Hackaday Prize Entry: A Cluster Of Exoskeletons

The current trend of 3D printed prosthetic hands have one rather large drawback: you can’t use them if you already have two hands. This might seem like a glib objection, but one of last week’s Hackaday Prize posts pointed this out rather well – sometimes a meat machine needs mechanical assistance.

BEOWULF, [Chad Paik]’s entry for the Hackaday Prize, is the answer to this problem. It’s a mechanical exoskeleton for grip enhancement, stroke rehabilitation, and anyone else that doesn’t have the strength they need to get through the day.

This project solves the problem of weak arm strength through – you guessed it – 3D-printed parts, a linear actuator on the forearm, and a few force sensors on the fingertips. Control is obtained through a Thalmic Labs Myo, but the team behind the BEOWULF is currently working on a custom muscle activity sensor that is more compact and isn’t beholden to VC investors. You can check out a video of this exoskeleton below.

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Hackaday Prize Entry: A Big, Inexpensive 3D Printer

When it comes to 3D printers, most machines you’ll see are pretty small. The Ultimaker, Prusa, Lulzbot, and the Rostock Max are desktop devices. While they have entirely usable build volumes, you’re not printing furniture with these machines. Yes, large format 3D printers exist, like the SeeMeCNC Part Daddy (they’ll build you one for ~$90,000, IIRC), a house printer that uses concrete, and a number of very large printers from various other manufacturers with very high price tags.

There is no 3D printer designed to print large objects without spending tens of thousands of dollars on a machine. That’s the focus of this Hackaday Prize entry. [RigTig]’s Big 3D Printer is designed to be big, but also inexpensive.

A big, inexpensive 3D printer can’t use the usual machine setups seen in other large format printers. Big machines with traditional kinematics demand big pieces of aluminum, counterweights, and a design that might spiral out of control. Instead of a thousand pounds of metal, [RigTig] is using something like the Skycam system seen at every NFL game; put a few towers up at the corners of a triangle, run some string or cable through some pulleys, and you have a simple, light movement platform.

With the machine side of the problem figured out, the next question is what material to use. [RigTig] has decided plastic filament is impractical because of cost. A clay extrusion system has a lot of problems. Concrete is a good idea, but the prints would weigh several tons. Right now, [RigTig] is planning on using dirt with a polymer binder. It’s an interesting idea, and one we haven’t seen elsewhere.

Building a 3D printer from scratch is easy. Building a huge 3D printer is one of the most interesting engineering challenges out there. Not only do you need a motion platform that can make it work, but you also need to print in a material that is cheap enough and prints fast enough for the printer to make sense. We don’t know if [RigTig] is on the right track yet, but we’re glad to see him put in the effort for this excellent addition to the Hackaday Prize.

Hackaday Prize Entry: A Modern, Universal Power Glove

The Nintendo Power Glove was one of the amazing 1980s experiments in alternative user interfaces for video games. It was bad. It was cool, but it was bad. Recently, interest in the Power Glove has grown thanks to an amazing stop motion animator. Prices of these gloves have gone through the roof, and the Power Glove is in the middle of a resurgence not seen since the feature-length motion picture advertisement for Super Mario Bros. 3.

[Nolan Moore] is a fan of the Power Glove, and after finding a highly collectible new in box Power Glove, he decided to take this wearable to the next level. It’s now sporting custom circuit boards, it can control a drone, and talks wirelessly to every device on the planet. It’s also [Nolan]’s entry for the Hackaday Prize.

First up, the glove itself. [Nolan] was lucky enough to find a new, in shrink-wrapped plastic, Famicom Power Glove. His old one had been in storage for 27 years, and this new old-stock version gives him a beautiful matte glove, flex sensors that work, and brand new everything. You can take a look at the unboxing here.

A Power Glove is only as cool as the electronics inside, and that means tearing out the old boards, the old ultrasonic sensors, and a rats nest of wiring. This meant [Nolan] had to spin a few PCBs, integrating a Teensy, an IMU module, battery, and an ESP8266. This is the Power Glove as it would be invented today – perfection in 80s cyberpunk.

We first saw [Nolan]’s Power Glove at the Bay Area Maker Faire last summer. Here, [Nolan] was flying a quad around a netted cage, his replacement Power Glove electronics, and his fist-pumping grin. It’s a great project, and one we’re happy to show off in the Hackaday Prize.

Hackaday Prize Entry: The Fog – The Cloud At Ground Level

I did not coin the phrase in this article’s headline. It came, I believe, from an asinine press release I read years ago. It was a stupid phrase then, and it’s a stupid phrase now, but the idea behind it does have some merit. A collaborative Dropbox running on hardware you own isn’t a bad idea, and a physical device that does the same is a pretty good idea. That’s the idea behind the USB Borg Drive. It’s two (or more) mirrored USB thumb drives linked together by condescending condensation saying you too can have the cloud in both your pockets.

Like all good technology, the USB Borg Drive began as a joke. [heige] and his colleague were passing USB sticks back and forth to get software running on a machine without Internet. The idea of two USB sticks connected together via WiFi blossomed and the idea of the USB Borg Drive was born.

An idea is one thing, and an implementation another thing entirely. This is where [helge] is stumbling. The basic idea now is to use a Raspberry Pi Zero containing a WiFi adapter, USB set up in peripheral mode, some sort of way to power the devices, and maybe a way to set IDs between pairs of devices.

There’s still a lot of work for [heige] to do, but this is actually, honestly, not a terrible idea. Everything has a USB port on it these days, and USB mass storage is available on every platform imaginable. It’s the cloud, at ground level. A fog, if you will, but not something that sounds that stupid.

Hackaday Prize Entry: The Open Voice Factory

Joe’s little brother Richard has never been able to speak. When Richard turned 19, he received a device not unlike the voice box of Stephen Hawking. Suddenly, Richard was able to communicate using thousands of words, and everyone could understand him. In the UK, there are thousands of people who could benefit from this technology, but can’t afford one. This is the inspiration for the Open Voice Factory, a device that allows anyone to create pages of touch screen interfaces and parses them into functioning speech aids.

The basic idea behind the Open Voice Factory is — wait for it — PowerPoint. Hold on, this actually makes sense. The Open Voice Factory is designed so caregivers can create and modify the touchscreen ‘pages’ with different words and actions. PowerPoint is universal, and everybody’s grandmother knows how to use it. In this regard, the software that is the leading cause of death for astronauts isn’t a terrible choice.

That PowerPoint stack is sent off to an online Factory that parses the commands and assembles a web page built for touch screen interaction. It’s brilliantly simple, relies on a cloud service so it’s highly marketable, and requires only a minimal hardware investment for each user. Consider the fact that computers – especially Macs – have had exceptional text to speech capabilities for twenty years now, and you wonder why something like this hasn’t come along sooner. It’s an awesome idea, and a great entry for the Hackaday Prize.

Hackaday Prize Entry: Antigravity Arm Floaties

A few years ago, [Mike] heard about orthotic devices for people in wheelchairs that make it easier to them to move their arms. His daughter had the opportunity to demo one of these devices, and the results with the device were good. The fights with the insurance company were not so good, but this really was a device that could be made on a 3D printer with a few rubber bands, after all. Thus, [Mike] invented 3D printed antigravity arm floaties.

The name basically tells the story — these antigravity arm floaties work well to counter the pull of gravity for individuals with low muscle tone. [Mike]’s daughter found the professional, official, not-covered-by-insurance version useful, so [Mike] decided to build his own. There’s really not much to it – it’s just a few 3D printed parts attached to a wheelchair with a few rubber bands giving the mechanical linkages some resistance.

In the true hacker spirit, [Mike] took the basic idea of these spring-loaded arm floaties and put a new twist on it. He’s using a chain as the mechanism that allows freedom of movement in the XY plane. This makes the device slightly better, and is by every account an improvement on the commercial version. That’s what you get when you can iterate quickly with a 3D printer, making this project an excellent example of what we’re looking for in the Assistive Technology portion of the Hackaday Prize.

Hackaday Prize Entry: 3D Prints For The Visually Impaired

Students with visual impairments can have difficulty with visual and spatial relationships. 3D printers can print almost everything, and with a lot of CAD work, this project in the Hackaday Prize provides these students with physical objects to learn any subject.

[Joan] and [Whosawhatsis] have already written the book on 3D printed science projects and have produced a 3D printed Braille map of a campus, but for this project, they’re making things a little bit simpler. Visually impaired students are tactile learners and the simplest of their 3D printable objects are fixed volume objects. This collection of 3D printable cylinders, cones, prisms, and pyramids give a physical representation of geometric solids. These objects also have another trick up their sleeve: they all contain the same volume. Fill the cylinder up with water, pour that water into a cone, and the student will discover that they all contain the same volume.  That’s useful for the visually impaired, but would also put these printable shapes at home in any elementary or middle school math class.

This project already has a rather large following, with teachers of the visually impaired contributing on a Google Group, and a ton of people downloading the models. [Joan] and [Whosawhatsis] are getting a lot of great feedback and growing the range of contributors, making this the start of an awesome community and a great Hackaday Prize entry.