Real, Life-Sized Transformers

Ever dreamed of a real, life-sized Transformer in your garage? The Turkish startup Letrons now offers you exactly that: Their animatronic Autobot drives like a car, transforms like a Transformer, and supposedly fights off space threats with its built-in smoke machine and sound effects.

Letrons’s Transformer seems to be built upon a BMW E92 coupé chassis. According to the company, the beast is packed with powerful hydraulics and servo motors, allowing it to transform and move fast. Sensors all around the chassis give it some interactivity and prevent it from crushing innocent bystanders when in remote-control mode. Interestingly, its movable arms aren’t attached to the body, but to its extendable side-wings and feature hands with actuated wrists and fingers. The Autobot also can move its head, which pops right out of the hood.

Admittedly, Letrons must have spent a lot of time on the dark side of the moon and working in secrecy before they released footage of a working and polished prototype. It’s unclear if Letron’s Transformers will cooperate with the US military in solving armed conflicts, but they are certainly good for a show. Enjoy the video below!

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Art and Creepy Mechanisms

Latvian artist [Krists Pudzens] just put on a show in Sweden and sent us the video of his amazing kinetic sculpture. (Embedded below.) We found an arty-theory writeup of another exhibition of his to share, but we had so many technical questions that we had to write him back asking for details. And boy, did he answer.

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In the video, a couple of animatronic faces watch you as crab-like rope-climber bots inch upwards and red wings flap in the background. There’s a lot of brilliant mechanisms here, and aside from whatever it all means, we just like to watch machines go.

The details! Most of the pieces are plasma-cut steel or hand-cut-and-filed aluminum, and almost all of the motors are windshield wiper motors from old Russian KAMAZ and LADA cars. In another installation, the red wings (“Red Queens’ Race”) were installed in a public square and used to track the crowd, flapping faster as people moved more quickly by.

The robotic faces also use OpenCV to track you, and stare you down. One mask is vacuum-formed plastic, and the other is a copy in polyester resin and gelcoat. Here is a video of them on their own, and another of the development.

The twin rope-climbers, “Unbalanced Force”, just climb upwards at different paces. We were more than a little curious about what happens to the rope-climbers when they reach the top. [Krists] says the gallery staff grabs ladders and goes to fetch them. When he exhibited them in Poland on 20m ropes, they actually had to hire professional climbers. Life imitates art.

Some of us here at Hackaday are suckers for tech-art, whether it’s 3D-printed baroque columns, dancing with metal-bending machines, or just glowing globs of ferrofluid. There’s a lot of the same “wonder what would happen if…” tendency in the hacker and the artist — seeing possibilities and making them real.

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This Animatronic Hand is So Metal

According to his Instructables profile, [bwebby] wants to make cool stuff in the special effects industry. We think he has a pretty good chance at it based on the animatronic hand he built.

The finger segments are made from copper pipe. They are connected to each other and to the sheet metal palm with tiny hinges and superglue. That stuff inside the finger segments is epoxy putty. It keeps the ends of the tendons made from bicycle gearing cable firmly attached to the fingertip segments, and provides a channel through the rest of the fingers. These cables run through 50mm aluminium tubes that are set in a sheet metal forearm, and they connect to high-torque servos mounted on a piece of MDF. [bwebby] used a Pololu Mini Maestro to control the servos using the board’s native USB interface and control software.

Watch [bwebby] run through some movements and try out the grip after the break. If you want to make an animatronic hand but aren’t ready for this type of undertaking, you could start with an approach closer to puppetry.

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Robotic Terminator Teddy Will Protect You While You Sleep

This animatronic teddy bear is the stuff of nightmares… or dreams if you’re into mutant robot toys. In either case, this project by [Erwin Ried] is charming and creepy, as he gives life to an unassuming stuffed animal by implanting it with motorized parts.

[Erwin] achieves several degrees of motion throughout the bear’s body by filling the skin with a series of 3D printed bones, conjoined by servo motors at its shoulders, elbows and neck. The motors are controlled via an Arduino running slave to a custom application written in C#. This application uses the motion tracking and facial recognition features of the Xbox Kinect, mapping the input from the puppeteer’s movement to the motors of the doll’s skeleton. Additionally, two red LEDs illuminate under the bear’s cheeks in response to the facial expression of the person controlling it, as an additional reminder that teddy feels what you feel.

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In [Erwin’s] video, he demonstrates what his application sees through the Kinect’s camera side-by-side with the mechanical skeleton its controlling. The finished product isn’t something I’d soon cuddle up to at night, but looks amazing and is fun to watch in action :

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Predator suit for Monsterpalooza includes over-engineered shoulder cannon

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This Predator suit was premiered at this year’s Monsterpalooza conference. It’s nothing short of incredible. But the shoulder cannon is really what caught our attention. The thing is fully motorized and includes sound and light firing effects.

We saw a glimpse of what [Jerome Kelty] is capable of about two years ago. He was showing off an Arduino-based animatronics platform he put together for a Predator shoulder cannon that tracked based on where the predator’s helmet was pointing. But other than a video demonstration there wasn’t much info on the that actual build. This post makes up for that and then some.

A replica of this quality is rarely the work of just one person. A team of fans joined in to make it happen. After getting the molded parts for the backpack and canon from another team member [Jerome] set out to fit the support structure, motors, and control electronics into the space available. That meant a ton of milling, cutting, and shaping parts like the support arm seen above which integrates a servo motor into its rectangular outline. All of the controls fit in the backpack, with cables running to the helmet, as well as the cannon.

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Moostar — fortune telling moose knock-off of Zoltar

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Meet Moostar, the fortune-telling Moose inspired by Zoltar. You remember Zoltar, the coin operated fortune-teller who made [Tom Hanks] a rich movie star? Maybe you didn’t see that flick, but [Sketchsk3tch] did and he pulled this show piece together for a company-wide conference with relative ease.

If you’re good at choosing parts for your projects it makes things a lot simpler. He started with a singing Christmas moose, a mini plasma ball to act as the crystal ball, and somehow came across a collector’s basketball case which was the perfect size for the enclosure.

The electronics also came together remarkably well. He uses a thermal printer to spit out the fortunes — which are actually security tips for employees since that’s the dcpartment he works in. The coin acceptor is a Sparkfun part and he tried two ready made solutions to make the moose talk. The first is seen below and uses pre-recorded messages played by an Arduino Wave shield. This was improved upon by using an EMIC2 text-to-speech module that really opens up the moose’s range of chatter.

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Pixar-style lamp project is a huge animatronics win

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Even with the added hardware that lamp still looks relatively normal. But its behavior is more than remarkable. The lamp interacts with people in an incredibly lifelike way. This is of course inspired by the lamp from Pixar’s Luxo Jr. short film. But there’s a little bit of most useless machine added just for fun. If you try to shut it off the lamp shade is used to flip that switch on the base back on.

[Shanshan Zhou], [Adam Ben-Dror], and [Joss Doggett] developed the little robot as a class project at the Victoria University of Wellington. It uses six servo motors driven by an Arduino to give the inanimate object the ability to move as if it’s alive. There is no light in the lamp as the bulb has been replaced by a webcam. The image is monitored using OpenCV to include face tracking as one of the behaviors. All of the animations are procedural, making use of Processing to convey movement instructions to the Arduino board.

Do not miss seeing the video embedded after the break.

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