Third Person Driving IRL

It’s a dream come true: remote control of a real car. Besides being a lot of fun, a life-size RC vehicle has some practical applications, like performing rescue operations or delivering supplies to dangerous areas. For [Carter], [Dave], [Ryan], and [Sean], the dream became reality in the span of 24 caffeine-and-chicken-finger-fueled hours during an Ohio State University hackathon. They dubbed the system MagiKarpet because it sits in place of the floor mat and runs on pixies.

The plan was to control the throttle, brake, and steering of a Chevy Cobalt using a PlayStation controller. For added fun, a camera mounted high above the back bumper would provide a third-person view, and this feed would be displayed on a monitor in the backseat. Everything is controlled by an Arduino Mega. A beefy linear actuator works the brake and is attached temporarily with a band of Shapelock that slips around the pedal. The throttle is pushed by a lever attached to a car window motor. Another motor connects to the steering wheel with cables that can turn it 90° left and right. Although the build was successful, they ran into a couple of issues. But what’s a hackathon experience without a few problems?

The linear actuator was jammed for about an hour after some early testing, but they got it unstuck. The PS controller was borked, so they had to roll their own joysticks. The school wouldn’t let them actually drive it around because of safety (killjoys but we get it), so they put it up on a jack to demonstrate it for the judges. They took second place, though we can’t imagine what would have beat this. Check out the complete build video after the break.

You might remember these guys from last year around this time. They took first place at the same hackathon with Robottermilk Puncakes, a app-controlled pancake machine. Now that you’re hungry for pancakes, feast your eyes on this endless one.

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Broken RC Car Goes Online

When the remote for your son’s RC car goes missing, what are you going to do? Throw away a perfectly good robot chassis? No, we wouldn’t either. And these days, with WiFi-enabled microcontroller boards so readily available, it’s almost easier to network the thing than it would be to re-establish radio control. So that’s just what [Stian Søreng] did.

Naturally, there’s an ESP8266 board at the heart of this hack, a WeMos D1 to be specific. [Stian] had played with cheap remote-controlled cars enough to be already familiar with the pinout of the RC IC, so he could simply hook up some GPIOs from the WeMos board to the pins and the brain transplant was complete.

On the software side, he implemented control over TCP by sending the characters “F”, “B”, “L”, or “R” to send the car forward, back, left, or right. Lowercase versions of the same letters turns that function off. He then wrote some client software in Qt that sends the right letters. He says that response time is around 150-250 ms, but that it works for his driving style — crashing. (We’d work on that.)

Anyway, it’s a fun and fairly quick project, and it re-uses something that was destined for the junk heap anyway, so it’s a strict win. The next steps are fairly open. With computer control of the car, he could do anything. What would you do next?

Thanks [Eyewind] for the tip!

Shoot Darts at the Shins of Total Strangers

[Michael Brumlow] found us and sent us a link. Within a few seconds, we were driving a webcam-enabled Nerf dart tank through his office and trying not to hit walls or get stepped on by his co-workers. Unfortunately, it was out of darts at the time, but you can find them all over the floor if you scout around.

screenshot_remote_botAll of the code details, including the link where you can test drive it yourself, are up on [Michael]’s GitHub. The brains are an Intel Edison board, and the brawns are supplied by an Arduino motor controller shield and (for the latest version) a chassis bought from China.

It runs fairly smoothly, considering the long round trip from [Michael]’s office in Texas, through wherever Amazon keeps their Web Services, over to us in Germany and back. Once we got used to the slight lag, and started using the keyboard’s arrow keys for control, we were driving around like a pro.

It’s got a few glitches still, like the camera periodically overheating and running out of WiFi distance. [Michael] said he’d try to keep it charged up and running while you give it a shot. The controls are multiplexed in the cloud, so your chance of steering it is as good as anyone else’s. It’ll be interesting to see what happens when thousands of Hackaday readers try to control it at once!

It takes a certain kind of bravery to put your telepresence robot up on the open Internets. So kudos to you, [Michael], and we hope that you manage to get some work done this week, even though you will have all of Hackaday driving into your cubicle walls.

Remote-Controlled Eyebrows for Your Birthday

We’re not sure that [Alec]’s dad actually requested remote-controlled eyebrows for his birthday, but it looks like it’s what he got! As [Alec] points out, his father does have very expressive eyebrows, and who knows, he could be tired of raising and lowering them by himself. So maybe this is a good thing? But to us, it still looks a tiny bit Clockwork Orange. But we’re not here to pass judgement or discuss matters of free will. On to the project. (And the video, below the break.)

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An ATmega328 (otherwise known as cheap Cloneduino Alec wrote that the 328 was from a real Arduino) is trained to run motors in response to IR signals. An L293D and a couple of gear motors take care of the rest. Sewing bobbins and thread connect the motors to the eyebrows. And while it’s not entirely visible in the photo, and veers back into not-sure-we’d-do-this-at-home, a toothpick serves as an anchor for the thread and tape, secured just underneath the ‘brows for maximum traction.

We have to say, we initially thought it was going to be a high-voltage muscle-control hack, and we were relieved that it wasn’t.

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Robo Car Via 3G

[Emil Kalstø] has a pretty solid remote control car. We don’t mean a little car with a handheld remote you can drive around the neighborhood. [Emil’s] car has a camera and a cell phone so that it can go anywhere there’s 3G or 4G networking available.

The video (see below) shows the results (along with [Emil’s] little brother acting as a safety officer). The video offers tantalizing detail you might find useful if you want to reproduce a similar vehicle. However, it stops short of providing complete details.

The two batteries onboard will power the vehicle for over 20 hours of continuous use. The 30W motor is reduced with a chain drive to go about “walking speed.” There’s a Raspberry Pi with a Huawei 3G USB dongle onboard and [Emil] uses an XBox controller to do the steering from the warmth of his living room. Of course, a Pi can’t handle a big motor like that directly, so a Phidgets USB motor controller does the hard work. The software is written using Node.js.

The camera mount can swivel 230 degrees on a servo so that the operator can scan the road ahead. The video mentions that steering the car required a heavy-duty servo with metal gears (an earlier attempt with nylon gears didn’t work out).

Overall, it looks like a solid build. We hope [Emil] will share code and more details soon. If you can’t wait (and your insurance is paid up), you might have a go at an even bigger car. Surprisingly, there’s more than one example of that.

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Man Shoots Lamp

What do you get when you mix together all of the stuff that you can get for cheap over eBay with a bit of creativity and some PVC pipe? [Austiwawa] gets a table lamp, remote-controlled by a toy gun, that turns off and falls over when you shoot it. You’ve got to watch the video below the break.

This isn’t a technical hack. Rather it’s a creative use of a bunch of easily available parts, with a little cutting here and snipping there to make it work. For instance, [Austiwawa] took a remote control sender and receiver pair straight off the rack and soldered some wires to extend the LED and fit it inside the toy gun. A relay module controls the lamp, and plugs straight into the Arduino that’s behind everything. Plug and play.

Which is not to say the lamp lacks finesse. We especially like the screw used as an end-of-travel stop for the servo motor, and the nicely fabricated servo bracket made from two Ls. And you can’t beat the fall-over-dead effect. Or can you? Seriously, though, great project [Austiwawa]!

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Drive a Sony Camera with an ESP8266

Nearly everything has WiFi these days. [glaskugelsehen]’s Sony camera uses the wireless network to transfer photos to the computer, naturally, and it also has a remote-control application that’ll run on Android smartphones. [glaskugelsehen] doesn’t have an Android — but he does have shows us an ESP8266 that he turned into a WiFi-powered remote for the camera (Google translate into English).

Sony actually made [glaskugelsehen]’s work easy here. They have a publicly available API for the camera’s controls, and it’s all run by JSON sent over HTML HTTP POST. Which is to say, that it’s a piece of cake to script as long as you can send HTMLHTTP directives.

[glaskugelsehen]’s code, written in the Arduino environment for the ESP, first finds the camera’s WiFi network and authenticates to it. Then it sets the camera into remote-control mode, and takes over from there. So far, he’s only implemented taking still photos, but from the API it looks like you can also stop and start video recordings and more.

And yeah. We just wrote up another project doing virtually the same thing with a GoPro. [glaskugelsehen] read that too, and mentions it in his blog. We love it when people take inspiration from each other!