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.

Continue reading “Look, it’s a helicopter! it’s a plane! it’s a rolling robot!”

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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Ball inverted pendulum

We’ve seen several different balancing bot styles over the past few years, but this one is new to us. The BallP, short for Ball inverted Pendulum, balances on top of a ball. We’re not sure what the advantages are to this layout though. Anyone care to enlighten us? Even though we hadn’t seen this style, it is apparently not new. The Ballbot has been around for a while and might seem even more impressive visually.

Office prank: death from above

Unsuspecting office workers beware. You may already be in the cross-hairs of a ping-pong ball launching robot. This covert robot hangs out on the other side of a suspended ceiling, waiting for its operator to unleash the fury. When put into action a hatch in a ceiling tile is raised and balls are launched at a cowering cube-dweller.

It looks like the balls are launched at a reasonable speed and won’t hurt anyone. The next generation of this bot should do a better job of integrating the trap door and be quieter. This would be a lot more fun if the victim couldn’t figure out where the heck that ball just came from.

[via BotJunkie]

New pet, Project 413

I wonder if anyone ever mouses over images anymore. Oh silly me, xkcd reference.

[Jacob] sent in his teams final project, Project 413. While sounding like something straight out of an action movie, don’t worry, it’s not the next terminator. Rather a combination of an eBox (in place of an EEE pc), omni wheels, motors, batteries, and the finishing touch – a hamster ferret ball. If this is sounding familiar to a certain web comic, then right you are, as XKCD was their main inspiration. Sadly, the web cam and ‘having a soul’ functions didn’t make it into their version, but being controlled via Wii remote is always a plus.  Check out a video after the break. Continue reading “New pet, Project 413”