Reverse Engineering a Robotic Arm

Not too many people will argue that Robot Arms aren’t cool. [Dan] thinks they are cool and purchased a LabVolt Armdroid robotic arm on eBay for a mere $150. Unfortunately, he did not get the power supply or the control unit. To most, this would a serious hurdle to overcome, but not for [Dan]. He opened up the robot and started probing around the circuit board to figure out what was going on.

Since there was a DB9 connector on the outside of the robot arm, he assumed it was a standard RS-232 controlled device. Good thing he checked the internal circuitry because this was not the case at all. There was no mircocontroller or microprocessor found inside.  [Dan] painstakingly reversed engineered the circuit board and documented his results. He found that there were SN76537A chips that drove the 6 unipolar stepper motors and SN75HC259 latches to address each individual motor.

Now knowing how the robot works, [Dan] had to figure out how to control the robot from his computer. He started by making a custom Parallel Port to DB9 cable to connect the computer to the arm. After a series of several programs, starting with simply moving just one arm joint, the latest iteration allows manual control of all joints using the computer keyboard. A big ‘Thanks’ goes out to [Dan] for all his work and documentation.


Pico-Kubik Quadruped Fits in the Palm of your Hand

Most of the legged robots we see here are of the hexapod variety, and with good reason. Hexapods are very stable and can easily move even if one or more of the legs has been disabled. [Radomir] has taken this a step farther and has become somewhat of an expert on the more technically difficult quadruped robot, building smaller and smaller ones each time. He has been hard at work on his latest four-legged creation called the Pico-Kubik, and this one will fit in the palm of your hand.

The Pico-Kubik runs Micropython on a VoCore board, which allows for it to have a small software footprint to complement its small hardware footprint. It accomplishes the latter primarily through the use of HK-282A Ultra-Micro Servos, an Arduino Pro Mini, and a tiny lithium ion battery. It’s still a work in progress, but the robot can already crawl across the tabletop.

This isn’t [Radomir]’s first time at the tiny quadruped rodeo, either. He has already built the Nano-Kubik and the µKubik, all of which followed the first (aptly-named) Kubik quadruped. Based on the use of SI prefixes, we can only assume the next one will be the hella-Kubik!

Telepresence Robot Demo Unit Breaks Free of It’s Confinement

What happens when you put a telepresence robot online for the world to try out for free? Hilarity of course. Double Robotics is a company that builds telepresence robots. The particular robot in question is kind of like a miniature Segway with a tablet computer on top. The idea is you can control it with your own tablet from a remote location. This robot drives around with your face on the screen, allowing you to almost be somewhere when you can’t (or don’t want to) be there in person.

Double Robotics decided to make one of these units accessible to the Internet as a public demonstration. Of course, they couldn’t have one of these things just roaming about their facility unrestrained. They ended up keeping it locked in an office. This gives users the ability to drive it around a little bit and get a feel for the robot. Of course it didn’t take long for users to start to wonder how they could break free from their confinement.

One day, a worker left the office door cracked open ever so slightly. A user noticed this and after enough patience and determination, managed to use the robot to get the door opened. It appears as though the office was closed at the time, so no one was around to witness the event. A joy ride ensued and the robot hid its tracks by locking itself back in the room and docking to the charging station.

While this isn’t a hack in the typical sense, this is a perfect example of the hacker mindset. You are given some new technology and explore it to the extent at which you are supposed too. After that, many people would just toss it aside and not give it a second thought. Those with the hacker mindset are different, though. Our next thought is usually, “What else can I do with it?” This video demonstrates that in a fun and humorous way. Hopefully the company learns its lesson and puts a leash on that thing. Continue reading “Telepresence Robot Demo Unit Breaks Free of It’s Confinement”

Meet J-Deite Quarter, the 4-Foot-Tall Transformer

There’s just something about the idea of robots turning into everyday objects that fascinates us all. It seems Japan outdoes the world in that category, and the J-Deite project is no exception. J-Deite Quarter is the first transforming robot to come from the collaborative project between  [Kenji Ishida] of Brave Robotics, [Watur Yoshizaki] of Asratec Corp., and Tomy Co. Ltd. If Brave Robotics sounds familiar, that’s because this isn’t the first transforming robot [Kenji Ishida] has produced, nor the first featured on Hackaday.

The J-Deite Quarter weighs 77lbs (35kg) and can run for an hour on a single battery charge. It’s joints are powered by Futaba servos. It is controlled by the proprietary V-SIDO OS designed by [Watur Yoshizaki]. As a robot, it stands at 4.25 feet (1.3m). It walks at a rather slow speed of 0.6mph (1km/hr). It has several points of articulation; it can bend its arms and flex its fingers. In less than 30 seconds, the robot transforms into an equally long two-seat sports car with a maximum speed of just over 6mph (10km/hr). Overall, the J-Deite Quarter is no speed demon, but it is noteworthy for being functional in both forms.

The web site has a cute backstory featuring a green meteorite that allows the “real” J-Deiter to communicate with the developers trying to create a robot in its image. Along with the video, it resembles a marketing ploy for a toy, which could explain Tomy’s involvement. After all, Tomy, along with Hasbro, developed the original Transformers toy line. Unfortunately, the J-Deiter Quarter is just a prototype, with no plans for mass production at this time. Instead, the project’s focus is on making a bigger and better J-Deiter. There are plans for a J-Deiter Half (8-foot-tall) to be developed by 2016, with the final goal of creating a 16-foot-tall transforming robot by 2020.

Enjoy the video that shows what J-Deite Quarter is capable of (with added sound effects, of course) after the break. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a sudden hankering to watch some Transformers and Voltron cartoons.

[via SimpleBotics]

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Baby Quadruped Robot, Learning To Walk

We’ve all seen videos of those crazy Boston Dynamics running quadruped robots that can reach up to 28 mph. Those things are amazing and it’s almost impossible to imagine how to even start building one. [Max] loves his robots and wanted to build a quadruped but, being a robot hobbyist, didn’t have the serious cash needed to make an extravagant robot like those of Boston Dynamics. Instead he started bridging the gap by designing a quadruped robot that is a little bit slower and tons cheaper.

quadruped-joint[Max] designed all of the mechanical parts himself. After weighing the advantages and disadvantages of different materials, he decided that the frame would be made from 5mm acrylic sheet. The main body of the robot has acrylic ribs that are spaced apart by threaded rods. Twelve RC servos make up all of the joints, 3 in each leg. Notice in this photo how there is one servo that immediately rotates another servo. To support the other side of the rotating servo, [Max] epoxied on a T-nut, stuck in a short length of threaded rod which is then supported in the frame by a ball bearing. Simple and effective! The upper portions of the legs are also made from acrylic sheet and the lower legs are from a cheap camera tripod. Rubber feet ensure a slip resistant stance.

All of the servos are controlled by an Arduino Mega. [Max] is currently writing a sketch that will perform the complex math and determine coordinated servo motions for movements us humans take for granted, like ‘walk forward’. As you can see in the videos, [Max’s] robot won’t be catching the Boston Dynamics’ Cheetah any time soon but he is off to a great start.

Future plans for this project include bluetooth control and integrating the ultrasonic sensor proactively installed in the ‘head’ of the robot. Check out the videos after the break. [Max] is looking for some feedback on his project. We here at HaD think this needs a great name. Let’s hear some suggestions in the comments…

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Robot Arm You Can Build At Home

[jjshortcut] has created an easy to make robot arm that has 6 degrees of freedom. There is not much to it, the frame is made out of 4mm thick hardboard, hobby servos provide the power and a handful of hardware holds it together. The frame has been successfully cut out on both a laser cutter and a cnc router, making this design even more obtainable for any aspiring roboticist.

To control the robot arms movements [jjshortcut] plans to use a standard Arduino. There are certainly plenty of servo motor shields available but he still decided to design his own. In addition to the standard motor power and servo connections, a header for an infrared receiver was added for potential future communication options.

DIY Robot Arm GripperLike any project, there were some hiccups along the way. First, several revisions of the gripper were necessary to get the correct tooth profile that resulted in smooth and tight movement. Also, while making the shield the spacing between banks of headers came out one header too close! On this first board [jjshortcut] just bent the pins so they would fit into the Arduino. You can’t let some minor snafu prevent forward momentum of a project!

[jjshortcut] has done the hard part; the design. He has made all his mechanical and electronic files available… so go and build one! Check out the video after the break.

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This Analog Cambot Plays Outside the Lines

There are quite a few flavors of line following robot. No matter how they’re made, most are built for speed and accuracy. The Cambot by [Jorge Fernandez] however makes use of a traditional video camera to read visual input instead of the reflective sensors we’re used to seeing in these types of robots. Because of this it lacks those swift and agile qualities, but scores points with its unique analog design, over-sized tricycle wheels, and stylish RCA jacks poking out on the side.

Coupled with a PIC 16F84A microcontroller, [Fernandez] divides the video input from the camera into 625 lines. The PIC is responsible for scanning horizontally across these lines and translating the proportions of black and white into PWM pulses. The duration these proportions are seen by the camera determines the PWM frequency fed to the left and right servo motors driving the robot.

As far as line-followers go, this is a refreshing retro approach to the concept. [Hernandez] outlines the finesse about driving his cambot on his blog (an English translation can be read here) and provides a complete schematic for those who are interested in whipping up their own quirky little machine.

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