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The Crane Game, Oculus Style

crane We’re pretty sure the Hackaday demographic is a a person who sees a giant tower crane lifting beams and girders above a skyline and says, “that would be fun, at least until I have to go to the bathroom.” Realizing the people who own these cranes probably won’t let any regular joe off the street into the cabin, [Thomas] and [screen Name] (see, this is why we have brackets, kids) built their own miniature version with an Oculus Rift.

Instead of a crane that is hundreds of feet tall, the guys are using a much smaller version, just over a meter tall, that is remotely controlled through a computer via a serial connection. Just below the small plastic cab is a board with two wide-angle webcams. The video from these cameras are sent to the Oculus so the operator can see the boom swinging around, and the winch unwinding to pick up small objects.

The guys have also added a little bit of OpenCV to add color based object detection. This is somewhat useful, but there’s also an approximation of the distance to an object, something that would be very useful if you don’t have a three-inch tall spotter on the ground.

Video below.

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Hoisting a laser cutter to the 3rd floor (and other fun you’ll probably never have)

The folks at Null Space Labs bought a 40W CO2 laser tube in order to build their own laser cutter. Unfortunately nobody really wants to build a laser cutter; they just want to play with a laser cutter. So they ended up biting the bullet and ordering a $4000 model from China. That’s it hovering in midair. This is the story of acquiring the unit and playing around with it once it arrived.

Check out those orange cones in the picture. Hackerspace members put them out to keep the parking spots clear so no damage was caused in the event of an accident. But since they’re located in Los Angeles some of the road warriors didn’t really care and just moved the cones anyway. Luckily the crane hoist to the third floor (they removed one of the windows) ended up going rather well.

So what do you do with a laser cutter like this one? Crack it open and make some improvements. The manufacturer says it can’t cut through steel. Well that’s only if you don’t add some O2 to the cutting process. And the stock mirrors… they’ve got to go. Turns out a simple upgrade boosted the power by about 20% (we’re wondering how they measured that). While we’re talking about optics, might as well upgrade the lens as well. You can see where they’re going with this, and [CharlieX] tells us it is just the first in a series of posts he’ll be working on.

3 camera booms for your Wednesday afternoon

[Andrew] tipped us off about his Cable Cam built out of some lumber and clothes line. It is small enough to fit into a backpack,  includes a safety line and the camera can pan and tilt. A future version is planned with a small remote motor to move the trolley more effectively.

[Andrew] accidentally linked us to his other Camera Crane, taking the same ‘cheap yet effective’ approach as his Cable Cam. Once again, just some lumber and creative engineering are used to pull this one off.

For those without the ability to weld, check out [Bill Van Loo's] all wood version of a Camera Crane. Same parallelogram design, without remote video output or central pivot.

Build a camera boom at less than a grand

The folks at The Geek Group built a camera crane for less than $1000. In the video embedded after the break a presenter takes you through the different parts that make up the boom and how it is operated. This feels like something from a Junkyard Wars challenge as most of the parts are scavenged or from an industrial surplus store. Don’t let that sour your opinion, what they’ve ended up with is amazingly functional.

The base of the unit is a rolling tripod used for television cameras from around the 1960′s. The aluminum boom attaches to the base with a few large bearings and features a fine tuning balance system. The camera mount is motorized and can be moved using a joystick or set to scan automatically. It’s nice to see more examples of custom camera mounts. Obviously this isn’t a build for everyone, but as cameras and camera equipment become more readily available it makes high quality video production available for the masses, not just the networks.

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Dance of the… (construction) cranes

Hacking is all about using parts and resources in an unconventional way. If stringing a pair of high-rise cranes with LED Christmas lights and making them move to a piece of classical music isn’t unconventional, then we don’t know what is. For nearly a quarter of every hour last night, 2 crane operators, along with two ‘choreographers’, swung and spun the cranes around in a coordinated fashion. The project was created by [Brandon Vickerd] as part of Nuit Blanche.  Its purpose was to showcase the technology that builds the cities we live in. A live video stream from various viewpoints was projected on site, below the cranes.

15 ton robotic arm + WiiMote

These 15 ton robotic arms can reach 16 meters. Not content to control them by a simple joystick, the team hacked together WiiMote controls for them. Ok, we get it. Everybody loves the Wii.  What is different about using the WiiMote in this scenario? You can see that they are only using the pitch, yaw, and roll. They’re not utilizing the tracking aspects at all. The only difference between the WiiMote and their joystick in this scenario is that the WiiMote connects via bluetooth. Frankly, we just like the fact that people are playing with the robotic arms, WiiMote or not.