Autonomous robot uses an iPhone for its brain

At the beginning of the school last year, [Ryan] needed to come up with a project for his master’s thesis. Having a bachelor’s in mech. engineering and doing his graduate work in software engineering allowed [Ryan] to do something really cool for his thesis; he decided to turn an iPhone into an autonomous robot with live video streaming, remote control, and  object detection.

[Ryan] started building his ArduiPhone last October with an Arduino,  motor shield, and a Magician Chassis. The software is based on an iPhone network programming tutorial that opens a socket connection to a desktop PC and relays commands to an Arduino serial port.

One of the more interesting features of [Ryan]‘s ArduiPhone is the ability to stream video directly from the phone to a Java application. Instead of FaceTime, [Ryan] streams videos by converting an image from the front-facing iPhone camera to a byte array, sends it over the network, and decodes the image in a Java app. It’s low-level stuff, but the video quality is excellent and something we’ll probably be seeing more of in the future.

As always, videos after the break.

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iPhone wielding guitar adds tip of your finger or tip the instrument control

[Rob Morris] has been hard at working improving his guitar augmentation techniques. Here he’s demonstrating the use of an iPhone to control the effects while he plays. This builds on the work he shared a few years ago where he strapped a Wii remote to the body of his ax.

Just like the Wii remote, the iPhone includes an accelerometer. As you would expect the best parts of the older hack made it into this one, but the inclusion of the touch screen adds a lot more. In the clip after the break he starts by showing off the screen controlling a whammy bar functionality. But we really love the octave offset feature that comes next. This kind of sound manipulation simply can’t be done using a purely physical method (like the whammy bar can). But he’s not done yet. The demo finishes with a Theremin feature. You’ll notice he plucks a string but no sound comes out until he starts touching the screen. This turns it into an entirely different type of instrument.

The only info we have about putting this together is the list of packages he’s using:  TouchOSC, Max/Msp, and GuitarRig

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Circuit Playground – An electronics reference app from Adafruit

It’s not everyday that we review software around here, but the folks at Adafruit recently put together an iOS app that I figured might be of interest. Their iPad/iPhone compatible application is called “Circuit Playground”, and it includes all sorts of handy electronics reference tools. For the context of this review, it should be noted that I paid for the application myself, and that I have had no communication with the Adafruit team regarding my assessment of the app.

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WiFi garage door opener makes forgotten keys a thing of the past

wifi-garage-door-opener

[Tod’s] daughter has a habit of forgetting to take a house key along with her, so he was looking for a way to make accessing the house easier in a pinch. He had tried wireless garage door keypads in the past, but their performance was so-so at best. After scouring the market for commercial solutions and checking out the work of other hackers, he decided that he needed to craft a custom solution of his own.

He started shopping around for wireless-enabled microcontrollers and settled on a Roving Networks RN-XV module, which is designed as a drop-in replacement for an XBee. Paired with a 5v to 3.3v power adapter, the RN-XV is nearly all he needed to interface his iPhone with his garage door opener.

The microcontroller has enough GPIO pins to control the garage door, while also monitoring the door’s status using a simple magnet/reed switch combo. A web server in [Tod’s] house takes input from any phone connected to his wireless LAN and relays the open/close commands to the opener. The opener in turn returns status messages to him via the web interface.

We really like the system’s simple design, and as long as [Tod] has turned WPS off at home, he really shouldn’t have to worry too much about unauthorized entry.

Spring clamp tripod mount has potential

Admittedly this post is flirting with flamebait, but we think the concept of using a spring clamp as an iPhone tripod mount has a lot of hacking potential. Hear us out, and if we havn’t made our case you can rant about it in the comments.

[Joe] wanted an easy way to mount his iPhone on a standard tripod. We’ve seen some creative solutions for this, like using Sugru to make a removable bracket. But he went a different route, using a cheap spring clamp to grip the phone body. These plastic clamps are like over-powered clothespins, and use a screw as the pivot point. [Joe] replaced the stock screw with a longer one, then used a coupling nut which will attach to the tripod. A bit of foam on the pads of the clamp protect your device from the plastic teeth.

It’s a fine solution (if you don’t mind putting that pressure on your smart phone). But we think this would be a great way to build your own heavy-duty third hand. It would be right at home with this modular solder platform. See [Joe's] how-to video embedded after the break.

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SMS remote start gives new life to your old smartphone

iphone-sms-remote-start

Hack a Day alum [Will O’Brien] recently upgraded his phone, and was trying to find a use for his old one. He always wanted a remote starter for his Subaru Outback, but wasn’t interested in paying for an off the shelf kit. Since he had this old smartphone kicking around, he thought that it would be the perfect starting point for an SMS-triggered remote start system.

He started off by jailbreaking his phone, which allows him to run some Perl scripts that are used to listen for incoming texts. Using a PodBreakout mini from Sparkfun he connected the phone to an Arduino, which is responsible for triggering the car’s ignition. Now, a simple text message containing the start command and a password can start his car from a anywhere in the world.

While [Will] is quite happy with his setup he already has improvements in mind, including a way for the Arduino to send a message back to him via SMS confirming that the car has been successfully started. He’s thinking about putting together a kit for others looking to add the same functionality to their own car, so be sure to check his site periodically for project updates.

Small tabletop telepresence robot

iphone_tabletop_telepresence

When [Peter] saw the Sparkfun Magician robot chassis in a recent new product post, he knew instantly that he had to have one for a telepresence project that had been kicking around in his head for a while.

Onto the robot chassis, he added an Arduino to provide the brains of the bot, an Adafruit motor shield for controlling the wheels, and a Pololu Wixel for wireless communications. An iPhone is mounted on the top of the robot, which communicates with his laptop using Apple’s Facetime app. The robot is controlled from his laptop as well using the Wixel, which enables him to direct the Magician chassis as if it was attached via USB.

While he thinks the robot is pretty neat and that it works well, [Peter] already has improvements in mind. The robot chassis is a bit weak on anything but smooth surfaces, so a new set of motors and wheels are likely the first changes he’ll make. He wants to add a servo-based aiming mechanism for the phone’s camera, as well as some sensors to prevent the bot from taking a nosedive off his table.

iPhone aside, this is probably one of the cheaper mobile telepresence setups we’ve seen, so we can’t wait to hear how the improvements work out, and how much they add to the robot’s cost.

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