Hackaday Links: January 10, 2012

They can put a man on the moon, but they can’t put a man in LEO

Yeah, we’re enraged by that headline. Anyway, NASA put up a whole bunch of projects and made them open source. From the looks of it, there’s plenty of cool stuff: genetic algorithm libs, toolkits for astrodynamics simulations (on the Goddard site), and this cool thing.

Nyan all the disks!

[brainsmoke], a hacker over at revspace, made an assembler version of nyan cat that can be placed on the bootloader of any disk. Just a reminder that you shouldn’t mount everything out there. We learned that lesson the week we discovered a penicillin allergy.

It’ll replace the Buffy poster.

[Anthony Clay] has been working on a set of EE posters that he’s putting up as a Kickstarter. They’re Ohm’s Law, resistor calculator, capacitance, and inductance posters that would look great above any workbench. He’s looking for ideas for other posters, so drop him a line and vote for the 7400 logic poster. All of them.

Ooooohhhh MIDI sampler

A while ago, we saw this neat MIDI Arduino shield. The Kickstarter reached its funding goal (there’s still time left!), but now [Keith] writes in to tell us that the AvecSynth library is platform independent. You could use this to record and play back MIDI messages. MIDI tape delay, anyone?

Open mind, not mouth.

With the success of the Stanford AI class last year, it looks like MIT is really getting their head into the game. Think of it this way: it’s MIT opencourseware that can lead to credentials. Now the only question is, ‘how do you prank a virtual campus?’

Self-balancing unicycle only for those with good balance

The only problem with this self-balancing unicycle is it’s inability to balance itself. You see, it automatically balances along the axis that is parallel to the line of travel. But since there’s only one wheel the rider is responsible for balancing perpendicular to travel. This is really not too much different from a bicycle; balancing while in motion is pretty simple. Only when you slow down or stop are you in trouble.

[Stephen Boyer] built the vehicle and uses it for most of his travel around the MIT campus. It carries a pair of 12V batteries that pack enough punch to travel five miles between charges. A 5DOF board senses motion and orientation, with an ATmega328 microcontroller calculating the corrections necessary to keep the rider upright.

The demo video after the break never really gives you good look at the thing, but it’s enough to prove that it does indeed work very well. We’re also glad to see that [Stephen] is using a kill-switch while riding.

If you’re aching for more electric unicycle video check out this other project too. [Read more...]

Seaswarm: we can clean up the Gulf in a month

Want to clean up the Gulf of Mexico oil spill in one month? Seaswarm says it can be done with 5000 floating robots.

As the name implies, the project uses swarm robotics. Each unit draws power from the sun, and drags around a conveyor belt of oil absorbent nanofabric that doesn’t get wet in water. Once the fabric is saturated with crude it can be removed using heat; not a task the swarm can do by itself. But get this: after separating oil from nanofabric both can be used again. That means you get the environmental benefit of cleaning up the Gulf, not throwing away your collection medium, and the oil is once again a usable commodity. Sounds like a lot of high promises, but take a look at the video after the break and decide for yourself.

[Read more...]

Programmable Origami

Researchers at MIT have come up with this slick demo of, what they call,  programmable matter. This flat sheet covered in tiny foil actuators can be programmed to fold into specific shapes. Shown in the video above is a boat and an airplane.  Using the concepts set down by origami through the years, they can divide the sheet into triangles in specific arrangements to make certain shapes possible. This one is fairly simple, but judging by some of the insane origami we’ve seen around, this could get pretty cool.

[via slashdot]

$100 CNC mill

This final project at MIT turned out quite nice. It is a CNC mill that cost under $100 to make. The tolerances are pretty tight as you can see in the pictures of the PCBs he has milled. He shows that he can even mill mild steel. It is a pretty brief writeup, but you can download build instructions and pcb files.

[via HacknMod]

Robots in space

SPHERES (Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient Experimental Satellites) are experimental robots made at MIT for the purpose of testing robot locomotion in space. As you can see in the video above, they are capable of maneuvering pretty well. They seem to hold formation fairly tightly. They are using compressed CO2, through 12 different thrusters for positioning. They should be capable of autonomously navigating around each other as well as docking to one another.

BiDi Screen, on (and off) screen multitouch

MIT is debuting their latest advancement in technology, a multitouch screen that also functions as a gestural interface. The multitouch aspect is nothing new, the team explains how traditional interfaces using LEDs or camera systems do work, but fail to recognize gestures off-screen.

Gestures are a relatively recent highlight with the introduction of projects like Natal or perspective tracking, but fail to work at closer distances to the screen. MIT has done what seems the impossible by combining and modifying the two to produce the first ever multitouch close proximity gestural display.

And to think, just a couple of months ago the same school was playing with pop-up books.

[via Engadget]