Step Right Up or Cower In Fear; the 7-Story Car-Juggling Robot Is Here

Seven story robot juggles three VW BeetlesSometimes we see a project that’s just as frightening as it is awesome. The Bug Juggler is a prime example of this phenomenon. A seven-story diesel-powered humanoid robot is one thing, but this one will pick up two VW Beetles, put one in its pocket, pick up a third, and juggle them. Yes, juggle them.

The Bug Juggler will be driven by a brave soul sitting in the head-cage and controlling him through haptic feedback connected to high-speed servo valves. A diesel engine will generate hydraulic pressure, and the mobility required for juggling the cars will come from hydraulic accumulators.

The project is in the capable hands of team members who have built special effects, a diesel/hydraulic vehicle for hauling huge sections of pipe, and mechanisms for Space Shuttle experiments. In order to attract investors for the full-scale version, they are building an 8-foot tall proof-of-concept arm assembly capable of tossing and catching a 250lb. mass.

If you prefer to see Beetles crushed, check out Stompy, the 18-foot rideable hexapod. Make the jump to see an animation of the full-scale Bug Juggler in action. Don’t know about you, but we wouldn’t stand quite so close to it without a helmet and some really good health insurance.

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Stubby, The Adorable And Easy To Build Hexapod


A while back, we had a sci-fi contest on Inspired by the replicators in Stargate SG-1, [The Big One] and a few other folk decided a remote-controlled hexapod would be a great build. The contest is long over, but that doesn’t mean development stopped. Now Stubby, the replicator-inspired hexapod is complete and he looks awesome.

The first two versions suffered from underpowered servos and complex mechanics. Third time’s the charm, and version three is a lightweight robot with pretty simple mechanics able to translate and rotate along the XYZ axes. Stubby only weights about 600 grams, batteries included, so he’s surprisingly nimble as well.

The frame of the hexapod is designed to be cut with a scroll saw, much to the chagrin of anyone without a CNC machine. There are three 9g servos per leg, all controlled with a custom board featuring an ATMega1284p and an XBee interface to an old Playstation controller.

Video of Stubby below, and of course all the sources and files are available on the project site.

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A Tiny Robot Family


Back in the late 80s and early 90s, a lot of young electronics hobbyists cut their teeth with BEAM robots – small robots made with logic chips and recycled walkmans that tore a page from papers on neural nets and the AI renaissance of the 80s. Twenty years later, a second AI renaissance never happened because a generation of genius programmers decided the best use of their mental faculties was to sell ads on the Internet. We got the Arduino, though, and the tiny robot family is a more than sufficient spiritual successor to the digital life of the old BEAM bots.

The tiny robot family is [shlonkin]‘s growing collection of small autonomous vehicles that perceive the world with sensors and act with different behaviors. They all contain an ATtiny85, a small battery, two motors, and at least one phototransistor and a LED. One robot has left and right eyes pointing down, and can act as a line follower. Another has a group of LEDs around its body, allowing it to signal other bots in all directions. The goal of the project is to create a whole series of these tiny robots capable of interacting with the environment and each other. Video of the line follower below.

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Drones and Robots Come Out to Play at Sparkfun’s 6th Annual Autonomous Vehicle Competition

Sparkfun AVC 2014

Sparkfun Electronics held their 6th annual Autonomous Vehicle Competition last weekend, and this year was bigger than ever before. The action was at Boulder Reservoir in Colorado, but anyone could follow along (with a few technical difficulties) on the YouTube LiveStream. (Part 1), and (Part 2).

The story of the day was Team SHARC’s Troubled Child, which won the ground vehicle doping class. Rather than mess around with miniature cars, Team SHARC built their ‘bot out of a freaking Jeep, a 1986 Jeep Grand Wagoneer to be exact. Troubled Child had no problem getting around the course. One could say it carried the entire team. Literally – the rest of Team SHARC’s robots are riding along on top of Troubled Child in the picture up there.

There was also plenty of action in the aerial competition. Sir Crash-a-Lot was the first drone to find a watery doom at Boulder Reservoir. The last we saw of it on the stream, the team was looking for some divers.

Aircraft can not be hand launched at the AVC. Not a problem for rotary-winged vehicles, but this rule has led to some interesting solutions for fixed wing aircraft. The disguised “Team Falcon” showed up with an incredible compressed air launcher, which used a gallon water jug to fire their delta-winged plane to a clean run.  Team Karma550 wasn’t quite as lucky, with their helicopter crashing hard, and throwing up quite a bit of smoke.

We’re still waiting for more detailed results, but if you want the full scores, they are available on Sparkfun’s AVC scoreboard page.

A Robot’s Favourite Pen

A test of various pens using a robot

Some people are very picky about their pens. Entire forums exist to discuss the topic of pen superiority. However, it comes down to a personal choice. Some people like gel while others prefer ballpoint.

[Jens] built a drawing robot that produces drawings like the one seen here. It uses several linkages connected to two stepper motors, which give fine control over the pen. With the robot working [Jens] set out to find the best pen for robotic drawing.

Seven pens were tested on the machine, each drawing the same pattern. [Jens] found that gel and rollerball pens work the best on the robot, and started examining the performance of each.

The pens all performed differently, but two winners were chosen to use in the machine. The Pentel Energel Deluxe RTX and the Pilot G-2 07 beat out the competition since they maintained good lines at high speeds.

If you’re looking to build a drawing robot, [Jens]‘ research should help you pick the best pen for your application. For inspiration, a video of the robot in action is waiting after the break.

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Give Aging Technology a Chance

Robot Arm with PDA Brain

In our rush to develop new projects, a lot of the time we jump the gun and order new Arduinos and microprocessors, when with a bit of ingenuity you can recycle old tech for new purposes. [Eric Wiemers] has a Lynxmotion robot arm and needed a way to control it — sure he could use an Arduino or something… or he could try to make use of his trusty PDA that never left his side, well, 10 years ago anyway!

In 2001, Handspring released the Visor Neo — an affordable PDA competitor to the Palm Pilot. It had a super fast 33MHz processor, a whole 8MB of RAM and a 16 bit grayscale screen with a whopping 160 x 160 pixels. [Eric] was lucky enough to get his hands on one a year after it came out. Fast forward today and PDA’s are pretty much obsolete due to smart phones — but [Eric] didn’t want to just chuck it, it still worked after all!

At first he thought of just practicing coding and writing some apps for it — but let’s be honest, he’d never use it instead of his smart phone. He dug a bit deeper and discovered it was actually capable of serial output — this realization opened up a world of possibilities! Using a spare charging cradle, he tapped into the serial connections and added a Molex connector to allow him to hook it up to his Lynxmotion. He wrote his own control app with a GUI which means he can now control the robot arm without needing to drag around his laptop — success!

Think twice before throwing out your old tech. Perhaps that disused piece of junk can have a second chance in your next DIY project.

Printable Lamp Assembles Itself


With the advent of 3D printers, printable circuits, and other “one-machine-to-rule-them-all” automated systems, printing fully functional items is fast becoming a reality. The lamp seen above starts out as a flat piece of cardboard with circuits printed onto it — apply some electricity and it will fold itself up, creating a lamp — it even has a capacitive touch sensor for turning it on!

This ingenuity comes straight from Harvard researchers who presented the project “Self-assembling Sensors for Printable Machines” at the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) just last Tuesday in Hong Kong. It’s not fully printable (wires and the LED had to be soldered in by hand) but it’s an amazing proof of concept — there’s also an Arduino off-screen taking care of controlling it.

The cardboard is a sandwich of shape-memory polymers which are triggered by heat, generated by running electricity through thin layers of copper trace. It takes a long time to assemble so the following video has been sped up 32x speed.

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