Robo Lamp is Too Damn Cute!

Remember the Pixar lamp? Well, [Rick] from [Phlegmatic Prototyping] decided to build his own.

It’s actually the third iteration of the project, the first being made from a cheap camera sensor, an ATMega328, a computer mouse and laser cut parts. The second iteration… sounds like it was the Pixar Lamp — and due to possible copyright infringement [Rick] decided not to show it off. Which brings us to number three, Robolamp the Third.

Quite obviously not the Pixar lamp now, [Rick] designed the whole thing in 3D CAD and had it printed at Shapeways. It uses a CMUCAM5 vision sensor that detects color hues, allowing the lamp to track colorful objects, like an orange, which ends up looking painfully cute. Just take a look at the video.

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Extracting Lightning Strikes From HD Video

Lightning photography is a fine art. It requires a lot of patience, and until recently required some fancy gear. [Saulius Lukse] has always been fascinated by lightning storms. When he was a kid he used to shoot lightning with his dad’s old Zenit camera — It was rather challenging. Now he’s figured out a way to do it using a GoPro.

He films at 1080@60, which we admit, isn’t the greatest resolution, but we’re sure the next GoPro will be filming 4K60 next. This means you can just set up your GoPro outside during the storm, and let it do it what it does best — film video. Normally, you’d then have to edit the footage and extract each lightning frame. That could be a lot of work.

[Saulius] wrote a Python script using OpenCV instead. Basically, the OpenCV script spots the lightning and saves motion data to a CSV file by detecting fast changes in the image.

graph of lightning

The result? All the lightning frames plucked out from the footage — and it only took an i7 processor about 8 minutes to analyze 15 minutes of HD footage. Not bad.

Now if you feel like this is still cheating, you could build a fancy automatic trigger for your DSLR instead…

Roswell Eat Your Heart Out

When [Ian Wood] accidentally broke the camera on his fancy-pants FPV quadrotor he was a little bit upset. But out of all things we break, we hack something new. [Ian] decided to strap on some RGB LEDs to the drone and turn it into a UFO to scare his neighbors!

Now we know what you’re thinking: RGB LEDs? That hardly constitutes a hack! You’re right — but [Ian] didn’t just simply strap some LEDs on and call it a day. Oh no. He’s using a Teensy micro-controller and the NazaCANDecoder to listen to the CAN bus for RC stick positions, flight mode, altitude, battery data, etc. This means the LEDs are actually responding to the way he flies the drone. And since there was a spare channel on his Futaba RX controller, he’s also got an animation mode that can be controlled from the ground to do whatever he wants. He also got rid of the standard indicator LEDs on the quad and wired them into his new setup. They’re all being controlled by a FastLED library on the Teensy. Check it out in the clip after the break.

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Turning On the Kettle with your Phone

Why do light bulbs, furnaces, outlets and even automated blinds get all the home automation love? Won’t somebody think of the kettle!? How are we suppose to ensure tea-time is always a button click away? Tired of his lack of options for remotely controlling his kettle, [FatCookies] decided to make his own WiFi enabled kettle.

He started by ripping up an old power supply enclosure he had lying around, and it happened to be just big enough for a Raspberry Pi. He then added a 2-way relay board designed for handling mains voltage at a high amperage — quite necessary for something that draws as much as a heating element.

From there it was just a matter of wiring the relay board to the GPIO on the Pi, and to the kettle itself. For safety reasons, he’s powered the kettle and the Pi separately — and don’t worry, he left the safety switch in the kettle intact.

And while we have to admit, it’s not the most aesthetically pleasing hack, it certainly does the trick — and didn’t cost [FatCookies] much at all.

But if you’re more of a coffee kind of person — you could also replicate this hack with a coffee maker instead.

[via r/DIY]

Learning Logic Gates With Dominos

Even though most of us know logic gates like the back of our hands, we just found this awesome explanation video you can use to teach kids in a very fun way — Using nothing but dominoes.

Produced by [Numberphile], our host sets up various “circuits” using dominoes to explain all the various logic gates. Some of the patterns are a bit tricky to setup since you actually have to set up timing based on the spacing of the dominoes — makes us wonder how many bloopers there were!

But don’t take our word for it, it’s well worth a watch after the break.

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Move Aside Boston Dynamics, ATRIAS is Coming!

ATRIAS has just taken its first steps outside on grass, marking an impressive achievement for this university robotics project.

Built by Oregon State University, ATRIAS is a bipedal robot whose name in jest stands for “Assume The Robot Is A Sphere”. It’s an old physics joke really, which describes how any complex scientific model can be reduced to its simplest form in order perform calculations — but sometimes (always) makes its application in reality a challenge…

We’re sure you all remember BD’s Big Dog and its impressive ability to throw freaking cinder blocks — but remember, it has four legs and a tail — or is it a trunk — an arm? ATRIAS on the other hand is a true threat to humanity and our unique ability to walk around on two legs. And the mechanism they made for it is pretty damn clever.

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DIY Hydraulic Clamp Saves the Day

[Elton] wrote in to tell us about a little excitement they had after this year’s ridiculous winter. Their pool froze and as luck would have it, crumpled the edge of the liner. They asked around and their pool company said they’d better involve their insurance company because it would not be easy to repair — so they decided to try fixing it themselves.

Now since the pool liner is a fairly heavy gauge sheet metal, they wouldn’t be able to simply hammer it back into shape — so they started brainstorming ways to make their very own hydraulic clamp. What they came up with is a very clever application of physics. And all it cost was about $2 in hardware plus some scrap lumber and a bottle jack they had lying around.

Some of their first ideas included a scissor style clamp, and even a monkey wrench-like vice, but in the end, the following design was chosen — and worked.

actionShot

Ideally the hydraulic jack would be farther from the fulcrum, but since it’s rated for 2 tons it ended up being more than strong enough. To avoid scratching the liner, they also threw some socks on the end of the lumber. Still rather unwieldy, it was a two person job to pop it out. But once they got the major dents out, they were able to use a rubber mallet to finish the job off. Hooray for fluid power!

If you’re looking for the link, there isn’t one. [Elton] sent us his pictures and told us the story directly.