Step into the Box

thebox

Take three industrial robots, two 4’ x 8’ canvases, and several powerful video projectors. Depending on who is doing the robot programming you may end up with a lot of broken glass and splinters, or you may end up with The Box.  The latest video released by the creators project, The Box features industrial robots and projection mapping. We recently featured Disarm from the same channel.

The Box is one of those cases of taking multiple existing technologies and putting them together with breathtaking results. We can’t help but think of the possibilities of systems such as CastAR while watching the video. The robots move two large canvases while projectors display a series of 3D images on them. A third robot moves the camera.

In the behind the scenes video, the creators revealed that the robots are programmed using a Maya plugin. The plugin allowed them to synchronize the robot’s movements along with the animation. The entire video is a complex choreographed dance – even the position of the actor was pre-programmed into Maya.

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Projector calibration on uneven surfaces made easy

projector-calibrator

If you are thinking of building your own flight/racing sim setup at home, you might want to check this out. [Alex] from the Garoa Hackerspace in Säo Paulo, Brazil put together a slick setup that makes projector image calibration a breeze.

When building a wraparound screen for such a simulator, you are likely to run into problems with both overlapping images and distortion from the curved projection. There are projectors that can easily adjust themselves to work in this sort of setup, but they are often very expensive, so [Alex] thought he would build a solution himself.

After studying a paper written by [Johnny Chung Lee] in 2004, he built a prototype display calibrator last year that used similar, though slightly tweaked methods to get the job done. This time around, [Alex] has improved his calibrator, making the process more precise and a bit quicker.

Light sensors and an Arduino are attached to the back of the projection medium, and a large broad scan of the screen is performed by the projector. His code then triggers an additional sweep of each corner to better estimate the exact edges of his projection surface. Since the video is tweaked in software rather than relying on the projector hardware to handle the task, the result is cheap and very accurate.

Don’t take our word for it though, check out [Alex’s] video demonstration below to see his calibrator in action.

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Kinect to get Windows drivers months after open source drivers were developed

Microsoft is planning to release Windows drivers for the Kinect this spring, months after open source drivers were developed by a motivated hacking community. [Johnny Chung Lee], who worked with the Microsoft team when the hardware was developed, mentions that he had pushed for the giant to develop and release at least basic Windows drivers. That refusal led him to a position as top cheerleader and bounty contributor in Adafruit’s Open Kinect Contest which resulted (quickly we might add) in the availability of open source drivers. If you’ve been following Hackaday or any other tech blogs the last three months you’ll know that an explosion of projects using the Kinect followed, and [Johnny] figures Microsoft’s decision to release Windows drivers is an attempt to ride this wave on their own flagship OS rather than continue to watch from the sidelines.

Low-cost video chat robot

remote_control_chat_robot

[Johnny Chung Lee], having recently moved from Seattle to Mountain View, wanted a way to keep in touch with his fiancé who would not be relocating for several more months. While most of us would likely consider purchasing a pair of web cams to keep in touch, he decided to do things his own way.  Using an iRobot Create and a netbook, both about $250 apiece, he constructed a remote-controlled video chat robot that he can steer around his former abode from 1,000 miles away. While $500 might seem expensive at first, [Johnny] reminds us that commercial versions likely run into the thousands of dollars.

The whole setup is controlled using custom software to manage the movement of the robot, which can be used in conjunction with freely available videoconferencing applications, such as Skype. He also modified the iRobot’s charging station to charge both the robot and the netbook simultaneously – a process he explains, but precedes with several disclaimers.  Like some of his previous projects we have covered, he has made the C# source used in this project available for download on his site, along with documentation for both the control software and dock modifications.

Check out video of the robot in action after the jump.

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Perspective tracking with only a web cam

[Johhny chung Lee], eat your heart out. Check out what these guys are doing with face tracking and immersive 3d as their final project in class. They’re using a singe camera and an FPGA to produce the demo you see in the video. Facial tracking is done by skin color, so that might have some issues in some environments, but being able to have perspective shift with you, without rigging up some more hardware is fantastic.

We realize that this is completely different that what [Johnny] is doing. We love [Johnny]‘s work and think it is ground breaking to be able to pull this stuff off with a cheap game controller. We just couldn’t help but draw the parallel from the end result.

[thanks Bruce]

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