot to allow the rest of us to interact with him in real time.

Her idea is to make a flying robot equipped with a camera on a gimbal, and because to mounting it on a multirotor platform would be a hazard, instead she’s making something closer to the aerial cameras you might be familiar with from sporting fixtures, a motorised platform suspended from the corners of her roof space on a set of nylon ropes, that can move at will by adjusting the length of each tether. It is suggested that one day the device will be able to launch plastic bolts for [Tuco] to chase and to incorporate other interactive features to allow online users to engage with him.

We are shown progress so far in the video introducing the project that we’ve placed below the break, she has completed a prototype windlass mechanism and worked on reverse engineering the gimbal mechanism for serial control. We’ll probably never meet [Tuco] in person, but we can’t wait to interact with him online.

Continue reading “The Internet Of Interactive Cats”

Quality Assurance Through FPGA

[Claire Chen] and [Mark Zhao], students in [Bruce Land]’s ECE5760 class at Cornell, created a project aimed at the manufacturing sector: quality-checking manufactured products automatically by visually scanning a bunch of them and processing the pixels one at a time. Ordinarily, the time when the widget comes off the line is when you have to bring in actual people to inspect. This project uses morphological image processing to like dilation and erosion to look for flaws.

[Claire] and [Mark] created a simulated manufacturing line with a servo-driven belt that brings a series of Spree candies into the range of a camera, which scans them. The SoC with a Cyclone V FPGA and ARM Cortex-9 then processes the raw images to establish the object’s color, while running it through a couple of algorithms to look for defects. The FPGA tracks how many Sprees that have passed by as well as their color, maintaining a 99% success rate with a rate of 5-10 frames per second. The FPGA also looks at each blob of color as a collection of pixels, establishing connectivity to help to distinguish multiple Sprees touching each other.

Also be sure to check out [Claire] and [Mark]’s bike sonar project from a previous semester.

Continue reading “Quality Assurance Through FPGA”

Drop-in Controller for eBay K40 Laser Engraver Gets Results

[Paul de Groot] wrote in to let us know about a drop-in controller replacement he designed for those economical K40 laser engravers that are everywhere on eBay. With the replacement controller, greatly improved engraving results are possible along with a simplified toolchain. Trade in the proprietary software and that clunky security dongle for Inkscape and a couple of plugins! [Paul] felt that the work he accomplished was too good to keep to himself, and is considering a small production run.

Laser engravers are in many ways not particularly complex devices; a motion controller moves the head in x and y, and the laser is turned on or off when needed. But of course, the devil is in the details and there can be a surprising amount of stuff between having a design on your screen and getting it cut or engraved in the machine. Designing in Inkscape, exporting to DXF, importing the DXF to proprietary software (which requires a USB security dongle to run), cleaning up any DXF import glitches, then finally cutting the job isn’t unusual. And engraving an image with varying shades and complex dithering? The hardware may be capable, but the stock software and controller? Not so much. It’s easy to see why projects to replace the proprietary controllers and software with open-source solutions have grown.

Cheap laser engravers may come with proprietary controllers and software, but they don’t need to stay that way. Other efforts we have seen in this area include LaserWeb, which provides a browser-based interface to a variety of open-source motion controllers like Grbl or Smoothieware. And if you’re considering a laser engraver, take a few minutes to learn from the mistakes of other people.

Hackaday Prize Entry: Earthquake Warnings via Tweets

Seismic waves travel through the Earth’s crust at about four kilometers a second. Light travels through fiber at about 200,000 kilometers per second. Taking network lag into account, it’s possible to read a Tweet about an earthquake a few seconds before the shaking starts. This is the concept behind an XKCD strip and a project for the Hackaday Prize.

[Zalmotek]’s Earthquake Validation Gadget is an Internet-connected box designed for those few seconds between asking yourself, ‘is this an earthquake’ and saying, ‘yeah, this is totally an earthquake’. Inside this wall-mounted box is both a sensitive vibration sensor and a microcontroller connected to the Internet. If the vibration sensor goes off, it checks the Internet — the USGS website is a great start, by the way — for any large, local earthquakes. If there’s a possibility that shaking is an earthquake, lights and sirens go off, telling you to take cover.

The idea of an ‘earthquake warning device’ isn’t new. The USGS has a system in place for just this sort of thing. It’s good to see independent researchers working on this, though, and it makes for a great entry to the Hackaday Prize.

Shapes Made From Light, Smoke, and A Lot of Mirrors

Part lightshow, part art piece, part exploratory technology, Light Barrier (third edition) by South Korean duo [Kimchi and Chips] crafts a visual and aural experience of ephemeral light structures using projectors, mirrors, and a light fog.

Presently installed at the ACT Center of Asia Culture Complex in Gwangju, South Korea, Light Barrier co-ordinates eight projectors, directing their light onto a concave cluster of 630 mirrors. As a result, an astounding 16 million ‘pixel beams’ of refocused light simulate shapes above the array.  The array itself was designed in simulation using an algorithm which — with subtle adjustments to each mirror — “grew” the display so as to line up the reflecting vectors. Upon setup, final calibration of the display used Rulr to treat each ‘pixel beam’ as a ray in 3D space to ensure image accuracy once the show began. Check out a preview after the break! Continue reading “Shapes Made From Light, Smoke, and A Lot of Mirrors”

The Monolith Brings the Boom to Maker Faire

[Ross Fish], [Darcy Neal], [Ben Davis], and [Paul Stoffregen] created “the Monolith”, an interactive synth sculpture designed to showcase capabilities of the Teensy 3.6 microcontroller.

The Monolith consists of a clear acrylic box covered in LED-lit arcade buttons. The forty buttons in front serve as an 8-step sequencer with five different voices, while touch sensors on the left and right panels serve as a polyphonic arpeggiator and preset controller, respectively.

In order to control all of those buttons, the team designed breakout boards equipped with a port expander, 16-channel PWM driver chip, and N-channel MOSFETs allowing the entire synth to be controlled from a single Teensy 3.6.

In terms of software, [Paul] made improvements to the Teensy Audio Library to accommodate the hardware, improving the way signal-controlled PWM waveforms are handled and enhancing the way envelopes work. Ultimately they combined three Arduino sketches into one to get the finished code.

After showing off the project on Tested, the team set up the Monolith in the Kickstarter booth at Maker Faire Bay Area. The project was a hit at the Faire, earning a coveted red ribbon and inspiring countless adults and kids to check it out. We love a project that inspires so much interaction. Not only can three people play with the Monolith at once, but they can see through the clear case and get an idea of what’s going on.

If you want to learn more you can download project files from [Paul]’s GitHub. In the meantime, check out some other synth projects we’ve published on Hackaday: we’ve grooved on a synth-violin, a 3D-printed synth, and a single-PCB synth, among many others.

Continue reading “The Monolith Brings the Boom to Maker Faire”