Stick Balances Itself With Reaction Wheels

The inverted pendulum is a pretty classic dynamics problem and reaction wheels are cool. That’s why we like [Mike Rouleau]’s self-balancing stick.

The video, viewable after the break, was fairly sparse on details, but he furnished some in the comments. The little black box on the top is a GY-521 Gyroscope module. It sends its data to an Arduino attached to the black cord which trails off the screen. The Arduino does its mathemagic and then uses a motor controller to drive the reaction wheels at the correct speeds.
Continue reading “Stick Balances Itself With Reaction Wheels”

Single Motor Lets This Robot Do the Worm

With more and more research in the field of autonomous robotics, new methods of locomotion are coming on the scene at a rapid pace. Forget wheels and tracks, forget bi-, quad-, hexa- and octopods, and forget fancy rolling BB-8 clones. If you want to get a mini robot moving, maybe you should teach it to do the worm.

Neither the Gizmodo article nor the abstract of [David Zarrouk]’s paper gives too many details on the construction of this vermiform robot, but there are some clues to be gleaned from the video below. At the 1:41 mark we see the secret of the design – a long corkscrew in the center of the 3D-printed linkages.
Continue reading “Single Motor Lets This Robot Do the Worm”

Simplest Jumping Kangaroo Bot

One of the takeaway ideas that we got from BEAM robotics was the idea that the machine itself, rather than tons of processing power, can do a lot. Your hand affords gripping, and humans have made a pretty good living out of manipulating things (he says, typing). None of this is about the brain; it’s all about the mechanism.

Which brings us to the one-motor “Runner” robot. We’ll admit that we were a little bit disappointed to see that it doesn’t run so much as hop, flop, or scoot along on the two legs and that front wheel-nose. Still, it’s an awesome mechanism, and gets the locomotion job done in a very theatrical way. We’re left wondering if using two motors would allow it to steer or just flip over and flail around on its back. Going to a six “leg” design will definitely get the job done, as demonstrated by Boston Dynamics RHex robot.
Continue reading “Simplest Jumping Kangaroo Bot”

Creo Arm Might be the SCARA You’re Looking For

A SCARA (Selective Compliance Assembly Robot Arm) is a type of articulated robot arm first developed in the early ’80s for use in industrial assembly and production applications. All robotics designs have their strengths and their weaknesses, and the SCARA layout was designed to be rigid in the Z axis, while allowing for flexibility in the X and Y axes. This design lends itself well to tasks where quick and flexible horizontal movement is needed, but vertical strength and rigidity is also necessary.

This is in contrast to other designs, such as fully articulated arms (which need to rotate to reach into tight spots) and cartesian overhead-gantry types (like in a CNC mill), which require a lot of rigidity in every axis. SCARA robots are particularly useful for pick-and-place tasks, as well as a wide range of fabrication jobs that aren’t subjected to the stress of side-loading, like plasma cutting or welding. Unfortunately, industrial-quality SCARA arms aren’t exactly cheap or readily available to the hobbyist; but, that might just be changing soon with the Creo Arm.
Continue reading “Creo Arm Might be the SCARA You’re Looking For”

1980s Toy Robot Arm Converted To Steam And Other Explorations

We were doing our daily harvest of YouTube for fresh hacks when we stumbled on a video that eventually led us to this conversion of a 1980s Armatron robot to steam power.

The video in question was of [The 8-bit Guy] doing a small restoration of a 1984 Radio Shack Armatron toy. Expecting a mess of wiring we were absolutely surprised to discover that the internals of the arm were all mechanical with only a single electric motor. Perhaps the motors were more expensive back then?

The resemblance is uncanny.
The resemblance is uncanny.

The arm is driven by a Sarlacc Pit of planetary gears. These in turn are driven by a clever synchronized transmission. It’s very, very cool. We, admittedly, fell down the google rabbit hole. There are some great pictures of the internals here. Whoever designed this was very clever.

The robot arm can do full 360 rotations at every joint that supports it without slip rings. The copper shafts were also interesting. It’s a sort of history lesson on the prices of metal and components at the time.

Regardless, the single motor drive was what attracted [crabfu], ten entire years ago, to attach a steam engine to the device. A quick cut through the side of the case, a tiny chain drive, and a Jensen steam engine was all it took to get the toy converted over. Potato quality video after the break.

Continue reading “1980s Toy Robot Arm Converted To Steam And Other Explorations”

Robo Hobo Bamboozles Passers-By

Robots are increasingly seeing the world outside of laboratories and factories, and most of us think we would be able to spot one relatively quickly. What if you walked past one on the street — would you recognize it for what it was? How long would it take for you to realize that homeless organ grinder was a robot?

The brainchild of [Fred Ables], Dirk the homeless robot will meander through a crowd, nodding at passers-by and occasionally — with a tilt of his hand — ask for change, churning out a few notes on his organ for those who oblige him. [Ables] controls Dirk’s interactions with others remotely from nearby, blending into the crowds that flock to see the lifelike automaton, selling the illusion that Dirk is a real human. This is often effective since — as with most homeless people — pedestrians won’t spare Dirk a second glance; the reactions of those who don’t pass him over range from confusion to anger or mirth over being so completely duped before looking for the puppeteer.

Continue reading “Robo Hobo Bamboozles Passers-By”

Hackaday Prize Entry: An AI Robot

For her Hackaday Prize entry, [ThunderSqueak] is building an artificial intelligence. P.A.L., the Self-Programming AI Robot, is building on the intelligence displayed by Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, and whatever the Google thing is called, to build a robot that’s able to learn from its environment, track objects, judge distances, and perform simple tasks.

As with any robotic intelligence, the first question that comes to mind is, ‘what does it look like’. The answer here is, ‘a little bit like Johnny Five.’ [ThunderSqueak] has designed a robotic chassis using treads for locomotion and a head that can emote by moving its eyebrows. Those treads are not a trivial engineering task – the tracks are 3D printed and bolted onto a chain – and building them has been a very, very annoying part of the build.

But no advanced intelligent robot is based on how it moves. The real trick here is the software, and for this [ThunderSqueak] has a few tricks up her sleeve. She’s doing voice recognition through a microcontroller, correlating phonemes to the spectral signature without using much power.

The purpose of P.A.L. isn’t to have a conversation with a robotic friend in a weird 80s escapade. The purpose of P.A.L. is to build a machine that can learn from its mistakes and learn just a little bit about its environment. This is where the really cool stuff happens in artificial intelligence and makes for an excellent entry for the Hackaday Prize.