New and improved Potentar

We like what we’re seeing and hearing with [Dorian Damon’s] newest version of the Potentar. This is revision 2.0 of the instrument we saw in a December links post. He calls it the Potentar, since it uses a linear potentiometer in a way similar to how the frets on a guitar work (Potentiometer + Guitar = Potentar).

The first thing you should notice is the case upgrade. The original used what looked like unfinished scrap wood, but finished wood of this case really makes the thing look like a traditional instrument. With this design he loses the Arduino in favor of a standalone ATmega328 chip. You’ll notice knobs and a switch on the face of the body. This allows for selecting a couple different kinds of scales and turning the power off. The linear potentiometer and sewing machine button are the same as before. After the break you can catch his description and a quick performance thanks to the audio jack for patching it into an amp.

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Increasing a digital servo motor’s range of motion

Unhappy with the 120 degree range of movement for this digital servo motor [Malte] set out to expand its flexibility. He settled upon a hack that alters the feedback potentiometer in order to give the motor a wider range (translated).

The test video (embedded after the break) shows tick marks for before and after his alterations. You can see that the wider tick marks get much closer to the 180 degree range he’s interested in. The control method is no different than it was before, the internal circuitry is still listening for a control signal with pulses between 1 and 2ms to establish the position of the servo horn. [Malte] added resistors on the two outside legs of the feedback potentiometer. This is what that control circuit measures in order to judge the position of the servo horn. He’s using 1.6k Ohm resistors in this demonstration. But he didn’t just drop them in willy-nilly. His writeup discusses the calculations he used to determine the target voltage for the motor position he wants.

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Improving your flight sim experience with Hall effect sensors


[Gene Buckle] built himself a nice custom cockpit for playing Flight Simulator, but during use he found that the gimbal he constructed for the pitch and roll controls was nearly unusable. He narrowed the problem down to the potentiometers he used to read the angle of the controls, so he set off to find a suitable and more stable replacement.

He figured that Hall effect sensors would be perfect for the job, so he picked up a pair of Allegro 1302 sensors and began fabricating his new control inputs. He mounted a small section of a pen into a bearing to use as an input shaft, attaching a small neodymium magnet to either side. Since he wanted to use these as a drop-in replacement for the pots, he had to fabricate a set of control arms to fit on the pen segments before installing them into his cockpit.

Once everything was set, he fired up his computer and started the Windows joystick calibration tool. His potentiometer-based controls used to show a constant jitter of +/- 200-400 at center, but now the utility displays a steady “0”. We consider that a pretty good result!

[Thanks, Keith]

Slowing a Bopit so the littles ones can play too

[Johnny Halfmoon] wanted to help out his three-year-old who was fascinated by the Bopit electronic game. In its stock condition it’s a bit too fast for the young one, so he cracked it opened and added the option to slow things down.

Above you can see the Bopit Extreme with the top half of the case removed. Although not hard to get open (there’s just 12 screws to remove) the spring-loaded appendages will fly apart when you do. He warns to pay attention at how they go back together.

There’s one axial resistor which affects the running speed of the game. [Johnny] desoldered this, replacing it with a circuit that toggles between that original resistor and a potentiometer. Now, one switch position allows for normal play, the other allows for adjustable speed based on the potentiometer position. Check out the results in the clip after the break.

Looking for some other fun electronic toy hacks? Why not try out this cursing Simon Says?

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I’ll see your Launchpad controlled arm and raise you Arduino controlled autonomy

This OWI robot arm has been hacked to add position sensors and Arduino control. [Chris Anderson] took one look at the Launchpad controlled OWI from earlier today and said “wait a minute, I’ve already posted my own version of that project”. Well, that will teach him not to tip us off about his hacks!

The position control is a really nice addition. Potentiometers added to each of the joints (shoulder, elbow, and wrist) can be read by the ADC pins on the Arduino. Just a bit of calibration will let the microcontroller board know the position of the arm at any given time. The control technique is the same as the Launchpad hack, with one glaring drawback. [Chris] is using the Adafruit motor driver shield. It uses L293D H-bridge chips, but it only has four channels. There are five motors on this arm, so the video after the break shows it moving around without any outside instruction, but you won’t see it grab onto anything since the Arduino can’t move the gripper!

Still, the position feedback makes the case for this version. Just remember to order an extra chip if you want full control.

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Experimenting with an air muscle and sensor feedback

Check out this setup that [Ruenahcmohr] is using in his air muscle experiments. The orange mesh contains an air bladder that is connected to a hose on the right side. The bladder can be filled, or emptied with two solenoid valves not seen here (but you can get a good look in the video after the break). The muscle attached to chain on the other end and is kept under constant tension by a spring. The chain bends 180 degrees around a gear which is connected to a potentiometer. This gives feedback to the ATmega32 which controlling the whole thing. This way, the slider seen above can be used to control the apparatus.

We don’t know if [Ruenahcmohr] has a use in mind for this setup, but it certainly looks promising! We’ve seen these air muscles used for haptic feedback before, but right now we’re drawing a blank when it comes to ideas. What would you use it for?

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Mixed I/O testing module

Needing to test the display interface for a multitude of different sensors [Fileark] built himself this analog and digital input/output simulator. Along the bottom is a double row of trimpots that adjust analog voltages. Each voltage is measured by the Arduino inside and its value is displayed on the graphic LCD screen to confirm that the hardware you’re testing is making correct measurements. There’s also digital I/O in two different forms. To the upper left are momentary push buttons but the DIP switch bank below that allows the same connections to be toggled on and off. It’s not an automated test bed, but if you’ve got a lot of I/O, or a lot of hardware to test this will save you some real time.

Don’t miss the demonstration video after the break.

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