Real or Fake? The Amazing Ping-Pong Robot

PingPongRobot

Would you like to play a robot in ping pong (translated)? We sure would. Inspired by an upcoming face-off between man and machine, [Jakob] wrote in to tell us about [Ulf Hoffmann's] ping-pong playing robot. If you ever wanted to play ping-pong when no one else was around or are just sick and tired of playing against the same opponents this project is for you. Boy is this thing amazing; you simply must see the robot in action in the video after the break.

While the robot’s build is not documented all in one post, [Ulf Hoffmann's] blog has many videos and mini posts about how he went about building the paddle wielding wonder. The build runs the range from first ideas, to hand-drawn sketches, to the technical drawings seen above. From these the parts of the arm were built, but the mechanical assembly is only one portion of the project. It also required software to track the ball and calculate how to properly return it. Be sure to browse through his past posts, there is a wealth of information there.

Also be sure to check in on March 11th to see who wins the epic face-off between man and machine. See the trailer (the second embedded video) after the break.

UPDATE: Many commentators are calling this one a fake. It’s so sad to think that, because this is a really cool project. But we’ve changed the title and are asking you to weigh in on whether you think it is real or fake. We’ve also contacted [Ulf] and asked if it is real hardware, or a CGI enhanced video. We’ll let you know if/when we hear back from him.

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Atomic Powered Robots and Records Played With Optics

mike

If you were a child of the 80’s or early 90’s you probably remember Magic Mike. He went by many names, but he always said the same thing “I am the atomic powered robot. Please give my best wishes to everybody!” [Oona's] version of Mike had been malfunctioning for a few years. He’d stopped talking! She decided he needed more input, so she disassembled Mike to reveal the flesh colored plastic box in the center of his chest. This talkbox was used as a sound module in several toys. Before the days of cheap digital playback devices, sounds were recorded in a decidedly analog fashion. [Oona] found that Mike’s voice and sound effects were recorded on a tiny phonograph record in his chest. The phonograph was spun up by an electric motor, but the playback and amplification system was all mechanical, consisting of a needle coupled to a small plastic loudspeaker. The system was very similar to the early phonograph designs.

Mike’s record contained two interwoven spiral tracks. Interwoven tracks is a technique that has been used before, albeit rarely on commercial albums. One track contained Mike’s voice, the other the sound of his laser gun. The track to be played would be chosen at random depending upon where the needle and record stopped after the previous play. The record completely sidetracked [Oona's] repair work. She decided to try to read the record optically. She started with a high resolution image (image link) of the record, and wrote some Perl code to interpolate a spiral around the grooves. The result was rather noisy, and contained quite a bit of crosstalk. [Oona] tried again with laser illumination using a Lego train set. Unfortunately the Lego train / laser system wasn’t smooth enough to get a good image. In the end she used a bit of Gimp magic and was able to pull better audio from her original image. We never did find out if she put poor Mike back together though.

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Hackaday Links: March 3, 2014

hackaday-links-chain

If you’re playing along with Twitch Plays Pokemon, you might as well do it the right way: with the smallest Game Boy ever, the Game Boy Micro. [Anton] needed a battery replacement for this awesome, discontinued, and still inexplicably expensive console and found one in a rechargeable 9V Lithium battery. You get two replacement cells out of each 9V battery, and a bit more capacity as well.

Every garden needs garden lights, right? What does every garden light need? A robot, of course. These quadruped “Toro-bots” react to passersby by brightening the light or moving out of the way. It’s supposed to be for a garden that takes care of itself, but we’re struggling to figure out how lights will do that.

Flexiable 3D prints are all the rage and now resin 3D printers are joining the fray. The folks at Maker Juice have introduced SubFlex, a flexible UV-curing resin. The usual resins, while very strong, are rock solid. The new SubFlex flexible resins are very bendable in thin sections and in thicker pieces something like hard rubber. We’re thinking custom tank treads.

Remember this post where car thieves were using a mysterious black box to unlock cars? Looks like those black boxes have moved from LA to Chicago, and there’s still no idea how they work.

Have a Google Glass? Can you get us on the list? [Noé] and [Pedro] made a 3D printed Google Glass adapter for those of us with four eyes.

Hexapod Robot Terrifies Humans and Wallets

hexapod

[Kevin] brings us Golem, his latest robot project. Golem is crafted not of clay and stone like his namesake, but of T6 Aluminum and Servos. We don’t have a banana for scale, but Golem is big. Not [Jamie Mantzel's] Giant Robot Project big, but at 2.5 feet (76.2 cm) in diameter and 16 lbs (7.3 Kg), no one is going to call Golem a lightweight. With that kind of mass, standard R/C servos don’t stand much of a chance. [Kevin] pulled out all the stops and picked up Dynamixel MX64 servos for Golem’s legs. Those servos alone propelled the Golem’s costs well beyond the budget of the average hobbyist. Kevin wasn’t done though. He added an Intel NUC motherboard with a fourth generation i5 processor, a 120 Gigabyte solid state drive, and 8 Gigbytes of Ram.  Sensing is handled by gyros, accelerometers, and an on-board compass module. We’re assuming from the lack of a GPS that Golem will mainly see indoor use. We definitely like the mini subwoofer mounted on Golem’s back. Hey, even robots gotta have their tunes.

Golem is currently walking under human control via a Dualshock 3 controller paired via bluetooth. [Kevin's] goal is to use Golem to learn Robotic Operating System (ROS). He’s already installed ubuntu 13.04 and is ready to go. [Kevin] didn’t mention a vision system, but based on the fact that some of his other robots use the Xtion pro live, we’re hopeful. We can’t wait to see Golem’s first autonomous steps.

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Omnidirectional Robot Takes on a Candy Factory

OmniRobot

[AltaPowderDog] is building a competition robot as part of his freshman engineering course at Ohio State University. The contest is sponsored by Nestle, so it’s no surprise the robots have to perform various tasks in a miniature candy factory. Broken up into teams of four, the students are building autonomous robots to move pallets, scoop candy, operate switches and pull pins from tubes. Each team is provided a standard microcontroller board and funds to purchase robot parts from an online store. The factory also sports an overhead infrared navigation system, which should help the robots stay on track.

[AltaPowderDog] took his inspiration from [Michal's] OmniBot, which used adjustable geometry wheels. A lever and gear system allows the robot to pivot all four wheels synchronously. This effectively allows the robot to turn within its own axis. With some proper path planning and end effector placement, [AltaPowderDog's] team should be able to shave down their time through the candy factory. The team has run into a few issues though. This robot design only utilizes two powered wheels, which has caused the team to become stuck up on a ramp in the factory. To combat this, the team is installed a simple suspension which allows the non-powered wheels to move up and out of the way on the ramp. The results look promising. The video after the break includes a short clip of [AltaPowderDog's] ‘bot making a quick turn and activating a switch. Very nice work!

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Retrotechtacular: Restoring A 19th Century Automaton

eyes

Made sometime in the 1790s or 1800s London, the Maillardet Automaton has a long and storied history. It was exhibited around England for several decades, brought over the Atlantic by [P.T. Barnum], nearly destroyed in a fire, and donated to the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia in the 1920s. From there, this amazingly complex amalgam of cogs, cams, and linkages eventually became the inspiration for the book – and movie – Hugo. Time hasn’t exactly been kind to this marvel of the clockmaker’s art; it has been repaired four times before receiving a complete overhaul in 2007 by [Andrew Baron].

[Fran], one of Hackaday’s sources for awesome projects, recently visited the Franklin Institute and posted a series of videos on the reverse engineering of the Maillardet Automaton. Being nearly destroyed and repaired so many times didn’t make this an easy job; it’s extremely possible no one alive has ever seen the eyes of the Automaton move as originally designed.

Even though the Maillardet Automaton has one of the largest series of cams of any mechanical draftsman, that doesn’t mean it’s simply an enlargement of an earlier machine. The automaton’s pen is like no other writing device on Earth, with a stylus acting as a valve to dispense ink whenever the tip touches paper. The eyes have linkages to follow the pen as it traces a drawing. In 1800, this automaton would have been a singularity in the uncanny valley, and watching it put pen to paper is still a little creepy today.

Below you’ll find a video from [Fran] demonstrating all seven drawings the Maillardet Automaton can reproduce. You can also find a whole bunch of pics of the mechanisms along with the 2007 repair report on [Andrew Baron]‘s site.

Retrotechtacular is a weekly column featuring hacks, technology, and kitsch from ages of yore. Help keep it fresh by sending in your ideas for future installments.

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Yo Fish, We Pimped Your Tank

fishie

[Studio Diip] a machine vision company based in The Netherlands has created fish on wheels, a robotic car controlled by a goldfish. The idea of giving fish mobility on land is nothing new, but this definitely is a novel implementation. A Logitech 9X0 series camera captures overhead images of the fish tank. The images are then fed into a BeagleBoard XM, where they are processed. The image is thresholded, then a centroid of the fish-blob is determined. With the current and previous blob locations known, the BeagleBoard can determine the fish’s swim direction. It then and commands the chassis to drive accordingly.

The system appears to work pretty well on the video, however we’re not sure how much of the input is due to the fish swimming, and how much is due to the water sloshing and pushing the fish around. We definitely like the chrome rims and knobby tires on the fishes’ pimped out ride.  This could become a trend. Just make sure no animals or humans are hurt, and send your animal powered hacks to our tip line!

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