Modeling an object with internal IMUs

[Joseph Malloch] sent in a really cool video of him modeling a piece of foam twisting and turning in 3D space.

To translate the twists, bends, and turns of his piece of foam, [Joseph] used several inertial measurement units (IMUs) to track the shape of a deformable object. These IMUs consist of a 3-axis accelerometer, 3-axis gyroscope, and a 3-axis magnetometer to track their movement in 3D space. When these IMUs are placed along a deformable object, the data can be downloaded from a computer and the object can be reconstructed in virtual space.

This project comes from the fruitful minds at the Input Devices and Music Interaction Lab at McGill University in Montreal. While we’re not quite sure how modeled deformable objects could be used in a user interface, what use is a newborn baby? If you’ve got an idea of what this could be used for, drop a note in the comments. Maybe the Power Glove needs an update – an IMU-enabled jumpsuit that would put the Kinect to shame.

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Another homebrew Segway clone comes in at under $300

[Matt Turner] tipped us off back in January about his homemade Segway project. Unfortunately that message slipped through the cracks but we’re glad he sent in a reminder after reading Friday’s feature an a different 2-wheeled balancer.

We like it that he refers to this project as being on the budget of a graduate student with a young family. We certainly understand where he’s coming from, and we hope he can ride this to job interviews to show them he truly lives engineering. The control circuitry is a bit higher-end than we’re used to seeing. He chose a Cypress CY8C29466 SoC to control the device. But the sensors are a common choice, using the Wii Motion Plus and Wii Nunchuk for the gyroscope and accelerometer they contain. This is a no-brainer since the sensors are high-quality, cheap and available locally, and communicate of the standard I2C protocol.

When looking for motors [Matt] was happy to find an old electric wheelchair on Craig’s List. This also gave him a gear box, wheels, and tires. He added a pair of motor drivers, with his own alterations to suppress feedback. Sounds like they run a little hot because he plans to add cooling fans to them in the future. But this first iteration is up and running quite well as you can see in the clip after the break.

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Avoid shaky camera movements with gyroscopic stabilization

Right after “no editing whatsoever”, the “shaky camera” is the bane of YouTube viewers the world over. [David] came up with a nice solution to the problem of shaky cameras that uses gyroscopes to even out the bumps of making a great movie.

Most cameras attached to moving frames – from the zip-line cameras at NFL games to police helicopters and aerial reconnaissance drones – have some sort of gyroscopic stabilization. Even though gyroscopic stabilization has been around for more than 60 years, the designs haven’t changed that much. [David] dug up a few patents dating from the 50s and set to work replicating the design.

[David] bought a pair of [Glenn Turner]’s fabulously heavy and expensive-looking powered gyroscopes and began bolting them onto a piece of sheet metal. Per the 1950 patent, the gyroscopes were mounted 90 degrees apart and bolted onto the camera.

From the video demo (after the break), there’s a marked difference between filming a stroll though a parking lot with the gyros on and gyros off. While the pair of motor driven gyroscopes look a little ungainly and are a bit too loud for our tastes, the solution is much less expensive than the $1600 professional gyro [David] based his build on.

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Android legs stability testing

This is [James’] latest android build, a set of legs that use gyroscopes for balance.

He started off by planning the build with some LEGO pieces to get an idea of how each foot and leg joint would fit together. This let him achieve one of his goals. From the start he wanted to create a robot that would remain stable, and not build up enough momentum to tip itself over if there is a problem. With the dimensions established he cut out parts from 2mm sheets of HIP plastic using a hobby knife. They work in conjunction with a frame made from aluminum and HDPE. The whole thing houses eight servos responsible for movement, but he found an interesting way to use them for balance as well.

[James] came across some gyroscopic sensors which are made for use with RC helicopters. They connect in-line with a servo motor and offset it based on the gyro data. He’s using four of them with this bot, playing the hip and ankle servos against each other for balance. What results is a set of legs that look like their jonesin’ for a fix. See for yourself in the clip after the break.

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Contest entry roulette

Over 150 projects made from scrap parts (translated) have been posted for your viewing pleasure. They make up the entries in the “Make fast the scrap” project from c’t magazine. We already looked in on a toilet paper printer, but there’s a ton of other fun stuff to look at as well.

Every time you load the link at the top, the page picks a different set of entries to display. You can click through all the pages, or reload to play a little project roulette. The image above shows three that caught our eye. To the upper right is a lighbulb-man riding an old computer mouse reverse-cowgirl style. Quirky, but anyone who has access to an electroplating setup can get away with making simple objects like this into awesome desktop sculptures.

Moving clockwise we have a tiny USB drive mated with an old vacuum tube. The machine translation is a bit rough, but it looks like the LED from the thumb drive gives the tube a bit of a red glow. We just think it’s interesting to carry around a vacuum tube with you.

The final banner image shows a gyroscope for a camcorder. This is an awesome setup, which you can see in action after the break. A pair of broken hard drives provide motion stabilization for a camera. The entire assembly has a handle on the top with a universal joint. When the drives are spinning, the platform holds very still, even if the operator is swinging the unit around wildly.

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Quadcopter stabilization system using Wii Motion Plus

If you’re contemplating a quadcopter build here’s a way to add stabilization hardware without breaking the bank. The BaronPilot project uses an Arduino and a Wii Motion Plus module to ensure an even keel for your flying projects. The hardware inside of the Motion Plus includes two gyroscopes, which the BaronPilot monitors for changes in your flying rig’s orientation. The project serves as a co-pilot by differentiating between movements caused by the remote control, and changes due to wind or other outside factors (like hitting the quadcopter with a stick as seen in the video after the break). It should all translate to less chance of crashing due to operator error.

You can pick up a Motion Plus for less than twenty dollars, a deal when compared to the IMU boards that we usually see in quadcopter builds which usually run more than twice that amount. It’s an I2C device which makes it easy to hook up to just about anything. This project has native support for Teensy, Arduino Nano, and Arduino clones using an ATmega328 chip. But the portability of the Arduino platform should make it easy to tweak the code for use with just about any microprocessor.

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DIY Segway: fast, silent, and open

This is a picture of the guts of a diy Segway project (translated). Everything fits into a tiny space under the platform upon which the rider stands. It’s tight, but makes for a sleek look when the diamond plate is covering up all of the internals.

An ATmega644 controls the vehicle. It does so by using a PID control scheme to monitor a gyroscope, driving the wheels to maintain the center of balance. Electronically, the most complicated part of the build is the motor controller. It seems to be an original design, using an ATmega48 and several other integrated circuits. It was hard for us to figure out how this was implemented, but with some intensive study of the three schematics that go into the module we’d bet you can get to the bottom of things. We certainly like the outcome, as this personal transport is whisper quiet. Take a look at the clip after the break to hear for yourself.

Note: Be careful if you’re reusing the code from the translated link at the top. Google translator also translates the variable names in the code and might break how it works due to inconsistencies in the translation.

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