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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Lint And Dog Hair Supercapacitor

[Mechanicus] has made a supercapacitor with a claimed 55 Farads per gram of active material. And he’s made it using dryer lint and dog hair. And he’s done it in 24 hours. That’s the short story. The longer story is an epic journey of self-discovery and dog ownership, and involves a cabin in the Wyoming backwoods.

So how did he do it?

He started with a home-made crucible that you maybe wouldn’t want to carry around in public as it bears more than a passing resemblance to a pipe bomb. Into that he packed his dog hair and lint, along with a generous helping of ammonia. An hour or two in a woodstove glowing red, and he’d made a rod of mostly carbon with the required high surface area. He sawed off a carbon slice, bathed it in lithium sulphate and potassium iodide electrolyte, and with the addition of a couple of pieces of stainless steel he had a supercapacitor.

Full details of his build can be found on the pages linked above, but there is also a handy YouTube video below the break.

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Robotic Pets Test an Automatic Pet Door

Lots of people get a pet and then hack solutions that help them care for their new friend, like an automatic door to provide access to the great outdoors. Then again, some people build the pet door first and then build the pets to test it.

It’s actually not quite as weird as it sounds. [Amir Avni] and his wife attended a recent GeekCon and entered the GeekCon Pets event. GeekCon is a cooperative rather than competitive hackathon that encourages useless builds as a means to foster community and to just have some fun. [Amir] and his wife wanted to build a full-featured automatic pet door, and succeeded – with NFC and an ESP8266, the stepper-powered door worked exactly as planned. But without any actual animal companions to test the system, they had to hack up a few volunteers. They came up with a 3D-printed dog and cat perched atop wireless cars, and with NFC tags dangling from their collars, the door was able to differentiate between the wandering ersatz animals. The video below the break shows the adorable plastic pals in action.

It’s clear from all the pet doors and automatic waterers and feeders we’ve seen that hackers love their pets, but we’re pretty sure this is the first time the pet itself was replaced by a robot. That’s fine for the test environment, but we’d recommend the real thing for production.

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Printing Puppy Prosthetics

When [aimzzz] met this puppy born without arms, the need for some assistive hardware was obvious. We love it that rapid prototyping techniques have become so accessible that something like building a wheelchair for a puppy is not just affordable, but a lot of fun too!

The main part of the projects is a cradle which will be comfortable for the dog. 3D printing is a great choice here because it can be customized to suit the needs of a particular dog. We remember seeing another dog named Derby who has 3D printed legs that make room for the biological legs that aren’t functioning correctly. In the case of this wheelchair, the cradle could be altered make room for legs.

The rest of the build is purely mechanical. Aluminum tubing, tubing connectors, and wheels combine with the printed cradle (and some padding material) to make for one sweet ride. It takes a bit of training to get used to, but as you can see after the break this makes mobility quite easy and intuitive for the pup.

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Derby’s Got Legs, He Knows How to Use Them

There’s just something about the holidays and man’s best friend that brings out the best in people. [Tara Anderson], Director of CJP Product Management at 3D Systems, fostered a husky mix named Derby.  Derby was born with a congenital defect: his forelegs were underdeveloped with no paws.  This precluded the poor fellow from running around and doing all of the things dogs love to do.  [Tara] had fitted him with a wheel cart, but she still felt that Derby deserved more mobility and freedom.  Deciding that 3D-printed prosthetics was the answer, she turned to her colleagues and collaborated with Derrick Campana, a certified Animal Orthotist, to create a new set of forelegs for Derby.

The design is different from typical leg prosthetics; Tara felt that the typical “running man” design would not work for a dog, since they’d just sink right into the ground. Instead, the “loop” design was used, allowing for more playful canine antics. They were constructed using MultiJet Printing on the 3DS’ ProJet 5500X.  MultiJet Printing enabled the prosthetics to be printed with firm and soft parts, both needed for comfort and durability.

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Dog Tracker Knows Where the Dirt is

[Eric] is well on his way to making one of the less pleasant chores of pet ownership a bit easier with his dog tracking system. The dog tracker is actually a small part of [Eric’s] much larger OpenHAB system, which we featured back in July.

As a dog owner, [Eric] hates searching the yard for his pet’s droppings. He had been planning a system to make this easier, and a local hackerspace event provided just the opportunity to flesh his ideas out. The Dog Tracker’s primary sensor is a GPS. Most dogs remain motionless for a few seconds while they go about their business. [Eric’s] Arduino-frgbased system uses this fact, coupled with a tilt sensor to determine if the family pet has left any presents.

The tracker relays this information to the home base station using a HopeRF RFM69 transceiver. The RFM69 only has about a 900 foot range, so folks with larger properties will probably want to spring for a cellular network based tracking system. Once the droppings have been tracked, OpenHAB has an interface

[Eric] has also covered runaway dogs in his design. If Fido passes a geo-fence, OpenHAB will raise the alarm. A handheld dog tracker with its own RFM69 can be used to chase down dogs on the run. Future plans are to miniaturize the dog tracker such that it will be more comfortable for a dog to wear.

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Hacklet #8: The Animals


This week on the Hacklet we’re looking at projects that are all about animals! Hackers and makers are well-known animal lovers, in fact many a hacker can be found with a pet curled up at their feet, or on their keyboard!

catWater[Brian’s] cat Roger loves drinking from the bathtub faucet. Unfortunately Roger hasn’t learned how to operate the faucet himself, so it gets left on quite a bit. To keep Roger happy while saving water, [Brian] created the Snooty Cat Waterer. Cat’s still don’t have thumbs, so [Brian] turned to capacitive sensing in the form of a Microchip MTCH10 capacitive proximity sensor chip. Coupled with a home etched PC board, the waterer can detect a cat at 3 inches. A valve and water feed teed off the toilet provide the flow. The project is moving along well, though Roger has been slow to warm up to this new water source.


catWater2[Jsc] has the opposite problem. His cat has decided that bathtubs are the perfect litter boxes. [Jsc] is taking aim at this little problem with his Cat Dissuader. After a servo controlled squirt bottle proved too anemic for his needs, [Jsc] turned to the Super Soaker Hydrostorm. These electric water guns can be had for as little as $16 on sale. [JSC] didn’t want to permanently modify the gun, so he 3D printed a switchable battery pack.The replacement pack is actually powered by a simple wall wart. Power to the gun is controlled by an Arduino, which senses his cat with a passive infrared sensor. Since the dissuader was installed, [Jsc’s] cat has been a model citizen!


doggieBowlCat’s don’t get all the love though, plenty of engineers and hackers have dogs around the house. [Colin] loves his dog, but he and his family were forgetting to feed it. He created Feed the Dog to help the household keep its four-legged member from going hungry. [Colin] tried a microcontroller, but eventually settled on implementing the circuit with old-fashioned 4000 series CMOS logic chips. He used a 4060 (14-stage ripple counter w/ internal oscillator) as an 8 hour timer, and 4013 dual flip-flop. Operation of Feed the Dog is as simple as wagging your tail. Once the dog is feed, the human presses a button. A green “Just fed” LED will glow for 30 minutes, then go dark. After about 6 hours, a red LED turns on. After 8 hours, the red LED starts blinking, letting everyone know that it’s time to feed the dog.



[Steve] has outdoor pets. Chooks to be exact, or chickens for the non Australians out there. He loves watching his birds, especially Darth Vader, who is practicing to become a rooster. To keep track of the birds, he’s created What the Chook?, a sensor suite for the hen-house. He’s using a GCDuiNode with a number of sensors. Temperature, humidity, even a methane detector for when the bedding needs to be replaced. An OV528 JPEG camera allows [Steve] to get pictures of his flock. The entire project connects via WiFi. Steve hopes to power it from a couple of AA batteries. [Steve] also entered What the Chook? in The Hackaday Prize. If he wins, this will be the first case of flightless birds sending a human to space!



Hey – Did you know that Hackaday is building a Hackerspace in Pasadena California? We’re rounding up the local community while our space is being built out. Join us at a Happy Hour Show & Tell Meetup Event hosted by our own [Jasmine Brackett] August 18th! It’s an informal show and tell, so you don’t have to bring a hack to attend. If you’re local to Pasadena, come on down and say hello!