Train Your Robot To Walk with a Neural Network

[Basti] was playing around with Artificial Neural Networks (ANNs), and decided that a lot of the “hello world” type programs just weren’t zingy enough to instill his love for the networks in others. So he juiced it up a little bit by applying a reasonably simple ANN to teach a four-legged robot to walk (in German, translated here).

While we think it’s awesome that postal systems the world over have been machine sorting mail based on similar algorithms for years now, watching a squirming quartet of servos come to forward-moving consensus is more viscerally inspiring. Job well done! Check out the video embedded below.

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Animatronic Head Responds with Animated GIFs

[Abhishek] describes Peeqo as a “personal desktop robotic assistant” that looks like “the love child of an Amazon Echo and a Disney character.” We’re not sure about that last part — we’re pretty sure [Bender Bending Rodriquez] would fail a paternity suit on this one. Just look at that resemblance.

vkwnaidWhatever Peeqo’s parentage may be, it’s a pretty awesome build, and from the look of [Abhishek]’s design notes, he put a lot of thought into it, and a lot of work too. The build log reveals 3D-printed parts galore, custom-etched PC boards, and a hacked Raspberry Pi to both listen for voice commands and play responses in the form of animated GIFs on Peeqo’s ‘face’. The base has six modified RC servos to run the Gough-Stewart platform that lets Peeqo emote, and the head contains pretty much all the electronics. Beyond the hardware, a ton of programming went into giving Peeqo the ability to communicate through head gestures and GIFs that make sense for the required response.

Whether it’s bopping along to the tunes on your playlist or motivating you to lay off the social media with [Will Ferrell]’s flaming angry eyes, Peeqo looks like a ton of fun to build and use. Conveniently enough, [Abhishek] has shared all his files so you can build one too.

We haven’t seen anything like Peeqo before, but we have seen a lot of Amazon Echo hacks and even a few Stewart platform builds. But did we inadvertently feature a project starring Peeqo’s dad way back in 2009?

[Thanks to Aaron Cofield for the tip]

Speed Run [James Bruton’s] Star Wars Builds

We’ve been following [James Bruton]’s builds here on Hackaday for quite a while and he has built some impressive stuff. We love how he often doesn’t cover everything up, leaving enough room to admire the working bits under the hood. Just in time for the release of the new Star Wars movie, Rogue One, [James] put together an overview of his Star Wars robot builds.

The build summary includes his R6 droid, his GNK walking droid and the third revision of his BB-8 droid. [James Bruton]’s videos have tons of detail in them over many, many parts (for example, his BB-8 R3 playlist is 15 parts and his Ultron build currently has 26 episodes and counting!)

There’s a quick overview of each of the three robot builds in this video, and it includes links to the playlists for each build for those who want more detail. This is just what you need to glimpse all of the clever design that went into these wonderfully crafted droids. And if you haven’t seen it yet, you should check out his series elastic actuators that he’s working on for the Ultron build, they give a robot some relief from rigidity.

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Building a Whegged Robot

[Jaidyn Edwards] is building a robot. This isn’t going to be a normal robot, though, he’s building a whegged robot, inspired by Boston Dynamic’s version of the RHex design.

A wheg (TM) is a curved leg that rotates around a foxed fixed (Ed note: Fixed!) point on one end, driven by a motor. Hence the name: part wheel, part leg. By driving each leg separately, you can keep the robot balanced and push it forwards. This is a complex system to build. Unlike normal wheels or drive systems, you need to know exactly where the leg is to use it properly, as the position of the leg depends on the rotation of the motor.

The legs themselves are going to be 3D printed from a combination of rigid and flexible fabrics that should provide both strength and grip. In this first video, [Jaidyn] outlines his design, and explains why he is trying this approach. It’s the first in an ongoing series that should definitely be worth tuning into.

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Otto Bot is Bob’s Grandson

The Otto DIY robot has just taken first place in the coveted role as “best robot to 3D print for your (inner) child”. It’s cute, it dances, it doesn’t cost too much, it’s completely open source, and it’s not impossible to write code for. It’s probably the most refined Bob design that we’ve seen yet. Watch it move in the video below.

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This Robot Goes Through Life Sideways

We humans walk funny. Pivoting one leg forward at the hip creates an offset that puts us off-balance sideways. We have to compensate for this with each step we take. Many robots handle this by instead taking small, calculated steps. Enter NABiRoS, the Non Anthropomorphic Bipedal Robot System (link to the video below). The ‘Non Anthropomorphic’ means that it doesn’t walk like a human, and yet the ‘Bipedal’ means it still walks on two legs. The difference is that it walks sideways.

NABiRoS leg configuration
NABiRoS leg configuration (from video)

Here’s how the folks from RoMeLa (Robotics & Mechanisms Laboratory) at UCLA did it. Imagine you rotated both your legs 90 degrees such that they were facing in opposite directions. Then you rotate your upper body 90 degrees to face one of your legs. You can now move your legs to walk in the direction you’re facing and there’ll be no more tilting sideways each time you take a step. The joints are also simpler as only a single degree of freedom is needed in each of the knee and hip joints. The ankles and feet are done with a compliant, or an elastic, joint much as you see with a lot of prosthetic legs. As you can see in the video below, in addition to walking, they can do some surprisingly active things such as hopping up and down and what we can only call skipping. In fact, the result is sometimes very human.

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The Hunt For Red October In A Bathtub

Anything can be a remote controlled airplane, and ‘copters – quad or not – simply beat the air into submission. Remote controlled cars are easy, and RC tanks can even shoot their guns. One type of vehicle has eluded remote control hobbyists to a large extent; building a remote control submarine is hard. Not only do you have buoyancy to worry about, but you also need a way to keep the dry parts dry, all while operating in an environment where radio doesn’t really work well.

[Ivan] has already built RC planes, but wanted to tackle a new challenge. He built an RC submarine, and he did it using the simplest household materials.

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