Giving the Hexbug Spider a set of eyes

spider

The Hexbug Spider is a neat little robot toy available at just about any Target or Walmart for about $20. With a few extra parts, though, it can become a vastly more powerful robotics platform, as [eric] shows us with his experiments with a Hexbug and OpenCV.

Previously, we’ve seen [eric] turn a Hexbug spider into a line following robot with a pair of IR LEDs and a drop-in replacement motor driver. This time, instead of a few LEDs, [eric] turned to an Android smartphone running an OpenCV-based app.

The smartphone app detects a user-selectable hue – in this case a little Android toy robot – and sends commands to the MSP430-powered motor control board over the headphone jack to move the legs. It’s a neat build, and surprisingly nimble for a $20 plastic hexapod robot.

You can see the OpenCV-controlled Hexbug in action after the break, along with a video build log with [eric] showing everyone how to tear apart one of these robot toys.

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Turning the Hexbug spider into a line-following robot

You may be familiar with the Hexbug Spider, a small electronic robot toy sold at Target and Walmart for $20. While they’re able to be commanded to move forward, backward, and spin around on a dime, there aren’t any external sensors to make it really exciting. [Eric] sought to remedy this and came up with a line-following board replacement for the Hexbug Spider.

The stock Spider has a small circuit board that allows for the control of two motors with a remote. [Eric] removed this control board and replaced it with his own, powered by a TI MSP430 microcontroller. On this board, [Eric] included a pair of IR LEDs, able to detect the path of a white line drawn on the ground. With just a little bit of code, [Eric] made his $20 Hexbug Spider into a very cool looking robot.

[Eric] figured out how to improve his robot toy, but the power of the MSP430 microcontroller he used doesn’t limit him to only following lines. By using an MSP430 Launchpad, anyone can upload new code to the improved Spider, and even add new sensors to this creepy walking robotic toy.

Hexbug code rewrite makes it a walking line-follower

You know you’ve got a good hardware platform if you can easily repurpose it with a code rewrite. And that’s what [Eric] continues to do with these little Hexbugs. This time around he’s bent the IR emitter and receiver downward to use as a reflectance sensor. This gives it the ability to follow a dark line on a light surface.

He originally patched an MSP430 into the $25 RC toy. The IR pair was intended for obstacle avoidance, which we saw in a recent links post. This hack does a great job of repurposing the avoidance system. Since the add-on hardware is mounted on a motorized turret, the single sensor pair can sweep back and forth to find the line it will follow. In one way this is better than most line followers which use multiple sensors mounted to the body. But the drawback is that this results in slower travel and won’t be winning any contests. Don’t miss the demo clip after the break.

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Hackaday Links: February 8, 2012

Most useless machine

We love ‘em, and we hope you do too. Here’s [Phase2plus'] take on the most useless machine.

Scratching like it’s 1989

[Nick] spent three bucks at the thrift store and ended up buying days worth of fun with this cassette player. He hacked it to scratch like vinyl.

3D printed jawbone

This lady now has her own 3D-printed jawbone. We’re not talking about the Bluetooth headset… it’s an actual bone replacement! And yes, the skeleton for the Terminator was 3D printed… we’re that much closer now. [Thanks Steve]

Hexbug superbowl

Why not let robots decide our sports gambling choices? [Eric] let this slew of HexBugs battle it out as an early indicator for who would win the Super Bowl. Seems he has no shortage of the little toys, all of which received an MSP430 upgrade. The firmware actually implements obstacle avoidance, but he makes a poke at the Chicago Bears who seem to have the same mission.

Foil fix for worn out remotes

[Viktor] found an interesting repair tip. If you’ve got remote controlers whose buttons are not working so well anymore you may be able to fix them with tin foil. He uses a single-hole punch to clip out circles which are attached to the underside of the misbehaving button. Worth a try!

The EMGRobotics Robot Control Board

There are many microcontrollers available to make robots with, but few that are built with the exact features that you would need to construct one. Meet the [EMGRobotics  MSP430G2553] robot controller board.

At $15 without the CPU or $17 with a [MSP430G2553] already plugged into the socket, this control board may make some Arduino enthusiasts take note for their next project.  Besides a very attractive price (you’ll have to go to the home page to make a purchase), this board ships with a built in IR range sensor and accommodations to drive up to four hobby servo motors. If this isn’t enough for you, two 3 volt DC motors can be soldered directly to connections on the board and controlled independently and in either direction. In other words you don’t have to muck about with trying to build your own H-bridge circuit, it’s all taken care of for you!

The article shows it controlling a Hexbug spider. [EMGRobotics] has actually done something similar (and well-documented) before with this platform, so be sure to check out the post about hacking the Hexbug iteslf!

Giving the Hexbug Spider freedom to explore on its own

hexbug-hack

[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.

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Hexbug brain transplant

The Hex Bug, at $10, proves to be a perfect platform for building your own droid. Out of the box, it has pretty limited functionality. It walks forward until its antennae bump something, then it backs up and turns left. Applied inspirations shows us how you can replace the bug’s brains with a microcontroller to give it much more life. Instead of hacking into the existing electronics, they chose to completely replace the board. The final result, though still only able to turn one direction, is much more robust.  They discuss the ability to add numerous sensors as well as pre program different behaviours and personalities.