Dyson engineers’ hacks traverse robot obstacle course


These guys are all engineers who are employed by Dyson. They’re holding remote control creations made from Dyson parts. This time around the object of the challenge was to build a bot based on a the Dyson ball and race it through an obstacle course.

This sort of thing is right up our alley, but unlike the last time Dyson engineers shrugged off the daily grind to hack their own hardware, this doesn’t show off nearly enough of the festivities. Sure the pair of videos embedded after the break make a great trailer for the event, but we would love to have seen 90 seconds devoted to each of the entries. Alas, you do get to see most of the winning unit’s obstacle course run which includes a distance route, navigating through rough terrain, and negotiating a high path where falling off the edge is a real threat.

Maybe the engineers themselves will post details about their own builds like the contestants in Sparkfun’s autonomous vehicle contest do.

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17-stage Great Ball Contraption must use all the LEGO pieces

Looking at this 17-stage Great Ball Contraption makes us think that [Skiyuky] should be working in industrial automation. The build, which has been assembled from an untold volume of LEGO parts, moves a reservoir of round plastic balls around a circuit. Each module exhibits a different mechanical way of handling the parts. It’s certainly not the first GBC we’ve seen, but the previous offering combined stages from many different makers. [Skiyuky] built this one all himself over the last two years.

The video after the break starts off at the main depository of tiny soccer and basketballs. To help illustrate how long it takes to move around the entire circuit [Skiyuky] adds a red and blue ball which are both easy to spot. From there it’s a Willy Wonky type of ride through all manner of contraptions. We’re struck by accuracy and efficiency with which all of the stages operate.

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[David] hand soldered a Blinky ball… and you can too!

This is a blinky ball that [David] designed, built, and programmed himself. Does it look familiar? It should, he took his inspiration from the original prototype, and the Hackerspace-produced derivative. [David’s] version is not as small, or as blinky, but in our minds the development process is the real reason for building something like this. He took a great idea and figured out how he could pull it off while pushing his skill set, staying within his time and budget constraints.

The project is powered by an Arduino nano which resides in the core of the ball. [David] used protoboard sourced locally for each of the slices, soldering green LEDs along the curved edges, and added shift registers to drive them. The ball is driven by a LiPo battery which can power it for about 45 minutes. You can see the animation designs he coded in the clip after the break.

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384-LED ball receives animation wirelessly and knows its orientation

We get a ton of tips about Kickstarter projects. Here is a great example of what we need to see in order to feature one of them. This LED Blinky Ball developed by Null Space Labs is the target of a rather ambitious fundraising campaign. But in addition to the fundraising write-up they’ve shared extensive details about the prototype.

The ball is made up of sixteen slices; each is its own circuit board hosting an LED driver. All slices use the same PCB design, but one of them has an ATmega328 populated on the board to act as master. Optional components on the master board include an accelerometer, and a Bluetooth module to receive animation data. To get the full effect of the most recent prototype you’re going to want to see the video on their Kickstarter page.

Think this ball looks familiar to you? The original design was developed by [Nikolai] as a performance piece for a friend. This version was inspired by our feature of that earlier project.

So, use this as a template if you’re planning to submit your Kickstarter links to Hackaday’s tips line. We want to juicy details on the project!

Ball-in-maze game shows creativity and classic 8-bit sound

[M. Eric Carr] built this a long time ago as his Senior Project for EET480. It’s an electronic version of the ball-in-maze game. We’ve embedded this video after the break for your convenience.

The game has just one input; an accelerometer. If you’re having trouble visualizing the game, it works the same as this Android-based version, but replaces the physical maze and marble with a virtual maze on the graphic LCD screen. This has huge implications. Instead of just recreating the maze on the screen, [Eric] designed a multi-screen world, complete with warp blocks, which adds difficulty to  finding a solution. It also means that multiple different mazes can be played if you get tired of playing the same level.

This game also features music. A separate PIC microcontroller uses PWM to push out the 8-bit sound heard in the video. From the YouTube comments we learned that [Eric] didn’t write the music himself, but we still appreciate the playback quality he achieves with his hardware.

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Look, it’s a helicopter! it’s a plane! it’s a rolling robot!

The helicopter-plane-ball-bot sounds like a creation [Homer Simpson] would come up with, but it’s a fairly accurate description of what this machine can do. It was developed by researches at Japan’s ministry of defense. The single propeller lets it operate much like a helicopter. But when it needs to get somewhere quick, the body repositions itself with the propeller at the front, while those black panels function as wings. Finally, the spherical body lets it travel along surfaces, vertical or horizontal. It can even roll along the ground.

After the break you can see a flight demo video from the 2011 Digital Contents Expo. It makes us wonder about the control interface. Which part of this is the front side, and how does it know which direction the operator intends to steer it? Perhaps there is feedback on the cardinal orientation of the control unit? We don’t have the answers to these queries, but we think there’s something very Sci-Fi about it. It brings to mind the Dog Pod aerostatic defensive grid from Neal Stephenson’s novel The Diamond Age.

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Panoramic ball camera; toss to snap a picture

This odd-looking ball can automatically take a panoramic image whenever you throw it up into the air. Seriously, that’s then entire set of operating instructions for the device. Inside, a 3D printed frame hosts an array of 36 cellphone cameras, each capable of taking a two megapixel image. Also included is an accelerometer. When it senses the change in momentum associated with the apex of its vertical trajectory it snaps an image with all of the cameras at the same time. The result is a spherical image with no obstructions-like a tripod or other support mechanism. The images are automatically stitched together and displayed on a computer which allows the user to pan and zoom.

The whole story is told in the video after the break. The example images shown are quite good, although there are a few artifacts where the segments meet. Most notably, color variances between the images captured by different CCD modules. We’d image that this can be fixed automatically in software if a talented programmer were willing to put in the time. The thing about spherical photos is that methods using post processing to unwrap an image always have some distortion to them. With that in mind, we think the ball camera is as good a solution as we’ve seen.

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