Robot waits for no man when recharging

Yikes, that power connector certainly wasn’t designed by Apple. Ugly as it may be, it’s the charging cable for a robot and acts as a sensor that allows the robot to properly align and plug into a power receptacle.

We’re going to go off on a tangent for just a second. We often think of the Rat Things from Snowcrash when considering robot power. They were nuclear powered (or something) and instead of recharging required constant cooling. Those day’s aren’t exactly around the corner but we think they’ve been realized in the lawn mowing robots that have a little nests to recharge in. Base stations work but they require the machine to return to the same place, or to have multiple charging stations.

The point is, this specialized cable makes base stations for robots obsolete. Now a robot can plug into any outlet it can get near, a great thing for robots roving large facilities. After the break you can see a video of this process. The robot arm zeros in by scanning horizontally and vertically and measuring the magnetic field put out by the AC in the wires of the outlet. Take a look, it’s a pretty neat piece of engineering.

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Automotive current monitor

If you’ve ever had a car with an electrical system problem you know how hard it can be to pin-point the source of your woes. Here’s a hackery solution that uses a diy PCB to monitor the current being drawn off of the alternator.The sensing is provided by an Allegro ACS758 integrated circuit. This chip measures current up to 150A and outputs an analog signal that can be measured by a microcontroller. In this case an AVR ATmega8 measures the signal and spits the info back to a PC via the serial port. This data can be graphed to help locate when too much current is being drawn for the battery to remain charged.

Check out that CNC milled PCB, what a beauty!

[Thanks Joshua via Elektronika]

Measuring current through USB


[gmgfarrand] wanted to be able to measure the current being pulled through his USB.  He realized that even though he could just cut open the wire and measure at any point, a permanent tool for this would be quite useful.  This is a simple modification that shouldn’t take long. All you need is a spare USB cable and an enclosure. He ultimately filled his enclosure with glue to keep everything in there and solid. lets hope his soldering holds well.