Hackaday Prize Entry: Real Life XEyes

There’s a lot of tech that goes into animatronics, cosplay, and costumes. For their Hackaday Prize entry, [Dasaki] and [Dylan] are taking the eyes in a costume or Halloween prop to the next level with animatronic eyes that look where the wearer of this crazy confabulation is looking. It’s XEyes in real life, and it promises to be a part of some very, very cool costumes.

The mechanics of this system are actually pretty simple — it’s just a few servos joined together to make a pair of robotic eyes move up and down, and left to right. This entire mechanism is mounted on a frame, to which is attached a very small camera pointed directly at the user’s (real) eye. The software is where things get fun. That’s a basic eye-tracking setup, with IR light illuminating the pupil, and a compute unit that can calculate where the user is looking.

For the software, [Dasaki] and [Dylan] have collected a bunch of links, but right now the best solutions are the OpenMV and the Eye of Horus project from last year’s Hackaday Prize. It’s a great project, and a really fun entry for the Automation portion of this year’s Hackaday Prize.

Droolworthy Animatronic Stargate Horus Helmet

It’s incredibly likely that, unless you own one of the original movie props, your Stargate Horus helmet is not as cool as [jeromekelty]’s. We say this with some confidence because [jerome] got access to the original molds and put in an incredible amount of time on the animatronics. (See his latest video embedded below.)

Surprisingly, a number of the parts for this amazing piece were bought off the shelf. The irises that open and close they eyes, for instance, were bought on eBay. This is not to downplay the amount of custom design, though. The mechanism that moves the feathers is a sight to see, and there’s a lot of hand-machined metal holding it all together. But the payoff is watching the thing move under remote control. The eye dimming and closing, combined with the head movements, make it look almost alive.

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Robo Face Speaks

If you are doing a senior design project in engineering school, it takes some guts to make a robotic duplicate of the school’s president. He or she might be flattered, or completely offended. Us? We laughed out loud. Check out the video below. Spoiler: the nose/moustache wiggle at the end kills us every time.

The project uses a variety of parts including a plastic mask, an Erector set, and the obligatory Arduino with an MP3 shield. There are many articulated parts including eyes, nose, mouth, and wiggly moustache. The face uses RC servos, although [gtoombs] says he’d use stepper motors next time for smoother motion.

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Mechatronic Cat Ears For The Rest Of Us

Every now and then you see a project that makes you smile. It may not be something that will deliver world peace or feed the hungry, but when it opens in your browser in the morning you go to work a bit happier for the experience.

Just such a project is [Radomir Dopieralski’s] set of wearable mechatronic cat ears. A cosplay accessory that moves as you do. Very kawaii, but fun.

You may have seen the commercially available Necomimi brainwave activated mechatronic ears. [Radomir’s] version does not share their sophistication, instead he’s using an accelerometer to detect head movement coupled to an Arduino Pro Mini driving a pari of servos which manipulate the ears. He provides the source code, and has plans for a miniaturised version using an ATtiny85 on its own PCB.

Amusing cuteness aside, there are some considerations [Radomir] has had to observe that apply to any a head-mounted wearable computer. Not least the problem of putting the Pro Mini and its battery somewhere a little more unobtrusive and weatherproof than on top of his head. He also found that the micro-servos he was using did not have enough range of movement to fully bend the ears, something he is likely to address in a future version with bigger servos. He’s yet to address a particularly thorny problem: that a pair of servos mounted on your head can be rather noisy.

We’ve covered quite a few cosplay stories over the years. This is not even our first cat ear story. More than one example of a Pip Boy, a HAL 9000 costume, and a beautifully made Wheatley puppet have made these pages, to name a few. So scroll down and enjoy [Radomir’s] video demonstration of the ears in action.

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Remote-Controlled Eyebrows for Your Birthday

We’re not sure that [Alec]’s dad actually requested remote-controlled eyebrows for his birthday, but it looks like it’s what he got! As [Alec] points out, his father does have very expressive eyebrows, and who knows, he could be tired of raising and lowering them by himself. So maybe this is a good thing? But to us, it still looks a tiny bit Clockwork Orange. But we’re not here to pass judgement or discuss matters of free will. On to the project. (And the video, below the break.)

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An ATmega328 (otherwise known as cheap Cloneduino Alec wrote that the 328 was from a real Arduino) is trained to run motors in response to IR signals. An L293D and a couple of gear motors take care of the rest. Sewing bobbins and thread connect the motors to the eyebrows. And while it’s not entirely visible in the photo, and veers back into not-sure-we’d-do-this-at-home, a toothpick serves as an anchor for the thread and tape, secured just underneath the ‘brows for maximum traction.

We have to say, we initially thought it was going to be a high-voltage muscle-control hack, and we were relieved that it wasn’t.

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Darth Vader Magic 8 Ball

Imagine that your wife likes Darth Vader and wants help making important life choices. (Who doesn’t?) [bithead942] solves both problems in one project by gutting a Lego clock and making a talking animatronic Darth Vader 8-Ball-style oracle. Now his wife can simply press Darth’s head and her decision-making is handled by the Dark Side of the Force.

You can see the result in the video below the break.

The internals consist mainly of an Arduino Nano, a WTV020SD WAV playback chip, and some swanky servos. [bithead942] took a Dremel to the existing clock interior and found a way to make it all fit. The cloak helped, and the speaker was a good fit for the previous clock’s display.

Then he used IMDB and combed through the Star Wars movies to find Darth Vader quotes that kinda sound like the 8-Ball’s answers. As [bithead942] mentions Darth Vader doesn’t really dwell much on the positive, so finding instances where he says “yes” was hard work. This is in contrast to the original 8 Ball which has a brighter outlook than a cheerleader on Prozac, but there’s a reason they call it the Dark Side.

We really like the way the waist and arm servos work together to bring Darth to life. The added oak base with pull-out instruction card not only makes Darth look fancy, but prevents him from falling over when he leans forward to talk. All in all, a really nice build and well written-up with difficulties and their solutions.

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Ask Hackaday: Who is Going to Build This Pneumatic Transmission Thing?

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Disney research is doing what they do best, building really cool stuff for Disney and telling the rest of the world how cool they are. This time, it’s a very low friction fluid transmission device designed for animatronics.

From testing a few toy robotic arms, we can say without a doubt that servos and motors are not the way to go if you’re designing robots and animatronics that need lifelike motion. To fix this, a few researchers at Disney Pittsburgh have turned to pneumatics and hydraulics, where one joint is controlled by two sets of pistons. It’s extremely similar to the pneumatic LEGO, but more precise and much more lifelike.

The system uses a pair of cylinders on each joint of a robot. Disney is using a rolling diaphragm to seal the working fluid in its tubes and cylinders. This is an extremely low-friction device without any shakiness or jitters found with simple o-ring pneumatics and hydraulics.

The system is backdriveable, meaning one robotic arm can control another, and the other way around. Since we’re dealing with hydraulics, the cylinders (and robotic/animatronic devices) don’t need to be the same size; a small device could easily control a larger copy of itself, and vice versa.

The devices are fairly simple, with gears, toothed belts, and bits of plastic between them. The only unique part of these robots is the rolling diaphragm, and we have no idea where to source this. It looks like it would be great for some robotics or an Iron Man-esque mech suit, but being able to source the components will be a challenge.

You can check out the videos of these devices below, and if you have any idea on how to build your own, leave a note in the comments.

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