Robotic Scalextrics

scalectrics

At the Volkswagen factory there are two towers – AutoTürme – filled with gigantic robots lifting cars into parking spaces. It’s by far the most efficient way of putting a huge number of cars in a small footprint. Slot cars exist, so how about a completely overwrought yet entirely awesome robotic parking garage for 1:32 scale cars? (.es, Google translatrix)

The project is built around several ‘racks’ to hold cars arranged around a central elevator. An Arduino takes care of moving all the motors and reading all the sensors, with the basic idea behind the project being the ability to select a car and have it appear in the pit of the track a few moments later.

Although this is just one small part of what is already a very impressive slot car track, it is however the most electronic. Other unique additions include a very unique cantilever/suspension bridge and the usual modeling techniques of creating a landscape with little more than cardboard and glue.

The best way to get a sense of how cool the parking garage is through the video. You can check that out below.

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Self-Assembling Origami Robots

orgami-robots-harvard

MIT engineers have developed a technique to address the challenges involved in manufacturing robots at a cheap and accessible level. Like a plant folding out its petals, a protein folding into shape, or an insect unveiling its wings, this autonomous origami design demonstrated the ability for a mechanical creature to assemble itself and walk away. The technique opens up the possibility of unleashing swarms of flat robots into hard to reach places. Once on site, the robots mobilize from the ground up.

The team behind the project used flexible print circuit boards made out of paper and polystyrene, which is a synthetic aromatic polymer typically found in the commercially sold children’s toy Shrinky Dinks™. Each hinge had embedded circuits that were mechanically programmed to fold at certain angles. Heat was applied to the composite structure triggering the folding process. After about four minutes, the hinges would cool allowing the polystyrene to harden. Some issues did arise though during the initial design phase due to the amount of electrical current running the robots, which was ten times that of a regular light bulb. This caused the original prototypes to burn up before the construction operation was completed.

In the long-term, Core Faculty Member [Robert] would like to have a facility that would provide everyday robotic assistance to anyone in the surrounding community. This place would be accessible to everyone in the neighborhood helping to solve whatever problems might arise, which sounds awfully like a hackerspace to us. Whether the person required a device to detect gas leaks or a porch sweeping robot, the facility would be there to aid the members living nearby.

A video of [Robert] and [Sam] describing the project comes up after the break:

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The Berlin Cyberbeetle with Its Own TV

13_Cyberbeetle

The evolution of the mere beetle has transformed from organic matter into robotic gears, circuits, and wires. This Cyberbeetle project was born during an open culture hackathon in Berlin throughout a few months time period. The event was called Coding for Vinci and was held from April into July 2014. The project used an Arduino and combined openly licensed biology related pictures and sounds from the museums in the area in a fun and playful way.

[Kati] and [Tomi] based the design on a gorgeous Chalcosoma atlas beetle species which was found in insect box scans that were taken from a nearby museum. The cool thing about this project is that the Cyberbeetle that [Kati] and [Tomi] created has its own hi-tech insect box with various special features. For instance, when the box was rotated on its side, small doors were revealed that when opened unveiled a tiny home theater system with a hi-definition flat screen, audio system and infrared communication. Inside the horn of the Cyberbeetle was an infrared receiver, which allowed the creature to interface with its TV program when it started. Music videos as well excited the robotic insect.

The project was awarded the “Funniest hack” prize during the hackathon. And a video of it can be seen after the break:

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More Pole Climbing Bots, Haul Antennas and Bikes

Pole Climbing Robot

A few days ago we posted about a Pole Climbing Device. Since then we’ve gotten a few emails with tips about other pole climbers. We are going to talk about two of those here, they are completely different from each other and have completely different uses. Who knew there was such a variety of pole climber bots out there?

First up is this an antenna-wielding bot that climbs up poles in order to promote over the air communications. The system is called E-APS (Emergency Antenna Platform System) and is used by enthusiasts to turn any ol’ parking lot lamp post into an antenna tower. This particular machine has a large rectangular frame made from extruded aluminum. There are four wheels, two of which are driven by what appears to be a car power window motor. The weight of the antenna forces each set of two wheels to be pressed up against opposite sides of the pole, creating enough friction to not only support the unit but allow it to travel up and down the pole. There is not a lot of explanation about the build but there are a lot of detailed photos of the final product. We saw E-APS in action at MakerFaire New York 2013, and it was very impressive.

We’ve covered this next device before but it’s worth mentioning again. The project assumes that no bike lock is strong enough to deter the most persistent thief. Instead of locking your bike up and hoping for the best, this ‘theft preventer’ hikes your bike up out of the reach of would-be bike nabbers. So how do you get your bike down once it is up the pole? A remote control fob, of course.

There are 2 cool videos of these inventions after the break…..

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What Could Possibly Go Wrong Giving a Robot a Chainsaw?

Chainsaw wielding robot

[Morgan Rauscher] is a rather eccentric artist, inventor, maker, professor… jack of all trades. His latest project is called the Art-Bot – and it’s an 8′ robotic arm equipped with a chainsaw. Did we mention you can control it via arcade buttons?

He’s been building sculptures for over 10 years now, and has enjoyed observing the evolution of automated manufacturing – from CNC machines to laser cutters and even now, 3D printers. He loves the technologies, but fears machines are making it too easy – distancing us from the good old physical interaction it once took to make things with a few simple tools. His Art-Bot project attempts to bridge that gap by bringing tactile transference to the experience.

The cool part about the Art-Bot is that it is mostly made of recycled materials – in particular, bicycle parts!

Making a robot from bicycle parts is really not that difficult, and I highly recommend it.

The rest of the robot consists of electric actuators (linear), the control circuitry, and of course — a chainsaw. For safety’s sake, [Morgan] also built a polycarbonate wall around it to protect users from it going on a murderous rampage wood chips and other debris thrown from the robot.

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A Mechanically Scanned LIDAR For Autonomous Robots

LIDAR[Patrick] has spent a lot of time around ground and aerial based autonomous robots, and over the last few years, he’s noticed a particular need for teams in robotics competitions to break through the ‘sensory bottleneck’ and get good data of the surrounding environment for navigational algorithms. The most well-funded teams in autonomous robotics competitions use LIDARs to scan the environment, but these are astonishingly expensive. With that, [Patrick] set out to create a cheaper solution.

Early this year, [Patrick] learned of an extremely cheap LIDAR sensor. Now [Patrick] is building a robotics distance measurement unit based on this sensor.

Early experiments with mechanically scanned LIDAR sensors centered around the XV-11 LIDAR, the distance sensor found in the Neato Robotics robot vacuum cleaner. [Patrick] became convinced a mechanically scanned LIDAR was the way forward when it came to distance measurement of autonomous robots. Now he’s making his own with an astonishingly inexpensive LIDAR sensor.

The basic idea of [Patrick]‘s project is to take the PulsedLight LIDAR-Lite module, add a motor and processing board, and sell a complete unit that will output 360° of distance data to a robot’s main control system. The entire system should cost under $150 when finished; a boon to any students, teams, or hobbyists building an autonomous vehicle.

[Patrick]‘s system is based on the PulsedLight LIDAR – a device that’s not shipping yet – but the team behind the LIDAR-Lite says they should have everything ready by the end of the month, all the better, because between these two devices, there’s a lot of cool stuff to be done in the area of autonomous robots.

Soccer Playing Robots Score on Human Goalie!

Soccer robot scores on humans

Did you know there’s a rather large community dedicated to making robots that can play soccer? Did you know they’re getting pretty good?

RoboCup is an international robotics competition held annually, first founded in 1997. The goal first and foremost is to promote robotics and AI research — and to do so, they decided to make the competition something that is publicly appealing — Why not one of the most popular sports around? The official goal of the project is to have a team of autonomous humanoid based robot players beat the most recent winning team of the World Cup, complying with the official rules of FIFA. This year, the RoboCup coincided with the real World Cup, and was hosted in Brazil.

There are several categories in RoboCup with various types of robots, and the mid-size team did pretty well this year.

Arguably, this is the most exciting game of all, because it gives a sense of what the current state-of-the-art in robotic soccer is, and how it stacks up to a team of moderately talented squishy bipeds.

We guess that’s a nice way of saying “non-professional soccer players”. Regardless though, they SCORED!

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