Hacklet 94 – Pi Zero Contest Entries

Hackaday and Adafruit have joined forces to present the Raspberry Pi Zero Contest. A great contest is nothing without entries though. This is where the Hackaday.io community is proving once again that they’re the best in the world. The contest is less than a week old, yet as of this Thursday evening, we’re already up to 33 entrants! You should submit your own project ideas now for a chance at one of the many prizes. This week on The Hacklet, we’re going to take a look at a few of these early entrants!

controllerWe start with [usedbytes] and Zero Entertainment System [usedbytes] has crammed an entire emulator into a classic Nintendo Entertainment System control pad thanks to the Raspberry Pi Zero. Zero Entertainment System also has something the original NES couldn’t dream of having: An HDMI output. The emulator uses the popular RetroPie front end. We’re happy to say that [usedbytes] knew that hacking up a real Nintendo controller would be sacrilegious, so they grabbed a low-cost USB clone from the far East. A bit of creative parts-stuffing and point-to-point wiring later, ZES was ready to meet the world!

wsprNext up is [Jenny List] with The Australia Project. [Jenny] is a hacker from Europe. She’s hoping to use a Pi Zero to talk to Australia. “Talk” may be pushing it a bit though. The Australia Project will use the Weak Signal Propagation Reporter (WSPR) network to transmit RF straight out of the Pi’s GPIO ports. All that is required is a good filter, an antenna, and a balun. The filter in this case is a 7-pole Chebyshev low-pass filter. The filter keeps the Pi’s harmonic filled square waves from messing up every band from DC to light. [Jenny] normally sells these filters as a kit, but she’s made a special version specifically for the Pi Zero.

tote0[Radomir Dopieralski] has brought his signature walking robots to the Pi Zero world with Tote Zero. Tote Zero is a quadruped walking robot built mainly from 9 gram servos. [Radomir’s] custom tote board interfaces the servos to the Pi Zero itself. The Pi Zero opens all sorts of doors for sensors, vision, and advanced processing. The Arduino board on the original Tote would have been hard pressed to pull that off. Tote is programmed in Python, which will make the code quick and easy to develop. Tote Zero just took its first steps a few days ago, so follow along as a new robot is born!

 

ethernetpoFinally we have [julien] with PoEPi: Pi Zero Power over Ethernet with PHY. The Raspberry Pi Zero is so tiny, that it’s easy to forget it needs a fair amount of power to run. [Julien] is giving us a way to connect our Pi to a network while ditching the USB power supply using Power Over Ethernet (PoE). PoE has been powering devices like IP cameras for years now. It’s become a standard way of transmitting power and data. For the Ethernet physical interface, [Julien] is using Microchip’s ENC28J60, which has a handy SPI interface. Linux already has drivers in place for the device, so it’s a slam dunk. The “power” part of this system comes with the help of an LTC4267 PoE interface chip, which has a built-in switching regulator.

If you want to see more entrants to Hackaday and Adafruit’s Pi Zero contest, check out the submissions list! If you don’t see your project on that list, you don’t even have to contact me, just submit it to the Pi Zero Contest! That’s it for this week’s Hacklet. As always, see you next week. Same hack time, same hack channel, bringing you the best of Hackaday.io!

Warbots: Is it Already Too Late?

In 1971, a non-profit formed that holds the World Economic Forum each year. The Forum claims it “Engages the foremost political, business and other leaders of society to shape global, regional and industry agendas.” This year, the Forum hosted a session: What If: Robots Go To War? Participants included a computer science professor, an electrical engineering professor, the chairman of BAE, a senior fellow at the Vienna Center for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation, and a Time magazine editor.

Continue reading “Warbots: Is it Already Too Late?”

Compressorhead: Best Robot Band Ever?

We’ve written about Compressorhead before but we’re writing about them again. Why? Because Compressorhead is the most amazing robot band you’ve ever seen, and because they’ve just opened up a Kickstarter to fund building a lead singer robot and recording an album.

And because they’ve released a bunch of new videos, one of which you’ll find below the break.

Continue reading “Compressorhead: Best Robot Band Ever?”

Juggling Robot Deftly Handles Balls

A well-designed robot can do any action a human can do. Whether this is an acrobatic performance, or just writing with a pen, there’s a robot out there for any single action a human can perform. This includes juggling, but never before has the human action of juggling been replicated at this scale. [Nathan] built a robot that can juggle seven balls simultaneously. That’s more balls in the air than any other juggling robot.

jugglebotWhile the original plan was to build a low-cost version that could juggle balls by throwing them up in the air, this proved to be very difficult. Instead of giving up, [Nathan] simplified the problem by rolling the balls up a ramp. The entire build is documented in an imgur gallery, and there’s some interesting tech going on here. The 3D printed arms are controlled by beefy stepper motors running at 60V. To stop the balls from bouncing around in the arms, [Nathan] included and electromagnet to hold the balls in place for a fraction of a second during each cycle.

Juggling seven balls is amazing, but how about eight? This is the question every builder of a juggling robot will get, and it’s not quite as simple as adding another ball. The motion of juggling an even number of balls is completely different from juggling an odd number. That being said, [Nathan]’s robot does have four balls under its belt. It should probably get that looked at.

This isn’t [Nathan]’s first amazing 3D printed robot, and it probably won’t be the last, either: he recently built a Skittles sorting machine for the next time Van Halen comes to town. There’s an amazing amount of skill in all his projects, and he’s certainly an asset to the entire hackaday.io community.

Continue reading “Juggling Robot Deftly Handles Balls”

No Sex Please, We’re Robots

There was a time when technology would advance and launch debates over ethical concerns raised by the technology. Lately, however, it seems ethical debate is (I hope) in advance of the actual technology. Maybe that’s a good thing.

Case in point: A paper at Ethicomp 2015 from De Montfort University warns that having sex with robots may have negative effects on par with prostitution. You might think that this is an isolated academic concept, but apparently there is a conference titled The International Congress on Love and Sex with Robots. There’s even a 2008 book titled Love and Sex with Robots that is neither science fiction nor pornography.

Second case: Softbank has created a robot called [Pepper] that supposedly can understand human emotions. You know the license agreements you get with everything you buy that you don’t really read? Here’s a translation of part of the one that comes with [Pepper]: ” …owner must not perform any sexual act or other indecent behavior.

Continue reading “No Sex Please, We’re Robots”

Robot Dances on the Icy Ceiling

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is working on a robot for the exploration of Europa’s oceans. A big problem is the oceans are under a permanent ice ceiling. JPL is making that ceiling a feature with a robot that dances, okay wheels, on the ceiling.

The Buoyant Rover for Under-Ice Exploration (BRUIE) is, as the name says, buoyant so it floats against the ice ceiling. Two large paddle wheels allow it to drive along the ceiling.

Andy Klesh from JPL with BRUIE
Andy Klesh from JPL with BRUIE

In 2012 they took an earlier version to Barrow, Alaska for testing under the ice. While the temperatures encountered there may not match those of Europa’s frozen methane [Europa is water, also – Rud] it’s still a challenging environment for man and robot. One of the challenges for the arctic exploration team was the need to test when the ice was thin enough to make a hole. They had to proceed judiciously to avoid falling in.

Recently they tested a newer version rover the California Science Center aquarium, giving new meaning to the phrase “swimming with the fishes.” Andy Klesh, principal investigator for the rover at JPL and volunteer diver at the science center accompanied BRUIE during the testing. Sometime in the future they hope to turn BRUIE loose in a lake where it can explore autonomously.

Fortunately the arctic team didn’t encounter any polar bears, another possible risk. When the rover makes it to Europa it’s unlikely to encounter an extra-terrestrial equivalent.

Video coverage after the break.

Continue reading “Robot Dances on the Icy Ceiling”

Gathering the Hacking Community of Zurich

When my Swiss cousin-in-law sent us her wedding invitation, I didn’t immediately think I’d get to see Hackaday.io user [antti.lukats‘] tiny FPGA projects as part of the deal. I’m really glad that I came to Switzerland for the wedding, and also got to be a part of an awesome meetup in Zurich’s Fablab. [Antti], who was at the meetup, is pictured above holding a small tube full of FPGAs, he’s a Hackaday Prize Best Product finalist with FPGA project DIPSY.

As is becoming the norm for Hackaday meetups, we ask people to bring projects. We then count all the people who want to present something and squeeze all the presentations into just about 90 minutes. Before and after the lightening talks, there’s always plenty of time to walk around and see individual projects, meet people and of course eat and drink.

There were 3 walking robots and 2 rolling robots presented. [Arian’s] Roomba had the popular ESP8266 hacked into it. [Simon] brought a RaspberryPi powered rolling robot. [Thomas] brought a walking robot which walked quite well. The last walking robot of the night was shown just on video. [Radomir Dopieralski] brought his Hackaday Prize entry, the very cool and easy to use Tote robot. The Tote aims to fix the problem the world has without enough walking robots by creating an easy platform to build walking robots upon. It seemed at this meetup, that [Radomir’s] dream of many walking robots had been found.

[Oscarv] brought the insanely cool PiDP. The PiDP-8/I is another Hackaday Prize Best Product finalist, it’s a replica of the first minicomputer. [Oscar’s] version uses a Raspberry Pi to recreate all the operations. [Neil’s] SoftVGA is a software only VGA generator. I expect to see many more cool projects like these two next week at the Vintage Computing Festival in Berlin. I’ll be there with [Elliot] and [Bilke] and we’re having a Meetup with the VCF folks Oct 3rd.

[tamberg] presented a beautifully fabricated clear cube with switches on the inside, a metal ball rolls around and activates the switches. The Larson scanner next to it was designed by [stefan-xp]. [Yvonne] discussed her recent light painting “Topology of Light” and [Isaac] was sick of playing 4 in a row alone, so he built a robot to play the game with!

A popular hacker project is automatic watering of indoor or outdoor gardens. [Effi] nailed it with a brilliant presentation about moisture sensors while showing us how well her plants are doing.

There were far too many projects to list everything here, but [Thibault‘s] Bit Shift project really caught my eye. This project has several panels daisy chained together with layers of blue thermochromatic pigment on top of white primer.Each panel is a PCB, a heat pad controlled in a timed heating sequence powered by ATtinys. After each panel heats up, there is a 20 second delay before the next panel heats up. When the blue thermochromatic pigment reaches 37°c it turns transparent, and the white undercoating shows through. As the square cools down, the transparent pigment turns blue again. You can catch the video here.

Screen Shot 2015-09-28 at 11.32.43 PM

I hope to see some of you in Berlin, and if you missed it, we just put out the call for proposals for Hackaday’s first hardware conference.

The 2015 Hackaday Prize is sponsored by: