L.I.O.S.: The ten-ish dollar robot.

We love cheap stuff here. Who doesn’t? [Oscar Rodriguez Parra] does too, and wrote in to show us his super cheapey robot L.I.O.S. The build was for the AFRON design challenge, which involves building a 10 dollar robot to teach students robotics. The winners of the challenge were neat and all, but they all look too fancy flaunting their molded plastics and electronics breadboards.

[Oscar's] design is super simple, LDRs as eyes, a PIC12F683 to do the brainin, LEDs for indicators and a couple modded servos to drive the wheels. An extraordinarily complex cardboard flap roller helps the cart turn, but probably isn’t going to see much aside from smooth flooring. The electronics are mounted using one of our favorite techniques, the paper perf board (very similar to the substrate free technique).

Check out the video after the jump to see LIOS in action. This is an excellent introduction to robotics for any classroom. Thanks [Oscar]!

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Micro Arduino bot skitters its way into our hearts.

Here’s a quick and easy little robot with a not-so-pint-sized brain. [Dikos] over at grobot, slapped together some gutted micro servos, an Arduino pro mini, H bridge chip, and a solar key-chain charger  to make this little three wheeled cutie. The robot boasts some very simple object avoidance thanks to the Sharp GP2Y0A21YK analog IR distance sensor, and that’s about it. This leaves tons of Arduino Pro left for a whole slew of sensors and robot stuff. We can’t spot it but somewhere under the pro mini is the solar key-chain’s 3.7V Lipo battery. The PCB for the emergency charger also makes a convenient little back panel housing a few LEDs, charging electronics, and a handy spot to hang a bead roller.

The micro bot has a pretty mean starboard list due to the lack of wheel position feedback, after all the micro servos were gutted to just function as simple gear boxes. We might have kept the servo mostly untouched, ditched the H bridge and performed a continuous rotation mod. We even have a guide for it! This is a really cool little bot though, and not terribly expensive if you need a little maze roller… or if you have a ton of money and like swarms of things.

Check out a (silent) video of the robot after the jump, the bot doesn’t hit the table until 1:16.

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Report from RoboGames 2012

Last week we reported on the upcoming 2012 Robogames competition would be held in San Mateo, California. Nobody from the Hackaday staff could make it this year, but luckily [Sabrina Merlo] from the Make: blog was able to provide a full report of the spectacle of fire, sparks and pierced metal this year.

For anyone who remembers the wonderful Battlebots TV show from 10 years ago, the main event is very familiar: two competitors face off with the remote-controlled extensions of themselves in a Lexan enclosed arena. The resulting battle is an orgy of flames sparks and mortally wounded robots. Yes, there are a ton of wedge robots, but most of them had very interesting weapon designs.

Off the main stage, there are also more traditional robotics competitions. Sumo robots try to push each other out of a ring, robot soccer tries to demonstrate a mechanistic Pelé, and foot-tall MechWarriors battle in the streets of a miniaturized city.

There were also a lot of not-really-battling robots like a robotic foosball table. It sounds like everyone had a blast, so we might be hitting up the bay area this time next year.

Sassy disco bots of the 80s

Surely, this is a glimpse into the future. No? Ok, its a glimpse into 1983. A small chinese fast-food restaurant in California put two 4.5 foot tall, 180 pound robots to work delivering food. Tanbo R-1 and Tanbo R-2 were their names and delivering food was their game. At least, when there wasn’t radio interference or their batteries were running low.  They were built to deliver food to the tables and be polite to the customers. They also had some interesting quirky behavior, like responding “that’s not my problem” and dancing off to some disco music if they didn’t understand you.  Do yourself a favor and go read some of the stories. We wish we could have seen them in action, they sound fantastically absurd.

DyIO is a huge robotics development board

[Kevin] wrote in to tell us about the robotics development platform he’s been working on for the last few years. He calls his device the DyIO, and looks like an extremely easy way to get a robot up and running quickly.

Because the DyIO stands for Dynamic Input & Output, [Kevin] thought it was important to put 24 separate IO pins in his build. These pins can serve as 24 digital inputs or outputs, a few analog inputs and PWM outs, or even DC motor controls.

What’s really interesting is the SDK that [Kevin] and his team chose to build. With this SDK, you can program the DyIO in Java or just about any other language you would want. Already, [Kevin] and his team have built a few interesting projects around the DyIO, like a hexapod robot and animatronic pokemon. While we’re sure something awesome beyond imagination is waiting to be built with the DyIO platform, you can check out these already-completed builds after the break.

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Build your own self-driving car

If you’ve ever wanted your own self-driving car, this is your chance. [Sebastian Thrun], co-lecturer (along with the great [Peter Norvig]) of the Stanford AI class is opening up a new class that will teach everyone who enrolls how to program a self-driving car in seven weeks.

The robotic car class is being taught alongside a CS 101 “intro to programming” course. If you don’t know the difference between an interpreter and a compiler, this is the class for you. You’ll learn how to make a search engine from scratch in seven weeks. The “Building a Search Engine” class is taught by [Thrun] and [David Evans], a professor from the University of Virginia. The driverless car course is taught solely by [Thrun], who helped win the 2005 DARPA Grand Challenge with his robot car.

In case you’re wondering if this is going to be another one-time deal like the online AI class, don’t worry. [Thrun] resigned as a tenured professor at Stanford to concentrate on teaching over the Internet. He’s still staying at Stanford as an associate professor but now he’s spending his time on his online university, Udacity. It looks like he might have his hands full with his new project; so far, classes on the theory of computation, operating systems, distributed systems, and computer security are all planned for 2012.

Oh boy do we want to ride a giant inflatable robot

We’ve seen videos of people attaching chairs to gigantic welding robots and riding them around the shop, and while that would be fun for a little bit, the joy would be fleeting. Flight simulators built on a Stewart Platform are becoming old hat. Now there’s a new robot we want to ride.

[Saul Griffith] from Otherlab has been working on pneumatic robots for some time now, and he just wrapped up his Ant-Roach build seen above. It’s a 15-foot-long cross between an anteater and a cockroach that’s completely inflatable and can actually walk with the help of an air compressor.

The ‘muscles’ of the ant-roach are fabric actuators that contract when inflated. Of course this makes the mechanics look like something out a biology book, but the robot is still a neat piece of engineering. The ant-roach weighs in at 70 pounds but could probably support a half-ton of riders.

From the videos after the break, we can see that the ant-roach looks a little clumsy when walking. [Travis Deyle] sent in his contribution that details an amazing inflatable robotic arm that can beat any human in an arm wrestling match. Now we can’t wait for a giant anthropomorphized bouncy castle to start lumbering to a children’s carnival.

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