Bluetooth Low Energy Beacons in a Flock of Birds

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No, not real birds! [Kyle] works in operations at a web company and needed a way to send alerts to his fellow coworkers, so he modified a flock of Audubon Society plush birds to respond to a Bluetooth beacon.

Using NRF24L01+ Bluetooth Low Energy modules, [Kyle] installed one each in these battery-powered singing birds. The devices are presumably powered off of the battery that comes with the birds, but the use of the BTLE module means the batteries won’t discharge as rapidly.

[Kyle] also built an API that works over HTTP or IRC, which means that the employees in the office can activate everyone else’s birds over a simple and intuitive interface. The birds can be activated one at a time, or all together in “panic” mode as one giant flock (in case of an emergency in the office). They can also be activated one at a time on a specific hour to simulate the Audubon Society’s bird call clock.

He calls the device equail and it’s a very unique notification system with a lot of applications. All of [Kyle]‘s code and documentation of his project are available on his github site. He also used this primer on BTLE to get started, and this guide on sending data over BTLE to help get the project in the air.

Retrotechtacular: Singing bird automata

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Our cats were both sleeping near the computer and these videos were driving them nuts. To our ears these birdsongs sound pretty good. They didn’t trick the cats into stalking mode, but they did spark an audible complaint. So the predators aren’t drooling but the mechanical engineers reading this should be. These automata combine the precision of a mechanical clock with a bellows and specialized whistle to recreate birdsong.

You’ve got to hear it for yourself to appreciate the variety produced by the mechanisms. The first video shows off the device seen on the left. This particular model is from the 1890’s and the demo gives a good look at the arms that open and block a passageway to alter the sound. After seeing that link — which was sent in by [Stefan] — we started searching around for more info on the devices. The one pictured to the right turned up. It’s from YouTube user [Singing Bird Boxes] who has many videos showcasing these types of devices. We picked this one because he tried to explain how each part of the mechanism works. These are still being made today, but there’s something magical about seeing one built during the steam age.

We’d like to make Retrotechtacular a weekly feature every Tuesday. Help us out by sending in links to projects that highlight old technology, instructional videos of yore, tours of museums or similar relics.

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Monitoring a sick bird using the Raspberry Pi

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[Jorge Rancé] was nursing a sick bird back to health. He found it on the street with a broken leg, which required a mini plaster cast for it to heal correctly. But felt bad when leaving the house for long periods. He grabbed some simple hardware and put his mind at easy by building an Internet connected bird monitoring system. It’s really just an excuse to play around with his Raspberry Pi, but who can blame him?

A webcam adds video monitoring using the Linux software called “motion” to stream the video. This is the same package we use with our cats when we travel; it provides a continuous live stream but can also save recordings whenever motion is detected. He added a USB temperature sensor and attached a water level sensor to the GPIO header. These are automatically harvested — along with a still image from the webcam — and tweeted once per hour using a bash script. He just needs to work out automatic food and water dispensing and he never needs to return home! Bird seed shouldn’t be any harder to dish out than fish food, right?

Robotic falconry: winged unit lands on you!

It doesn’t have four rotors, but this advanced-glider is every bit as impressive as the most complicated of quadrotor offerings. It’s the first glider that can successfully perch on your arm. We can’t help but think back to the owl in the original Clash of the Titans movie.

The team at the Aerospace Robotics and Control Lab of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is happy to show off the test flights they’ve been conducting. We’ve embedded two of them after the break which show the unit landing on this person’s arm, and on the seat of a chair. The image above shows a montage of several frames from the flight, and gives us a pretty good look at the articulated wings. You can seen them both bent in the middle of the flight to zero in on the landing zone. In addition to this there are flaps on the trailing edge of the wings and tail. The flight path is a bit wandering since the glider has no vertical tail to stabilize it.

Now if they can make it harvest power from overhead electrical lines they’ve got a spy-bird which can be dropped from a plane (or from a drone).

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Cellphone crowd-pleasers

When you start to think about the cellphone waste our society produces it can be quite daunting. How many cell phones have you had in recent years? Now multiply that by five billion cellphone subscribers. [Anthony Goh] and [Neil Mendoza] found something to do with a very minuscule portion of those left-overs; building interactive birds out of the old parts. You’ll have to check out their accomplishments in the video after the break as the image above doesn’t do them justice. Interactivity for the exhibit is provided by an Arduino, which communicates with one working phone via a serial connection. The phone can still make and receive calls, and controls parts from other, less functional cellphones. They can call each other, or receive calls from the audience.

Yes, there is art in garbage. But there’s also a lot of hacks waiting to happen. Take a look at the Nokia cellphone LCD feature and then start scavenging.

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DelFly2 and DelFly micro

The video you see above is the on board footage of the DelFly2 autonomous ornithopoter robot. Weighing 16 grams, it carries a small camera and can provide a live feed. If you’re amazed at the tiny size and weight of the DelFly2, check out the DelFly micro, video after the break, that weighs 3 grams. Remember when we thought 17 grams was small for an ornithopter?

All processing for the DelFly2 is done at a base station and transmitted to the flying bot to keep the weight down. The team also had to create their own brushless motor that runs at 60% efficiency and weighs only 1.6 grams. The 130mAh battery can sustain 15 minutes of horizontal flight or 8 minutes of hovering.

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Holy robin trap Batman!

[Matt Meerian] introduced us to his kludge of cardboard, tape, mirrors, and electronics in the form of a clever non lethal robin trap. Whenever a pesky robin would enter the box, a sensor is triggered, the solenoid drops a lid, and the bird is contained (and we assume taken far away after that).

Of course the plan backfired; we wont spoil what happened, but you can click the link above to find out.

Related: Arduino Mouse Trap

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