Universities Envision Flying Beetle Swarms; But Crawl Before You Fly

Researchers at Nanyang Technical University and the University of California at Berkley wanted to answer the question: how do you make a small drone that can fly all day? The problem is that a drone needs a battery or other energy source, but a big battery needs a big drone.

Their answer? Take a giant beetle and strap enough electronics onboard to deliver tiny shocks to direct the insect’s flight. The tiny shocks don’t take much power and once the beetle is on course, no further shock is necessary unless the human pilot needs to correct the direction. Recent work allows a similar controller to control each leg of the beetle, turning it into a more versatile flying or walking cyborg.

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Remote-Controlled Eyebrows for Your Birthday

We’re not sure that [Alec]’s dad actually requested remote-controlled eyebrows for his birthday, but it looks like it’s what he got! As [Alec] points out, his father does have very expressive eyebrows, and who knows, he could be tired of raising and lowering them by himself. So maybe this is a good thing? But to us, it still looks a tiny bit Clockwork Orange. But we’re not here to pass judgement or discuss matters of free will. On to the project. (And the video, below the break.)

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An ATmega328 (otherwise known as cheap Cloneduino Alec wrote that the 328 was from a real Arduino) is trained to run motors in response to IR signals. An L293D and a couple of gear motors take care of the rest. Sewing bobbins and thread connect the motors to the eyebrows. And while it’s not entirely visible in the photo, and veers back into not-sure-we’d-do-this-at-home, a toothpick serves as an anchor for the thread and tape, secured just underneath the ‘brows for maximum traction.

We have to say, we initially thought it was going to be a high-voltage muscle-control hack, and we were relieved that it wasn’t.

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Cyborg Photosynthetic Bacteria!

This is weird science. Researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have taken some normal bacteria and made them photosynthetic by adding cadmium sulfide nanoparticles. Cadmium sulfide is what makes the garden-variety photoresistor work. That’s strange enough. But the bacteria did the heavy lifting — they coated themselves in the inorganic cadmium — which means that they can continue to grow and reproduce without much further intervention.

Bacteria are used as workhorses in a lot of chemical reactions these days, and everybody’s trying to teach them new tricks. But fooling them into taking on inorganic light absorbing materials and becoming photosynthetic is pretty cool. As far as we understand, the researchers found a chemical pathway into which the electrons produced by the CdS would fit, and the bacteria took care of the rest. They still make acetic acid, which is their normal behavior, but now they produce much more when exposed to light.

If you want to dig a little deeper, the paper just came out in Science magazine, but it’s behind a paywall. But with a little searching, one can often come up with the full version for free. (PDF).

Or if you’d rather make electricity, instead of acetic acid, from your bacteria be our guest. In place of CdS, however, you’ll need a fish. Biology is weird.

Headline images credit: Peidong Yang

Hackaday Interview with Amal Graafstra, Creator of xNT Implant Chip

Near Field Communication (NFC) enabled devices are starting to appear in our everyday lives. Shown in the picture above is the xNT (fundraiser warning), a 2mm x 12mm fully NFC Type 2 compliant 13.56MHz RFID tag encased in a cylindrical Schott 8625 bioglass ampule. It was created by [Amal Graafstra], who therefore aims to produce the world’s first NFC compliant RFID implant. The chip used is the NTAG203, which is (for the sake of simplicity) a 144bytes EEPROM with different protection features.

We can only start thinking of the different possibilities this chip will create in the near future, but also wonder which precedent this may set for future NFC enabled humans. Embedded after the break is the presentation video of xNT but also an interview I conducted with [Amal Graafstra], who has already been living for 8 years with RFID tags in each hand.

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Artificial skin lets robots feel

BioTac Artificial Skin Technology is sure to be a storm with Robotics Designers. Giving them the opportunity to add a third sense to there robotic marvels. Now they can have the sense of touch to go along with existing technologies of sight and of sound.  Thanks to the technology coming out of the University of Southern California making this possible.

They have chosen to call their sensor BioTac, which is a new type of tactile sensor designed to mimic the human fingertip with its soft flexible skin. The sensor makes it possible to identify different types of texture by analyzing the vibrations produced as the sensor brushes over materials. This sensor is also capable of measuring pressure applied and  ambient temperature around the finger tip, expect to see this technology in next gen prosthetics. Let us know your thoughts on it.

[via technabob]
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Dollar store Terminator replica

Okay, now we think [James] is just on a mission to see what he can build using the dollar store as his parts bin. This is the nearly finished replica of the cyborg skeleton from the Terminator franchise. It’s made mostly from things that cost $0.99.

Actually we’ve got that a bit wrong. [James] is really shopping at the £0.99 store but the concept is basically the same. He’s already shown us that he’s a pro at this with the arc reactor replica we recently saw from him. This time around a set of speakers donate their enclosures to build up the spinal column supporting the skull. Fittingly these are glued together using a hot glue gun from the store. The sides of the skull are carefully crafted from a set of four plastic bowls. The jaw comes together thanks to the corners of a plastic box’s lid. And finally the majority of the face is from a golden skull costume mask. Spray it all grey and pop in some LEDs for the eyes and he’s done it! He show’s off his final creation in the video after the break.

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Cyborg camera mask

[Ryan] whipped up this robotic masquerade mask to wear to his wife’s art opening / masquerade party, and its pretty wild. The prominent feature of this mask is a scavenged lens assembly from a typical point n shoot style camera, which is still connected to its electronics so it can go through its off and self check functions. You cant see through it, but with moving parts and a red LED inside, it does create an awesome cyborg type appearance,

The movement of the lens assembly is triggered by a thermistor inside of the mask’s nose piece, warm air exhaled onto to it for a given period of time changes the resistance and is monitored by a micro controller, which seems to act like a toggle style switch.

While there is not a build log, parts list, or many details, the schematic is provided for you to look over if you want to try and make your own.

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