CalTech’s manipulator-arm equipped robot

[Justin] wrote in to tell us about the rover which his CalTech team has entered in NASA’s Exploration Robo-Ops Competition. Their time to shine is later this week, but you can see some of the test footage after the break.

The operator pictured above is using a controller which is a scale model of the manipulator arm, with two cameras giving feedback. One of those monitors shows a feed from the arm itself, providing a view of the gripper. The other feed is a wide shot of the working area from the body of the robot. The arm has six degrees of freedom actuated by servo motors. The controller is a replica of the arm laser cut from acrylic. At each joint there’s a potentiometer whose value is used to establish the position of the frame.

At first we thought that this would be more fatiguing and less convenient than using a gaming controller. But as we look at the dexterity of the arm it becomes obvious that joysticks and buttons would just make things more difficult.

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There’s a lot packed into this BeagleBoard controlled rover

That black box is hiding all kinds of goodies that make this rover a hacking playground. [Andrey] built the device around a BeagleBoard, which offers the processing power and modules that he needed to make the rest of it work.

The control unit shrinks the pilot down to the rover’s size, using a cockpit that has a steering wheel and other controls, and a monitor playing the stream from the camera on the front of the bot. It has a WiFi adapter which allows control via the Internet. The camera, which can be rotated thanks to its servo mounting, feeds the video to the BeagleBoard where it is compressed using the h264 codec (more about that and the cockpit here) to lighten the streaming load. You’ll also find an ultrasonic rangefinder on the front for obstacle avoidance, and a magnetic compass for orientation information. Finally, a GPS bolsters that data, allowing you to plot your adventures on the map.

It’s great, but it will cost you. Material estimates are North of five hundred Euros!

Wireless rover has two guns…one for each of ya

texas_ranger_airsoft_rover

We never really get bored with remote-controlled rovers around here, especially when they involve reusing some old hardware as well as lasers. [Tycoon] wrote in to share his creation, which he has dubbed “Texas Ranger”.

Texas Ranger is built around an old Linksys WRT54GL router, which provides the rover’s WiFi connectivity as well as the serial interface through which everything else is controlled. The rover features a pair of PIC microcontrollers, which handle all of the servo control as well as telemetry calculations.

An onboard camera gives the operator a driver’s seat view of the action, allowing for precise control of the vehicle. Laser triangulation is used to help measure object distance, and a pair of airsoft pellet guns straddle the camera for whenever [Tycoon] feels like making his presence known. One feature we are especially fond of is the pair of Wii nunchucks which the rover uses to monitor its position. Always aware of its operating angle, it auto-adjusts the camera to compensate for uneven surfaces, guaranteeing that [Tycoon] doesn’t have to tilt his head to see straight.

Keep reading to see a quick demo video he shot of Texas Ranger in action.

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Sound localization and a treaded rover

soundlocalization_and_a_robot

[Jad] recently wrote in to share a pair of projects that have been keeping him busy as of late.

The first is a sound localization system not unlike one we showed you a few weeks ago. The difference is that his system displays the sound source via a set of LEDs rather than by motion, making it far less prone to interference by things like servo noise. His system uses four identical circuits, each of which are wired to a separate analog input on the Arduino. Each channel is adjustable, making it easy to tweak how the system responds to a particular sound.

His second project is a sizable robot built on the Motoruino platform. His contraption features several stacked control boards that handle the bots locomotion as well as camera control. It connects to his computer via a Bluetooth module that boasts a 1 mile range, allowing him to control everything from his PC. [Jad] is using the robot as a prototype for a much larger scale creation, and he says that his current focus is getting the robot to track and follow objects automatically using the on-board camera.

Continue reading to see a small preview of his bot’s progress so far.

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Roll away clock becomes a programmable rover

The parts laid bare in the picture above all make up a roll away alarm clock that flees when you don’t get out of bed. It’s an interesting idea, but considering most folks don’t sleep on hardwood floors we can understand why [TheRafMan] was able to pick this gem up for under $5. That’s quite a deal because there’s a very usable LCD module at the top. But for this hack, he focused on using the gearhead motors to make a programmable rover.

In order to make this programmable [TheRafMan] had to add a microcontroller. He chose an Arduino variant, called the Ardweeny. It’s a board that piggy-backs the ATmega328. But he didn’t use a stock Ardweeny; he’s altered it to play nicely with jumper wire. The uC is able to interface with the gearhead motors thanks to an L293D h-bridge motor driver chip. As you can see in the clip after the jump, the rover can now be driven around using a Wii Nunchuck or via a USB connection. If you’ve got a Bluetooth module lying around it wouldn’t be hard to make this a wireless solution that can be controlled with the accelerometers in a Wii remote.

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Autonomous rover roams the halls

[ESylin] built an autonomous rover that roams the vacant halls of his school. On the hood of the vehicle he’s mounted two Maxbotix sonar sensors that do a great job of keeping the vehicle centered in the hallway. It will follow a wall around a corner (favoring its left side because of the left-facing sensor) and it will stop to correct itself if it gets off course. That’s because when you’re not driving a dsPIC33 is, with a Traxxas XL-5 speed controller and a hobby servo for steering. But this little guy hasn’t lost all his pep. Manual control and be switched on from from an R/C controller so you can burn up the floor tiles. Take a look at the demo after the break, with the manual control demo shown at about 4:10. Continue reading “Autonomous rover roams the halls”

Amazing chassis hacks

[Crabfu] pulled off some great chassis work on top of a remote control drivetrain. His most recent build turns the tiny traveler into a lunar rover complete with passenger and a communications array. For this he’s sourced the parts from a toy but boosted the realism with hand-painted details that leave us in awe. His previous project sourced the body from a model truck kit. Once again, it’s the paint work that makes us envious of his skills.

Both projects conceal a Losi 1/24 scale micro rock crawler that provides for some incredible locomotion. See video of both builds after the break.

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