Festo Creates Bionic Kangaroo; Steve Austin Unimpressed



[Dr. Wilfried Stoll] and a team at Festo have created an incredible robot kangaroo. Every few years the research teams at Festo release an amazing animal inspired robot. We last covered their smartbird. This year, they’ve created BionicKangaroo (pdf link). While The Six Million Dollar Man might suggest otherwise, Bionics is use of biological systems in engineering design. In this case, Festo’s engineers spent two years studying the jumping behavior of kangaroos as they perfected their creation.

Kangaroos have some amazing evolutionary adaptations for jumping. Their powerful Achilles tendon stores energy upon landing. This allows the kangaroo to increase its speed with each successive jump. The kangaroo’s tail is essential for balancing the animal as it leaps through the air. The Festo team used a thick rubber band to replicate the action of the tendons. The tail is controlled by electric servomotors.

Festo is known for their pneumatic components, so it’s no surprise that the kangaroo’s legs are driven by pneumatic cylinders. Pneumatics need an air supply though, so the team created two versions of the kangaroo. The first uses an on-board air compressor. The second uses a high-pressure storage tank to drive the kangaroo’s legs. An off the shelf Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) acts as BionicKangaroo’s brain. The PLC monitors balance while controlling the pneumatic leg cylinders and electric tail motors. Unfortunately, BionicKangaroo isn’t completely autonomous. The Thalmic Labs Myo makes a cameo appearance in the video. The Kangaroo’s human controller commands the robot with simple arm movements.

While the BionicKangaroo is graceful in its jumps, it still needs a bit of help when turning and taking simple steps. Thankfully we don’t think it will be boxing anytime soon.

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Recreating the THX Deep Note

THX logo

Few sounds are as recognizable as the THX Deep Note. [Batuhan] did some research, and set about recreating the sound. The original Deep Note (mp3 link) was created in 1982 by [Dr. James A. Moorer]. [Dr. Moorer] used the Audio Signal Processor (ASP) (AKA SoundDroid) to create the sound. The ASP was a complex machine to program. The Deep Note took about 20,000 lines of C code to program. The C code was compiled to about 250,000 discrete statements to command the ASP.

Only one ASP was ever built, and LucasFilm owned it. Instead of recreating the hardware, [Batuhan] used SuperCollider to recreate the sound. Just like the ASP, SuperCollider is a tool for real-time audio synthesis. The difference is that SuperCollider is open source and runs on modern computers. [Batuhan] used his research and ears to perform an analysis of the Deep Note. He created two re-creations. The first is carefully constructed to replicate the sound. The second is a Twitter worthy 140 character version. Both versions are reasonable facsimiles of the original Deep Note, though they’re not quite perfect to our ears.

[Batuhan] isn’t the only person working on recreations. Deep Note in 1KB of JavaScript can be heard at  http://thx.onekb.net/. We’d love to hear other versions created by Hackaday readers!

[Via Reddit]

CPLD Tutorial: Learn Programmable Logic the Easy Way


The guys over at hackshed have been busy. [Carl] is making programmable logic design easy with an 8 part CPLD tutorial. Programmable logic devices are one of the most versatile hardware building blocks available to hackers. They also can have a steep learning curve. Cheap Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGA) are plentiful, but can have intricate power requirements. Most modern programmable logic designs are created in a Hardware Description Language (HDL) such as VHDL or Verilog. Now you’ve got a new type of device, a new language, an entirely new programming paradigm, and a complex IDE to learn all at once. It’s no wonder FPGAs have sent more than one beginner running for the hills.

The tutorial cuts the learning curve down in several ways. [Carl] is using Complex Programmable Logic Devices (CPLD). At the 40,000 foot level, CPLDs and FPGAs do the same thing – they act as re-configurable logic. FPGAs generally do not store their configuration – it has to be loaded from an external FLASH, EEPROM, or connected processor. CPLDs do store their configuration, so they’re ready as soon as they power up. As a general rule, FPGAs contain more configurable logic than CPLDs. This allows for larger designs to be instantiated with FPGAs. Don’t knock CPLDs though. CPLDs have plenty of room for big designs, like generating VGA signals.

[Carl] also is designing with schematic capture in his tutorial. With the schematic capture method, digital logic schematics are drawn just as they would be in Eagle or KiCad. This is generally considered an “old school” method of design capture. A few lines of VHDL or Verilog code can replace some rather complex schematics. [Carl's] simple designs don’t need that sort of power though. Going the schematic capture route eliminates the need to learn VHDL or Verilog.

[Carl's] tutorial starts with installing Altera’s Quartus II software. He then takes the student through the “hardware hello world” – blinking an LED.  By the time the tutorial is done, the user will learn how to create a 4 bit adder and a 4 bit subtractor. With all that under your belt, you’re ready to jump into big designs – like building a retrocomputer.

[Image via Wikimedia Commons]

Tube Headphones Rock Out While Keeping the Family Peace


It’s hard being a kid sometimes. [Young] likes his music, but his dad is an overnight trucker. With his dad sleeping during the day, [Young] has to keep the volume down to a reasonable level. He could have bought some commercial headphones, but he wanted something a bit more customized. Rather than give up on his tunes, he built a pair of headphones with an internal tube preamp amplifier. [German language link -- Google translate doesn't want to work with this one but Chrome's translate feature works].

Two 1SH24B preamp tubes feed two LM386 amplifier chips, creating a hybrid amplifier. The 1SH24B tubes are designed to work on battery voltage, so a step up circuit wasn’t necessary. However, [Young] still needed to provide an 8 cell battery pack to run his amp. Speakers were a 3 way coaxial of [Young's] own design. He built the headphone frame using candy tins and cups from commercial headphones. A final touch was a window so everyone can see all that vacuum state goodness.  Considering that [Young] is only 16, we’re looking for some great things from him in the future.

If you don’t want to strap the tubes to your skull there are other options. But you have to admit it makes for a cool look. Starbucks here we come.

[Thanks Patrick]

Portable SMT Lab for Hacker On The Go


We admit it, we’re suckers for workbenches and toolboxes. [Jon] must feel the same way, because he built this portable surface mount electronics lab. It’s a beast of a project, which might be why it’s project #666 on Hackaday.io. [Jon] spends a lot of time working off site, and keeps finding himself without proper surface mount soldering tools. Ever tried to stack an 0603 resistor with a 40 watt pistol grip iron? Take our word for it, the results are not pretty.

[Jon] started with two cheap aluminum cases from Harbor Freight. He loaded them up with the typical lab supplies: soldering iron, oscilloscope, multimeter, dual lab supplies, and a good assortment of hand tools. He then added a few choice SMT tools: A hot air tool, a good LED light, and a stereo magnifier. Many of the tools are mounted on DIN rail along the rear of the cases.  All the low voltage equipment runs on  a common 12V bus.

We really like what [Jon] did with the tops of the cases. Each lid contains a plywood sheet. When the cases are opened, the plywood becomes a work surface. As an added bonus, the wood really strengthens the originally flimsy tool cases. The only thing we would add is a good portable anti-static mat.

The final build is really slick. Once the cases are open, four bolts act as feet. The microscope swings out, and the hot air gun hangs on the right side. Plug in power and you’ve gone from zero to SMT hero in under 1 minute.

MC Escher Inspires a Reptilian Floor


A simple room refinishing project lead [Kris] to his biggest hack yet, a floor inspired by MC Escher’s Reptiles printMaurits Cornelis Escher is well known for his reality defying artwork. His lifelong passion was tessellation, large planes covered identical interlocking shapes. Triangles, squares, hexagons all EscherExampleinterlock naturally. Escher discovered that if he cut out part of a shape and replaced it on the opposite side, the new shape will still interlock. In Reptiles, Escher created a lizard shape by modifying a hexagon. One side flipped over to become the nose, 4 others to become the feet, and so on. If the cuts are all made perfectly, the final shape would still interlock.

[Kris] was inspired by a photo of a commercial flooring project using small wooden reptiles as the tiles. He wanted to go with larger wooden tiles for his room. He knew his shapes had to be perfect, so he wrote a computer program to split the hexagon perfectly. Armed with art in DXF format, he went looking for a flooring company to help him. The silence was deafening. Even with artwork ready to go, none of the local custom flooring shops would take his job. Undaunted, [Kris] bought an older CNC machine. The machine was designed to be driven from MS-DOS via the parallel port of a Pentium II era PC. [Kris] substituted an Arduino running GRBL. After some GCode generation, he was cutting tiles.

The real fun started when it was time to glue the tiles down. With all the interlocking parts, it’s impossible to just glue one tile and have it in the perfect position for the next. In [Kris'] own words, “You have to do it all in one go”. Thanks to some family support and muscle, the flooring project was a success.  Great work, [Kris]!

Droning On: Resources and First Steps


It’s been quiet these last few weeks in drone news. Some members of the commercial community are performing missions, while others are waiting on the results of the FAA’s appeal to the NTSB. There is no denying that drones are getting larger as an industry though. Even Facebook has jumped into the fray, not for drones to deliver real world pokes, but to provide internet access in remote areas.


One of the high points in the news was an octocopter operator’s discovery of 2500 year old rock drawings, or petroglyphs in the Utah desert. While exploring a known archeological site, Bill Clary of GotAerial LLC flew his octocopter up to a cliff face. The rock formation would have made rappelling down the face difficult at best. He found an amazing collection of petroglyphs which he documented in this video. While the authenticity of the petroglyphs hasn’t been proven yet, they appear to date back to the Basketmaker people who lived in the area from approximately 500 BC through 860AD.

Maybe you’re asking yourself how you can get in on some of these sweet drone adventures? Whether you’re considering your very first flight, or already own multiple aircraft, you’ll want to read our discussion of getting started (specifically: acquiring your first drone) and discovering drone-related communities. Hit that “read more” link to stay with us.

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