Petite Package Provides Powerful Robot

The Robot Operating System (ROS) is typically associated with big robots but [Grassjelly] decided to prove differently by creating Linorobot. This small, differential drive robot is similar in appearance to many small Arduino based robots often used for line following. Linorobot packs a lot more computing power with a Teensy 3.1 connected to a Radxa Rock Pro. The Teensy handles the motors, reading their encoders, and acquisition of IMU data.

The Radxa, new to us here at Hackaday, is a single board computer based on the quad-core ARM Cortex-A9 1.6 GHz CPU. It may not have been seen on our pages but if you’re at Hackaday Belgrade you can attend a session on building a cluster using it. The ability to run Linux is key to using ROS, which is an open source system for controlling robots. With the Radxa running ROS it interfaces directly to the Neato XV-11 Lidar’s dedicated controller board.

The Linorobot packs into a small robot the capabilities usually seen in much larger and expensive robots such as the Turtlebot 2. With this diminutive robot hackers can learn about doing SLAM (Simultaneous Localization and Mapping) and autonomous navigation, plus the other capabilities of ROS.

[Grassjelly] has a tutorial on building the robot which is also a good introduce to ROS. He provides the software as open source. It’s an impressive project which provides a small, comparatively affordable robot for learning and working with ROS. A video of Linorobot SLAMing and navigating [Grassjelly’s] lab is after the break.

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Wall-E Goes Corporate, Offering Telepresence Service

I guess if you are going to build a robot to do something boring like telepresence, you might as well make it cute. That’s obviously what [Andrew Maurer] was thinking when he built a telepresence robot using a Wall-E toy. The result is kind of adorable: Wall-E is holding the 5-inch HDMI screen that shows the video, and can scoot around in true Pixar fashion under remote control.

It’s also a neat build on the inside, using a Raspberry Pi for the brains and an Adafruit MotorHat to control the motors. The original toy didn’t have motors, so he added a new RC gearbox and motors to drive the little fella around. Installed behind Wall-Es eye is a USB webcam. Running behind the scenes is a mumble server that does the audio, a copy of Chromium that shows the video, and an Apache server that feeds the captured video to the other end of the conversation. The whole thing is tied together by a few scripts that kick things off appropriately and allow the user to remotely control Wall-E. It’s a cute build, and hopefully Wall-E can still find his EVE while performing his new corporate duties.

[via reddit]

Tiny Open Source Robot

We watched the video introduction for this little open source robot, and while we’re not 100% sure we want tiny glowing eyes watching us while we sleep, it does seem to be a nice little platform for hacking. The robot is a side project of [Matthew], who’s studying for a degree in Information Science.

The robot has little actuated grippy arms for holding a cell phone in the front. When it’t not holding a cellphone it can use its two little ultrasonic senors to run around without bumping into things. We like the passive balancing used on the robot. Rather than having a complicated self-balancing set-up, the robot just uses little ball casters to provide the other righting points of contact.

The head of the robot has plenty of space for whatever flavor of Arduino you prefer. A few hours of 3D printing and some vitamins is all you need to have a little robot shadow lurking in your room. Video after the break.

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Fail of the Week: Battery Pack Jack Wired Backwards

Last Saturday I had a team of teenage hackers over to build Arduino line-following robots from a kit. Everything went well with the mechanical assembly and putting all the wires on the correct pins. The first test was to check that the motors were moving in the proper direction. I’d written an Arduino program to test this. The first boy’s robot worked fine except for swapping one set of motor leads. That was anticipated because you cannot be totally sure ahead of time which way the motors are going to run.

The motor’s on the second robot didn’t turn at all. As I checked the wiring I smelled the dreaded hot electronics smell but I didn’t see any smoke. I quickly pulled the battery jack from the Arduino and – WOW! – the wires were hot. That didn’t bode well. I checked and the batteries were in the right way. A comparison with another pack showed the wires going into the pack were positioned properly. I plugged in another pack but the motors still didn’t run.

I got my multimeter, checked the voltage on the jack, and it was -5.97 V from center connector to the barrel. The other pack read 6.2 V. I had a spare board and pack so swapped those and the robot worked fine. Clearly the reverse polarity had zapped the motor control ICs. After that everyone had a good time running the robots on a course I’d laid out and went home pleased with their robots.

After they left I used the ohmmeter to check the battery pack and found the wiring was backwards, as you can see in the feature photo. A close inspection showed the wire with a white line, typically indicating positive, indeed went to the positive battery terminal. I shaved the barrel connector down to the wires and the white line wire was connected to the outside of the barrel. FAIL!

This is a particularly bad fail on the part of the battery pack supplier because how hard is it to mess up two wires? You can’t really fault the robot kit vendor because who would expect a battery pack to be bad? The vendor is sending me a new battery pack and board so I’m satisfied. Why did I have an extra board and pack, actually an entire kit? For this exact reason; something was bound to go wrong. Although what I had imagined was for one of the students to break a mechanical part or change wiring and zap something. Instead, we were faced with a self-destructing kit. Prudence paid off.

Connect Four Robot Uses Raspberry Pi

Most people play games for entertainment. Hackers build robots to play games for entertainment. That’s what [piandchips] did. He used a Raspberry Pi and a MeArm kit to build a Connect 4-playing robot. The robot–named 4-Bot–has to do two things: the first is it has to be able to manipulate the pieces. Secondly, it has to be able to see the board. The MeArm imbues 4-Bot with the manipulation ability, and a clever scanning system does the trick.

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Paydar: What It Was Like To Battle Bots in 2002

Most people remember when Battle Bots was a big thing, but few of us got to live it as seen in this gallery. Every now and then, someone posts something more amazing than usual in the comments. When [Wolf] was studying at IUPUI they somehow convinced a professor to let them build a scary dangerous robot maiming device for their final project. It’s a cross-disciplinary project — even the medical students may get to participate.

Spike vs hours and hours of work.
Spike vs. hours and hours of work. Victory: spike.

Their bot, unfortunately, got taken out by some spikes after attempting to get a spinbot before it started spinning and got them. If you look closely at the 2002 Comedy Central Battlebot opening you can see the smoke pour from their robot as they try to escape the fatal spikes.

The robot itself is a three wheeled design. The two wheels across from each other drive the robot, and the third steers. There is a very cool encoder mechanism for the steering wheel that is worth checking out. The main drive motor is a hefty 15HP electric forklift motor current limited to 300amps. The robot never got a weapon thanks to slow mechanical engineers, but a motor like that can turn most chunks of metal into deadly weapons.

Battle Bots is making a comeback in some ways. Word’s still out if it will ever go back to it’s prime, or if something more insane will replace it.

Nessie, the Educational Robot

At the Lifelong Learning Robotics Laboratory at the Erasmo Da Rotterdam in Italy, robots are (not surprisingly) used to teach all of the fundamentals of robotics. [Alessandro Rossetti] and the students at the lab have been at it for years now, and have finally finished their fifth generation of a robot called Nessie. The big idea is to help teach fundamentals of programming and electronics by building something that actually uses these principles.

The robot is largely 3D printed and uses an FPGA to interact with the physical world through a set of motors and sensors. The robot also uses a Raspberry Pi to hold the robot’s framework. The robot manages the sensors in hardware with readers attached to the CPU AXI bus. The CPU reads their values from memory space, though, so the robot is reported to be quite quick.

The lab is hoping to take their robot to a robotics competition in Bari, Italy. We hope that they perform well there, since we are big fans of any robot that’s designed to teach anyone about robotics and programming. After all, there are robots that help teach STEM in Africa, robots that teach teen girls about robots, and robots that teach everyone.