Remember pin art? That’s the little box full of pins that you can push something into and the pins take on the shape. You usually use your hand, but any small object works (including, if you are brave enough, your face). [Sean Follmer] (formerly at the MIT Media Lab) developed the reverse of this: a surface made of pins driven by motors. Under computer control, the surface can take on shapes all by itself.
The square pins can be seen in the video below moving and manipulating blocks and using them to build structures out of the blocks. By using the right sequence of pin motions, the blocks can be flipped and even stacked. Magnetic blocks offer even more options.
Technology keeps making things smaller, but this is ridiculous. Scientists at Rice University in Houston have just made a tiny submarine with a molecular motor. They call it a unimolecular submersible nanomachine (USN), because it is composed of a single molecule made up of 244 atoms. The really smart bit comes from how it is driven: when the molecule absorbs a photon of light, one of the bonds that holds it together becomes more flexible, and the tail spins a quarter of a rotation to attach to another atom and reach the preferred lower energy state. This motion moves the molecule, and the process repeats. This happens millions of times a second.
I wouldn’t put down a deposit on a nanosub quite yet, though: the motion is random, as there is no way to steer the molecule at present. The researchers figured out that it behaves this way by analyzing the way that the molecule diffuses, because these molecules diffuse 25 per cent quicker with the light source than without. Nope, not very practical, but it is a neat bit of molecular hackery.
If you want to make a submersible robot (or, really, any robot) you can either design it for a specific mission, or you can try to make it general purpose. The researchers at the Cura Oceanus Foundation opted for the latter approach with RiverBot, a community-designed unmanned submersible.
Comparing it to the Space Shuttle, the RiverBot has payload bays that accept sensor kits or custom-made payloads. The builders hope to provide a platform for students and others and want to have students start with RiverBot in middle school, and keep working with the program all the way up to the PhD level.
There’s something about lawn mowers and hackers. A desire to make them into smart, independent robots. Probably in preparation for the day when Skynet becomes self-aware or the Borg collective comes along to assimilate them into the hive. [Ostafichuk] wanted his to be ready when that happens, so he’s building a Raspberry-Pi powered, Dalek costumed Lawn Mower that is still a work in progress since starting on it in 2014. According to him, “commercial robot lawn mowers are too expensive and not nearly terrifying enough to be any fun, so I guess I will just have to build something myself…”
His first report describes the basic skeletal structure he built using scrap pieces of wood. Two large lawn tractor wheels and a third pivot wheel help with locomotion. The two large wheels are driven by geared motors originally meant for car seat height adjustments. A deep cycle 12V battery, and solar panels for charging would take care of power. A raspberry-pi provides the brain power for the Dalek-Mower and L298N based drivers help drive the motors. The body was built from some more planks of scrap wood that he had lying around. While waiting around for several parts to arrive – ultrasonic sensors, accelerometer, 5V power supply modules – he started to paint and decorate the wood work. Generous amounts of water repellent paint and duct tape were used to make it weather proof. His initial plan was to use python for the code, but he later switched to programming in c along with wiringPi library. Code for the project is available from his bitbucket git repository. Load testing revealed that the L298N drivers were not suitable for the high current drawn by the motors, so he changed over to relays to drive them.
Self-driving cars are starting to pop up everywhere as companies slowly begin to test and improve them for the commercial market. Heck, Google’s self-driving car actually has its very own driver’s license in Nevada! There have been minimal accidents, and most of the time, they say it’s not the autonomous cars’ fault. But when autonomous cars are widespread — there will still be accidents — it’s inevitable. And what will happen when your car has to decide whether to save you, or a crowd of people? Ever think about that before?
It’s an extremely valid concern, and raises a huge ethical issue. In the rare circumstance that the car has to choose the “best” outcome — what will determine that? Reducing the loss of life? Even if it means crashing into a wall, mortally injuring you, the driver? Maybe car manufacturers will finally have to make ejection seats a standard feature!
Bringing women into technical education at times seems to be an insurmountable challenge. As a counter, a small drawing robot created by [MakersBox] might help. The robot was used in a ChickTech workshop for teen girls.
The goals for the robot were to have an easy to build, easy to program robot that did something interesting, and was also low-cost so the workshop participants could take it home and continue to learn. These requirements led [MakersBox] to the Adafruit Pro Trinket 3V, stepper motors for accuracy, and a 3d printed chassis to allow for customization.
Another version of the Arduino should work without any problems and even possibly a Raspberry Pi, suggests [MakersBox]. With the latter’s more diverse programming environment opening up a lot of possibilities
Drawing robots like this for education are not new. [Seymour Papert] created one of the first turtle robots, seen at the left, in the 1980s. He even created the Logo programming language and adapted it for use with the turtle. An interesting similarity between [MakersBox’s] and the original turtle is the drawing pen is in the center of both.