Mini Google Street View car built from Lego

lego_street_view

[Mark] was playing around with a small GPS sensor when a light bulb lit over his head. He imagined it would be pretty cool to replicate one of Google’s Street View cars at a fraction of the scale using Lego NXT parts. He figured it would be easy enough to rig a few cameras to a remote controlled car, recording images and GPS coordinates as it went along.

The mini Street View car is controlled by a single NXT module that receives commands from a PS2 controller via a PSPNx sensor he purchased. A trio of cameras have been attached to the car, which are meant to take pictures in all different directions when triggered by his remote. A handful of additional motors are also used for driving the car, steering, and for activating the shutter release on the cameras.

The car worked decently during testing, but [Mark] says there is still plenty of room for improvement. He is having issues reliably triggering all cameras at the moment, but we’re sure he’ll have it sorted out soon enough.

Keep reading to see a video of his mini Street View car in action.

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Tablet-controlled disco Droid

disco_droid_adk_control

We have seen a few neat Google ADK projects pop up since its announcement a few weeks back, and this one is already on the list of our favorites.

YouTube user [chrisjrelliot] has put together a great hack demonstrating the ADK’s power and how easy it can be to control devices in real time with an Android-powered device.

He hacked apart an Android figure (naturally) and fitted it with some LED eyes as well as four servos. The servos are used to rotate the head, body, and arms of his Disco Droid, all of which can be controlled via his Android-powered tablet. As you can see in the video below, he is able to control the Droid’s actions in real time with a few simple swipes of his finger. One thing we did notice is that his tablet is not connected to anything via wires, so we are assuming that there’s a Bluetooth module hidden away somewhere in the mix.

While the video is a bit short on details, [Chris] promises that source code and build plans will be published in short order.

BAMF2011: Google’s SKPR Bot, not for arachnophobes

Google’s Maker Faire exhibit space is swarmed with robots…er, androids. Amidst some cool bipeds and Segway-balancers, our inner sci-fi nerd was most smitten with this hexapod design, which they’ve dubbed SKPR Bot. The “Skipper” is on hand to showcase the ease of various Google technologies: SketchUp, Android OS and the Android Open Accessory Development Kit. The whole project came together in less than six weeks.

18 servos are mounted to a framework designed in SketchUp and laser-cut by Ponoko. The low-level servo PWM control is handled by the Dev Kit (essentially a rebadged Arduino Mega, as we’ve seen), while an Android OS phone provides a slick GUI and handles all the inverse kinematics calculations required as the robot takes each step. The coolest bit is that it’s all up for grabs. At this moment you’ll have to scrounge around the ’net a bit to find the plans and code, but some time post-Faire they plan to bring everything together at the SKPR Bot site.

Using Google’s ADK on standard Arduino hardware

adk_on_arduino

When we heard that Google’s open accessory development standard was forthcoming, we were pretty excited. However once we heard that the reference hardware kit was going to cost nearly $400, our thoughts changed to, “Surely you can’t be serious.”

Well, Google is dead serious (and we hear they don’t take kindly to being called Shirley either.)

With such a ridiculous asking price, it was only a matter of time before someone tried getting the ADK software running on vanilla Arduino hardware. [Inopia] wrote in letting us know that he did just that.

Using an Arduino Uno and a Sparkfun USB shield, he was able to get the ADK working without a lot of fuss. He tweaked the ADK firmware image in order to bypass a couple of hardcoded pin assignments Google made, and he was good to go. The image boots just fine, though he can’t necessarily guarantee that his setup works with an Android handset, as he doesn’t currently own one that supports accessory mode.

Now that just about anyone can get their hands on the ADK at a reasonable price, we look forward to seeing what you can put together!

Google? In my lightbulbs? It’s more likely than you think

led_lighting_by_google

With the recent announcement and release of their ADK, it was only a matter of time before Google started invading your home in a big way. From the looks of it, Google will be jumping into the home lighting market very shortly, which could prove to be quite interesting.

Partnering with Florida-based Lighting Sciences, Google is planning on developing consumer-grade 60W equivalent smart LED light bulbs. The bulbs will be able to wirelessly communicate using Google’s new open-source home networking protocol. The lights will be controllable using any Android device allowing users to dim, brighten and toggle the lights on and off without ever touching a wall switch.

We think it’s an interesting idea, and we’re all for getting quality LED lighting in the home. That said, some of Google’s other utility-centric endeavors such as PowerMeter have met only mediocre success, so it remains to be seen if this concept takes off. If it does however, we can’t wait to see the flood of ADK-based hacks the community puts together. Since their new wireless protocol will likely be extended to all sorts of other household systems, the possibilities are endless.

Official android open accessory development kit – it’s an Arduino

A new development kit for android was unveiled at the Google I/O 2011 developer conference that officially supports the Arduino.

It looks like Google took a cue from Circuits@Home, because the interesting part of this dev kit is the fact that the shield can be put into USB Host mode. That’s great for phones and tablets that can’t act as a USB host themselves. Google will also release the APIs for this Android/Arduino mashup for 3.1, but it will thankfully be backported to Gingerbread.

We covered the IOIO breakout board for Android last month, but the Google board will be based off of the Arduino Mega 2560, a far more capable device. Interestingly, it appears this board is available now for about $400 USD. We’re not so sure a hobbyist will be buying it at that price.

While this board doesn’t do anything you couldn’t do before with a bluetooth shield, it’s great to see a company supporting all the builders out there.

GSM tracking without GPS

If you use the Google Maps Mobile function then the big G knows where you are even if your phone doesn’t have a GPS module in it. So the next time you want geolocation capabilities in a project consider building around GSM functionality which can also be used for Internet connectivity. That’s exactly what this module does and luckily the hard work has already been done for you.

The method really hinges on a couple of things. First of all, any GSM capable device knows the information about the cell it is currently communicating with. Secondly, Google knows the coordinates of radio towers used in the cellular mobile network. A little bit of data sniffing on Google Maps Mobile app communications confirms how and when cell information is transferred between the device and the maps server. Take a look at this series of write-ups which go into detail about hardware, software, cell network location data, and communication protocols which Google hasn’t publicly documented. Sure you’re not going to have the accuracy we’ve come to enjoy with GPS, but this can get you pretty close.

[Thanks Boris]