Raspberry Pi Zero Becomes Mighty Miniature Minecraft Machine

In a clever bit of  miniaturization, [JediJeremy] has nearly completed a gyro-mouse controller for a Raspberry Pi Zero! Ultimately this will be a wearable Linux-watch but along the way he had some fun with the interface.

Using the MPU6040 gyroscope/accelerometer card from a quadcopter, [JediJeremy] spent a week writing the driver to allow it to function as a mouse. Strapping an Adafruit 1.5″ PAL/NTSC LCD screen and its driver board to the Zero with rubber bands makes this one of the smallest functional computer and screen combos we’ve seen. Simply tilt the whole thing about to direct the cursor.

It presently lacks any keyboard input, and [JediJeremy] has only added a single button for clicking, but look at this thing! It’s so tiny! In his own words: “I think this is the first computer that I can accidentally spill into my coffee, rather than vice versa.”

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Gyroman Walks with Just One Motor

For some reason, we seem to really want our robots to walk on two legs like we do. And this despite how much the robots themselves want to be made out of motors, which match up so naturally with wheels. The result is a proliferation of inventive walking mechanisms. Here’s another.

Gyroman is a 3D printed gyroscope with legs. The gyroscope is geared down to lift one leg and then the other. First-semester physics, that we still find a little bit magical, makes the gyro precess and the robot turns a bit. Time these just right and it walks. See the video below for a demo. (Admittedly, Gyroman looks like he’s had a bit too much to drink as he winds down.)

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Software Update Destroys $286 Million Japanese Satellite

The Japanese X-ray telescope Hitomi has been declared lost after it disintegrated in orbit, torn apart when spinning out of control. The cause is still under investigation but early analysis points to bad data in a software package pushed shortly after an instrument probe was extended from the rear of the satellite. JAXA, the Japanese space agency, lost $286 million, three years of planned observations, and a possible additional 10 years of science research.

Hitomi, also known as ASTRO-H, successfully launched on February 17, 2016 but on March 26th catastrophe struck, leaving only pieces floating in space. JAXA, desperately worked to recover the satellite not knowing the extent of the failure. On April 28th they discontinued their efforts and are now working to determine the reasons for the failure, although a few weeks ago they did provide an analysis of the failure sequence at a press conference.

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Wii MotionPlus Gyro to Microchip PIC

Sometimes the most mundane products have surprisingly sophisticated internals. What’s in a game controller? If it is a Wii remote, you’ll find a lot inside–an IR sensor, Bluetooth, an accelerometer, and EEPROM. It also has a six pin expansion port that allows I2C peripherals connect to the controller.

[DotMusclera] wanted to experiment with a gyroscope and decided to hook up to the Wii MotionPlus to a Microchip PIC. Using information from the WiiBrew wiki, [DotMusclera] connected a PIC18F4550, an LCD, and a handful of components (mostly to do 3.3V level conversion), he set up the hardware on a breadboard. The only odd part you might have to work around is a Wii breakout board that converts from the breadboard to the Wii interface.

The software is easy to follow since it is written in Hi-TECH C and well-commented. The hardware lacks a schematic, but from the parts list and the video, you can probably figure it out. The setup works well and shows roll, pitch, and yaw on the LCD screen.

The project log is very detailed, with a lot of information about gyroscopes and the communication format the gyro uses. The video demo is worth watching as well.

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Budget Wrist-Controlled RC car is a nice touch

Does your RC car’s crude, push-button controller make you feel like you’re mashing tv remote buttons like a caveman? We think so too, but [Noel] has actually done the heavy-lifting to fix just that. He’s revamped his kids’ rc controller for gesture control. Now their rc car can be guided by the crisp, intuitive control of one’s wrist movements.

To tackle this project, [Noel] has integrated a gyroscope and accelerometer, an Arduino, and the existing remote. Data from the gyroscope-and-accelerometer limits are mapped to the buttons through an Arduino, which parses the raw data and triggers the controller’s switches, now wired directly to the Arduino and pulled up with resistors. In his overview video, [Noel] tells us that he’s binarized the gyroscope-and-accel data to trigger at certain limits, a choice that adequately suits the controller’s original push-button controls. Finally, the entire setup is cleanly strapped to a 3D-printed case. Not bad, for a grand total of $20 and a quick trip to Target.

[Noel]’s custom wrist-controller takes its place on the shelf of many other unique controllers, and his demo is a great example of using existing open hardware to tailor our toys to more personal tastes. After all, the hardware shopping list is just a breakout board, an Arduino, and a few jumper wires. When the next zombie apocalypse hits, we can easily see some practical components like these making their way into our suitcase. At the very least, we’ll be able to build a few wrist controllers and dispatch some toy cars to greet the undead.

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Electronic Glove Detects Sign Language

A team of Cornell students recently built a prototype electronic glove that can detect sign language and speak the characters out loud. The glove is designed to work with a variety of hand sizes, but currently only fits on the right hand.

The glove uses several different sensors to detect hand motion and position. Perhaps the most obvious are the flex sensors that cover each finger. These sensors can detect how each finger is bent by changing the resistance according to the degree of the bend. The glove also contains an MPU-6050 3-axis accelerometer and gyroscope. This sensor can detect the hand’s orientation as well as rotational movement.

While the more high-tech sensors are used to detect most characters, there are a few letters that are similar enough to trick the system. Specifically, they had trouble with the letters R, U, and V. To get around this, the students strategically placed copper tape in several locations on the fingers. When two pieces of tape come together, it closes a circuit and acts as a momentary switch.

The sensor data is collected by an ATmega1284p microcontroller and is then compiled into a packet. This packet gets sent to a PC which then does the heavy processing. The system uses a machine learning algorithm. The user can train the it by gesturing for each letter of the alphabet multiple times. The system will collect all of this data and store it into a data set that can then be used for detection.

This is a great project to take on. If you need more inspiration there’s a lot to be found, including another Cornell project that speaks the letters you sign, as well as this one which straps all needed parts to your forearm.
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