Sci-Fi Contest Roundup: The Valve Universe

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While most of the entries to our Sci-Fi contest come from movies and TV shows, a select few are based on the Valve universe, including a few builds based on Portal and Team Fortress 2.

Deadly neurotoxinGLADOS

Who wouldn’t want a gigantic articulated sociopathic robot hanging around? Two groups are building a clone of GLaDOs from the Portal series. and already the builds look really great.

[AmarOk], developed an open-source personal assistant called RORI that intends to be a more helpful version of GLaDOs, without all the testing and killing. He, along with [Peterb0y] and [n0m1s] are turning this personal assistant software into a GLaDOs replica.

Taking a slightly different tack, [Eric] and [jjyacovelli] built a GLaDOs-like robot with a camera in the ‘face’. This camera connects to a Google Glass and tracks the user’s head movements. There’s also a Nerf gun attached to the end of the robot body, triggered by double winking. Yep, it’s a heads-up display GLaDOs, perfect for punishing your test subjects.

Heavy load comin’ through!

Sentry

Not to be out done by a malevolent, hyper-intelligent artificial intelligence, [Tyler] and [Ryan] are building the cutest gat’ dern weapon in all of west Texas. It’s the level one sentry from Team Fortress 2, and the guys are turning one into a paintball sentry.

The TF2 sentry is a cute little bugger capable of motion tracking and perimeter defense, filling enemies with lead should they ever come too close.

While the end result probably won’t be as large or as heavy as the “official” real-life turret, a smaller table-top sized model is probably a little more practical. Even if it doesn’t live up to expectations, upgrading the sentry is simply a matter of whacking it with a wrench a few times.

 

There’s still time for you to cobble together an awesome Sci-Fi project and have a chance to win some awesome prizes.

Rubber Band Blaster Shoots 10 Rounds a Second

rubber band blaster

Office warfare has just been stepped up a notch and it’s time to hide in your cubicles! Enter the Rubber Band Blaster-32, a fully automatic rubber band handgun with switchable barrels for quick reloading.

It features a unique trigger release design that we haven’t seen before. By using a pull string release, [Dave] the inventor was able to load multiple rubber bands per barrel for individual firing, one by one. Hold down the trigger and as the firing wheel spins up, you can start shooting up to 10 rounds a second!

According to [Dave], reload time is around a minute per barrel, but the barrels can be stored loaded and ready to go, so pack a few mags and hang out behind the water cooler. That’s the last time [Bill] from accounting steals my stapler!

To see this puppy in action, sit tight after the break!

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Sentrifying a Nerf gun

vulcan

[Brittliv] made the mistake of getting her friends into Nerf weaponry, and so began the race to mutually secured destruction via foam darts. She may have the upper hand in this war, because her Nerf Vulcan sentry gun is both incredibly powerful and is able to be operated autonomously with a webcam featuring a friend or foe identification system.

The azimuth and elevation mount for the gun is made out of plywood, with each axis controlled by a single servo attached to an Arduino. Of course a stock Nerf gun would be fairly boring, so [BrittLiv] increased both the voltage going to the gun’s motor and the strength of the gun by replacing a 2kg spring with a 5kg spring.

Targets are tracked with a webcam using Processing and a bit of code from Project Sentry Gun. One interesting feature is a friend or foe tracking system; if the gun sees someone wearing a t-shirt with the Instructables logo, the target is identified as a friend and is not brutally mowed down with plastic darts.

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Motivating Engineering Students with Microcontrollers

We see a lot of microcontroller based hacks around here, and it’s not hard to see why learning how to use microcontrollers is valuable to prospective engineeer. Unfortunately, microcontroller courses are dreaded by students since they focus on theory instead of application. In The First Lecure, [Colin] talks to a class of engineering students about how to get practical with microcontrollers.

He starts with an overview of a bomb countdown project that he used to learn the basics of microcontrollers. This started as a 555 based timer, but he ended up using a PIC18 after having issues with timing and reliability. Next, he discusses a paintball sentry gun inspired by a Hackaday post.  He finishes off some advice and gives the students some hardware: a Pickit2 programmer and a Saleae Logic Analyzer.

It’s easy to lose motivation due to the heavy focus on theory in engineering. [Colin]’s advice to start building stuff will hopefully motivate these students to take an interest in microcontrollers. We also like how he advises students to read Hackaday. Check out the full video of the lecture after the break.

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Detecting ASCII art across the Internet

As a web developer and designer, [Victor] has a habit of putting a very nice ASCII signature in an HTML comment at the top of every web page he designs. He was inspired by seeing others do this,  and this piqued his curiosity to see who else was doing this. His idea was to scan through a chunk of the Internet and see what other web pages had ASCII signatures in an HTML comment. With a lot of very clever work, [Victor] managed to grab some interesting ASCII art that would have been missed without looking at the source of millions of web pages.

After gathering a list of the top million top-level domains from Alexa, [Victor] wrote a script to download the HTML for all the pages in parallel. After that, it was just an issue of detecting the ASCII art in all the HTML files. There were a few earlier ASCII art detection algorithms, but nothing that suited [Victor]’s use case. The best result came from only looking at the first comment (otherwise the signatory wouldn’t want you to find it with a quick glance at the source) that were at least 3 lines long and 40 characters wide. After discarding everything with HTML tags in it, [Victor] had an awesome gallery of the ASCII art from webpages all around the Internet.

What did he find? Well, there’s far too many ASCII signatures for [Victor] to put up on his webpage, but he did provide a nice sample of what he found. They’re mostly logos, although there is a Hypnotoad and Aperture Science sentry turret in there.

If you’d like to try out [Victor]’s script, he made everything available on GitHub.

Portal puppet probably won’t kill us

This incredibly detailed puppet of the Wheatley from Portal was sent into us, and we a so very happy that we’re not writing about a GLaDOS build right now.

Hewn from florist foam and covered Wonderflex and Apoxie Sculpt, Wheatley pretty much tows the line as far as cosplay and prop builds go. What makes Wheatley interesting is his movement mechanism – he’s actually a hand-controlled puppet. Portal quotes come a small sound module that plays 10 Wheatley quotes. The control system has ten buttons and allows for the display of a lot more emotion than we would expect from a talking sphere. We really like the completely manual solution to an articulated robot eyeball – a really great, simple solution to a complex problem.

Like the portal turret and the adorable and friendly companion cube, we’re really impressed with the build quality of Wheatley. Yet again we’re left wondering why Valve doesn’t license some awesome toys like their office sentry.

Check out the intelligence dampening sphere in action after the break.

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A Robotic Turtle Platform to Buy or Build

This electric turtle bot instructable describes a fairly simple turtle-style robot meant to be laser cut out of acrylic (although other materials such as aluminum, MDF, or polycarbonate should work just as well). This frame is also optionally for sale, which should appeal to those that would like a mechanical robotics platform to play with, but don’t have access to machine tools. The build instructions include a detailed bill of materials which should come in handy.

As displayed in the video after the break, the robot uses a sonar sensor to navigate. This sensor is set up on a servo in order to scan the terrain, and, depending on how it’s programmed, hopefully avoid obstacles. As of when the video was taken, the little robot appears to sense an obstacle then scan with the servo left and right to see what the best way to turn is.

If this little turtle robot doesn’t have enough power for your taste, check out this autonomous ATV sentry.