Roboartist Draws What It Sees

roboartist-vector-image-machine

The perfect balance of simplicity and complexity have been struck with this automated artist. The Roboartist is a vector drawing robot project which [Niazangels], [Maxarjun], and [Ashwin] have been documenting for the last few days. The killer feature of the build is the ability to process what is seen through a webcam so that it may be sketched as ink on paper by the robotic arm.

The arm itself has four stages, and as you can see in the video below, remarkably little slop. The remaining slight wiggle is just enough to make the images seem as if they were not printed to perfection, and we like that effect!

Above is a still of Roboartist working on a portrait of [Heath Ledger] in his role as Joker from The Dark Knight. The image import feature was used for this. It runs a tweaked version of the Canny Edge Detector to determine where the pen strokes go. This is an alternative to capturing the subject through the webcam. For now MATLAB is part of the software chain, but future work seeks to upgrade to more Open Source tools. The hardware itself uses an Arduino Mega to take input via USB or Bluetooth and drives the quartet of servo motors accordingly.

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Gaming on an 8x8x8 LED Cube

LEDCube

Building an LED cube is a great way to learn how to solder, while building something that looks awesome. Without any previous experience with soldering or coding, [Anred] set out to create a simple 8x8x8 LED cube gaming platform.

Rather than reinventing the wheel, [Andred] based the LED cube off of three separate Instructables. The resulting cube came out great, and the acrylic casing around it adds a very nice touch. Using an Arduino Mega, the 74HC574, and a few MOSFET’s to drive his LEDs, the hardware is fairly standard. What sets this project apart from many other LED cube builds, is the fact that you can game on it using a PlayStation 1 controller. All the necessary code to get up and running is included in the Instructable (commented in German). Be sure to see the cube in action after the break!

It would be great to see a wireless version of this LED cube game. What kind of LED cube will gaming be brought to next? A tiny LED cube? The biggest LED cube ever? Only time will tell.

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SoundCube: A Companion Cube that can Talk

sound_companionCube

The Enrichment Center likely disapproves of the SoundCube: a portal music box in the form of a Portal Companion Cube. [Andreas] finished this project a couple of years ago, but we’re glad he’s finally had time to give a rundown on the details at his blog.

The build is primarily a modified speaker box cube—constructed out of what appears to be MDF—with four Alpine SXE-1725S speakers placed at the center of the middle faces. The faces were routed out to resembled the Companion Cube, while the electronics mount and the speaker grills were 3d printed. Inside is a homemade amplifier built around an Arduino Mega, with a TDA7560 quad bridge amplifier, a TDA7318 audio processor, a Belkin bluetooth receiver, and a 3.5″ touchscreen for volume control and for input selections.

Two 12v 7.2Ah lead-acid batteries keep the cube functional for an entire weekend of partying, but probably add a few pounds to the already hefty MDF construction. Check out [Andreas's] blog for more pictures and his GitHub for all the necessary code.

Minicomputers on Microcontrollers

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Developed in the very late 60s and through the 70s, the PDP-11 series of minicomputers was quite possibly the single most important computer ever created. The first widely distributed versions of Unix and C were developed on the PDP-11, and it’s hardware influence can be found in everything from the Motorola 68000 to the MSP430.

When [Dave Cheney] saw the recent 8086 simulator written in 4kB of C code, he realized simulating entire computer systems doesn’t actually require a whole lot of resources outside a big chunk of memory. Armed with an Arduino Mega clone, he set out on one of the coolest projects we’ve seen in a while: simulating a PDP-11 on an AVR.

[Dave] used an ATMega2560-powered Arduino Mega clone with an Ethernet module for the hardware of this build. Attached to it is a shield filled up with a pair of RAM chips that expand relatively limited amount of RAM on the ‘Mega.

So far, [Dave] has his simulated system booting Unix V6 off an SD card. For PDP-11 storage, he’s also simulating an RK05 disk drive, a massive 14 inch platter containing 2.5 Megabytes of data. Compared to the original PDP-11/40, [Dave] estimates his machine is about 10 times slower. Still, an original 11/40 system fills multiple server racks, and the most common installations consume several kilowatts of power. The Arduino Mega can fit in a pocket and can be powered over USB.

Future developments for this system include improving the accuracy of the simulator, running more advanced operating systems and the DEC diagnostic programs, and possibly speeding up the simulation. We’d suggest adding some switches and blinkenlights on an additional shield, but that’s just us.

All the code can be found on [Dave]‘s git, with a description of his SPI RAM shield coming shortly.

Ride, Captain, Ride Aboard Your Arduino-Controlled Autopiloted Sailboat

[Jack], a mechanical engineer, loom builder, and avid sailor wanted an autopilot system for his 1983 Robert Perry Nordic 40 sailboat with more modern capabilities than the one it came with. He knew a PC-based solution would work, but it was a bit out of reach. Once his son showed him an Arduino, though, he was on his way. He sallied forth and built this Arduino-based autopilot system for his sloop, the Wile E. Coyote.

He’s using two Arduino Megas. One is solely for the GPS, and the other controls everything else. [Jack]‘s autopilot has three modes. In the one he calls knob steering, a potentiometer drives the existing hydraulic pump, which he controls with a Polulu Qik serial DC motor controller. In compass steering mode, a Pololu IMU locks in the heading to steer (HTS).  GPS mode uses a predetermined waypoint, and sets the course to steer (CTS) to the same bearing as the waypoint.

[Jack]‘s system also uses cross track error (XTE) correction to calculate a new HTS when necessary. He has fantastic documentation and several Fritzing and Arduino files available on Dropbox.

Autopilot sailboat rigs must be all the rage right now. We just saw a different one back in November.

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Running a Laundromat with an Arduino

Wasch_140

[Hubert] sent us a tip about a friend’s project to rescue a laundromat from its failing electronics. We’re not entirely sure what went wrong with the old control center, but considering a replacement would have cost nearly 25,000 EUR, we think [Stefan] found the perfect solution: he gave it an Arduino and Android overhaul (translated).

Although [Stefan] explains that the boards were defective, perhaps one of our German readers can help us out with a more specific translation. More clear, however, are the steps taken to upgrade the system. The situation at the laundromat was a bit of an emergency: there was no way for customers to pay for use of the machines. As a result, [Stefan] had free reign to overhaul things as he saw fit. He decided to remove the complex button setup in favor of a touchscreen Android tablet, which provided users with a simple interface to make selections. The tablet serves only as an input device. The heavy lifting is handled by an Arduino Mega 2560, which hooks up to what remains of the original system and controls the 27 machines in the laundromat.

[Stefan] admits that he isn’t a particular fan of the Arduino, but that for the price, it’s a tough solution to beat. He’s not the only one overhauling with Arduinos. Check out some other examples of upgraded machines, like the Arduino-enhanced PopCARD vending machine.

UPDATE: [Andreas] sent in a better translation of the project page which we’ve included below. He worries his written English isn’t the best, but we think it is a lot easier to understand than the machine translation. Thank you for you work [Andreas!]

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Automated Aquarium is Kitchen-Sinky

fishtankAutomation

People have been converting their old Power Macs and Mac G5s into fish tanks for a few years now, but [Hayden's] Internet-enabled tank is probably the most awesome ever crammed into an aquarium along with the water and the fish—and we’ve seen some fascinating builds this summer. After gutting the G5 and covering the basic acrylic work, [Hayden] started piling on the electronics: a webcam, timed LED lighting, an LCD for status readouts, filter and bubble control via a servo, an ultrasonic sensor to measure water levels, thermometer, scrolling matrix display, an automatic feeding mechanism, and more. He even snuck in the G5’s old mainboard solely for a cool backdrop.

The build uses both a Raspberry Pi and an Arduino Mega, which sit underneath the tank at the base. The Pi provides a web interface written in PHP and jQuery, which presents you with the tank’s status and allows changes to some settings. Nearly every component received some form of modification. [Hayden] stripped the webcam of its case and replaced the enclosure with a piece of acrylic and a mountain of silicone, making it both waterproof and slim enough to fit in the appropriate spot. Though he decided to stick with an Amazon-bought Eheim fish feeder, he disabled the unit’s autofeed timer and tapped in to the manual “feed” button to integrate it into his own system.

It’d take half of the front page to explain the rest of this thing. We’ve decided to let the aquarium tell you the rest of its features in the video below. Yeah…it can talk.

[Read more...]

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