SpotMini Struts Its Stuff

Boston Dynamics, the lauded robotics company famed for its ‘Big Dog’ robot and other machines which push mechanical dexterity to impressive limits have produced a smaller version of their ‘Spot’ robot dubbed ‘SpotMini’.

A lightweight at 55-65 lbs, this quiet, all-electric robot lasts 90 minutes on a full charge and boasts partial autonomy — notably in navigation thanks to proprioception sensors in the limbs. SpotMini’s most striking features are its sleek new profile and manipulator arm, showing off this huge upgrade by loading a glass into a dishwasher and taking out some recycling.

Robots are prone to failure, however, so it’s good to know that our future overlords are just as susceptible to slipping on banana peels as we humans are.

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The Unity of Dance and Architecture

In an ambitious and ingenious blend of mechanical construction and the art of dance, [Syuko Kato] and [Vincent Huyghe] from The Bartlett School of Architecture’s Interactive Architecture Lab have designed a robotic system that creates structures from a dancer’s movements that they have christened Fabricating Performance.

A camera records the dancer’s movements, which are then analyzed and used to direct an industrial robot arm and an industrial CNC pipe bending machine to construct spatial artifacts. This creates a feedback loop — dance movements create architecture that becomes part of the performance which in turn interacts with the dancer. [Huyghe] suggests an ideal wherein an array of metal manipulating robots would be able to keep up with the movements of the performer and create a unique, fluid, and dynamic experience. This opens up some seriously cool concepts for performance art.

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No Frame Buffer for FPGA VGA Graphics

Usually, when you think of driving a VGA–in software or hardware–you think of using a frame buffer. The frame buffer is usually dual port RAM. One hardware or software process fills in the RAM and another process pulls the data out at the right rate and sends it to the VGA display (usually through a digital to analog converter).

[Connor Archard] and [Noah Levy] wanted to do some music processing with a DE2-115 FPGA board. To drive the VGA display, they took a novel approach. Instead of a frame buffer, they use the FPGA to compute each pixel’s data in real-time.

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A Structural PVC Cyr Wheel

PVC is a great building material that can be used for everything from yurts and geodesic domes to pressure vessels. One thing we haven’t seen a lot of is bending PVC pipe. [Lou] wanted to build a Cyr wheel for his daughter, and instead of shelling out five hundred big ones for an aluminum version, he build one out of PVC using techniques usually reserved for woodworking.

A Cyr Wheel is usually a large aluminum hoop built for acrobatic performances. These performances are pretty impressive and look like a lot of fun, but the wheels themselves are rather expensive. Figuring PVC was a good enough solution, [Lou] built his own Cyr wheel for $50 in materials.

The build started off by laying out a jig on the floor. Two sheets of plywood were laid out, a radius for the wheel traced, and a bunch of blocks were glued to the perimeter of this mold. With the mold in place, a few pieces of PVC were flexed into position, clamped, heated with a hair dryer to relieve stress, and glued to a second course of PVC.

The process [Lou] used to build his Cyr wheel isn’t that different from extremely common woodworking techniques. In fact, it wouldn’t be unreasonable for [Lou] to build a wooden Cyr wheel with the same jig. We’re wondering how well this project will stand up to abuse, so if you have any insight to the uses of structural PVC drop a note in the comments.

Visualizing Ballet Movements with E-Traces

When we think of wearable technologies, ballet shoes aren’t the first devices that come to mind. In fact, the E-Traces pointé shoes by [Lesia Trubat] may be the first ever “connected ballet shoe.” This project captures the movement and pressure of the dancer’s feet and provides this data to a phone over Bluetooth.

The shoes are based on the Lilypad Arduino clone, which is designed for sewing into wearables. It appears that 3 force sensitive resistors are used as analog pressure sensors, measuring the force applied on the ground by the dancer’s feet. A Lilypad Accelerometer measures the acceleration of the feet.

This data is combined in an app running on an iPhone, which allows the dancer to “draw” patterns based on their dance movements. This creates a video of the motion based on the dance performed, and also collects data that can be used to analyze the dance movements after the fact.

While these shoes are focused on ballet, [Lesia] points out that the same technique could be extended to other forms of dance for both training and visualization purposes.

Origami Busts a Move with Dancing Paper

Origami cranes are cool, but do you know what’s cooler? Origami cranes dancing to the beat. That’s the challenge [Basami Sentaku] took on when he created Dancing Paper (YouTube link). You might remember [Basami] from his 8 bit harmonica hack. In Dancing Paper, paper cranes seem to dance all on their own – even performing some crazy spinning moves. Of course, the “magic” is due to some carefully written code, and magnets, lots of magnets.

Using magnets to move objects from below isn’t a new concept. Many of us have seen the “ice skating pond” Christmas decoration which uses the same effect. Unlike the skating pond,Dancing Paper has moving parts (other than the cranes themselves). Under the plastic surface are a series of individually controlled electromagnets. Each of the supporting dancers has a line of four magnets, while the featured dancer in the center has a 5×5 matrix. The 41 electromagnets were wound around bolts with the help of a Tamiya motor and gearbox.

The actual dance moves are controlled by C code which appears to be running on an Atmel microcontroller. Of course a microcontroller wouldn’t be able to drive those big coils, so some beefy TO-220 case transistors were employed to switch the loads. The cranes themselves needed a bit of modification as well. Thin pieces of wire travel from the neodymium magnets on their feet up to the body of the crane. The wire provides just enough support to keep the paper from collapsing, while still being flexible enough to boogie down.

Click past the break to see Dancing Paper in action!

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Hardsync – DDR Reimagined for the C64


For those of you that like to play dance games, but [DDR] for the [PS2] uses too modern hardware for your tastes, [Hardsync] may be for you. Although the chiptune-style music coming out of the [C64] may not appeal to everyone, one would have to imagine that a game like this could have been a huge hit 30 years ago.

As for the hardware itself, it does indeed use one PS2 element, the dance mat. It’s hooked into one of the C64 joystick ports. In this case, the cable was cut, but it would also be possible to make a non-destructive adapter for it so as not to interfere with any future PS2 fun.

The program is made so that fellow retro-dancers can make their own songs. Each song is a discreet file, and can be reconfigured to your own personal mix. Be sure to check out the video after the break of this old-school dance machine in use after the break! Continue reading “Hardsync – DDR Reimagined for the C64”