Giving the Hexbug Spider freedom to explore on its own


[Eric Gregori] recently spent some time messing around with a Hexbug Spider, and wrote in to share some modifications he made to the toy. In its unaltered form the robot can be controlled remotely, and while it’s fun to play with, the excitement is short lived. Using a TI MSP430 along with a small motor controller kit he put together, he gave the Hexbug a bit more personality.

The kit is really just a simple board used for mounting the MSP430 and FAN8200 motor driver, along with an IR emitter/sensor pair. It would be easy enough to put something similar together yourself, though if you are looking for a protoboard/deadbug/PCB etching-free solution, his Spider Hack kit is a quick and easy solution.

[Eric’s] walkthrough shows how to disassemble the Hexbug, and details which components need alterations before the controller board can be properly mounted. A few soldered wires later, the toy is ready to be reprogrammed, a process [Eric] carries out using the Launchpad board from which he lifted the MSP430.

As you can see in the videos below, calling the robot autonomous might be a bit of a stretch (I don’t see it walking to the kitchen to make me a sandwich), but it can navigate and avoid objects with ease.

[Read more...]

TI Launchpad adds computer control to a robot arm

[Eric Gregori] had an OWI535 toy robotic arm. Although cheap (coming it at around $30) the arm is only set up to be used via a wired control box. [Eric] knew he could do better by adding computer control via a TI Launchpad and motor driver peripheral.

The arm has shoulder, elbow, and wrist joints, a rotating base, and a gripper. All of these are actuated by 3V DC motors and have just two control wires. [Eric's] motor driver add-on for the Launchpad works great in this case. It’s got three FAN8200 dual motor driver chips on board so it can control up to six motors. Once he made the hardware connections it’s just a matter of sending the commands to the Launchpad via its USB interface, but you will also need to use a larger microcontroller than comes with the Launchpad. Here he’s chosen an MSP430G2553.

In order to make things a little bit more fun he also wrote a GUI for controlling the arm from the computer. He used RobotSee, a programming language that lets you use an image of the hardware, and overlay the controls on top of it. Now he just needs to make this into a web interface and he can have a smartphone controlled crane game.

Don’t forget to check out the video after the break. [Read more...]


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