Telepresence Robot Demo Unit Breaks Free of It’s Confinement

What happens when you put a telepresence robot online for the world to try out for free? Hilarity of course. Double Robotics is a company that builds telepresence robots. The particular robot in question is kind of like a miniature Segway with a tablet computer on top. The idea is you can control it with your own tablet from a remote location. This robot drives around with your face on the screen, allowing you to almost be somewhere when you can’t (or don’t want to) be there in person.

Double Robotics decided to make one of these units accessible to the Internet as a public demonstration. Of course, they couldn’t have one of these things just roaming about their facility unrestrained. They ended up keeping it locked in an office. This gives users the ability to drive it around a little bit and get a feel for the robot. Of course it didn’t take long for users to start to wonder how they could break free from their confinement.

One day, a worker left the office door cracked open ever so slightly. A user noticed this and after enough patience and determination, managed to use the robot to get the door opened. It appears as though the office was closed at the time, so no one was around to witness the event. A joy ride ensued and the robot hid its tracks by locking itself back in the room and docking to the charging station.

While this isn’t a hack in the typical sense, this is a perfect example of the hacker mindset. You are given some new technology and explore it to the extent at which you are supposed too. After that, many people would just toss it aside and not give it a second thought. Those with the hacker mindset are different, though. Our next thought is usually, “What else can I do with it?” This video demonstrates that in a fun and humorous way. Hopefully the company learns its lesson and puts a leash on that thing. Continue reading “Telepresence Robot Demo Unit Breaks Free of It’s Confinement”

Serial Surgery Saves Wacom Tablet from Landfill

Years ago, [Greg] got a Wacom Artpad II graphics tablet through Freecycle. What’s the catch, you ask? The stylus was long gone. When he found out how expensive a direct replacement would be, the tablet was laid to rest in his spare parts box. Fast forward a few years to the era of the phone-tablet hybrid and [Greg]’s subsequent realization that some of them use Wacom stylii. Eight bucks later, he’s in business, except that the tablet is serial. Wacom no longer supports serial tablets, so he had to convert it to USB.

With the help of the WaxBee project and a Teensy 2.0, he would be able to emulate an Intuous2 tablet by sniffing and re-encoding the packets.  Things got a little hairy when he went under the hood to remove the ADM202 TTL-to-RS232 chip with a Dremel—he accidentally gouged some of the pads it sat on as well as a few of the traces. Feeling frustrated, [Greg] took some high-res pictures of the board and posted them to a message board. As it turns out, those pictures helped him recreate the traces and get the tablet running. A little big of glue and tape later, he was in business. [Greg] even gave himself access to reprogram the Teensy.

HuddleLamp turns Multiple Tablets into Single Desktop

Imagine you’ve got a bunch of people sitting around a table with their various mobile display devices, and you want these devices to act together. Maybe you’d like them to be peepholes into a single larger display, revealing different sections of the display as you move them around the table. Or maybe you want to be able to drag and drop across these devices with finger gestures. HuddleLamp lets you do all this.

How does it work? Basically, a 3D camera sits above the tabletop, and watches for your mobile displays and your hands. Through the magic of machine vision, a server sends the right images to each screen in the group. (The “lamp” in HuddleLamp is a table lamp arranged above the space with a 3D camera built into it.)

A really nice touch is that the authors also provide JavaScript objects that you can embed into web apps to enable devices to join the group without downloading special software. A new device will flash an identifying pattern that the computer vision routine will recognize. Once that’s done, the server starts sending the correct parts of the overall display to the new device.

The video, below the break, demonstrates the possible interactions.

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Converting The Wacom Intuos Into A Cintiq

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Wacom, purveyors of fine pen tablets for digital artists, basically have two product lines of pen tablets. The first, Intuos, is a great pen tablet that give an artist the ability to turn a computer into a virtual dead tree notebook. The second product line, the Cintiq, takes the same technology and adds an LCD to the mix, effectively turning a drawing tablet into a second display. [Bumhee] wanted a Cintiq, but didn’t want to pay the Cintiq price, leading him to install a display in his old Intuos tablet. It’s an amazingly simple build, making us think we’ll be seeing a few derivatives of his work in the future.

The display [Bumhee] used for this modification is a Retina display from an iPad. With the right adapter, you can easily connect one of these displays to a computer, giving you a very thin 2048×1536 9.7″ display. The initial tests to see if this mod would work on his tablet – removing the metal shield on the display, placing it on the tablet, and drawing – were a success, giving [Bumhee] the confidence to irreparably modify his tablet.

From there, the modification was a simple matter of cutting up the enclosure of the tablet, installing the display with a few screws, and installing a piece of glass over the display. Very easy, and it’s just about the only way you’re going to get a pen tablet with a small, high-resolution display for less than a thousand dollars.

Thanks [David] for sending this one in.

Raspberry Pi Tablet — The PiPad

[Michael Castor] wanted a tablet, but not just any tablet. He wanted an all-in-one system running Linux, and he wanted it to look good. So he made himself a wooden PiPad.

He started the project at the beginning of 2013, and like many of our projects, it took a little while to get some momentum going. He bought most of the components early on but then it got pushed to the back burner. Two weeks before the Maker Faire Bay Area 2013, [Michael] decided he wanted to show it off, and thus began the mad dash to finish it in time.

The build consists of a very nice piece of 1/2″ Baltic birch plywood which was cut to shape using a CNC router. A scrap piece of carbon fiber makes for a stylish but not too flashy back cover — He even managed to get [Eben Upton] to sign it! Inside is a 10,000mAh lithium ion battery, a Raspberry Pi, a cellphone battery charging system and a capacitive touchscreen LCD. Almost all touchscreens run off 12V, but [Michael] managed to find a 5V HDMI to LVDS converter, which works perfectly. The device gets about 6 hours of battery life, which is more than enough for [Michael]. The device looks great, and he’s even made it through airport security with it!

We love seeing unique projects like this — don’t forget to submit your own projects through our Tip line!

An Animated Elf

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Halloween receives the bulk of the attention for installation-type hacks, but [Stephen’s] animated elf hack-in-progress provides the perfect example of bringing the Christmas spirit to life.

[Stephen] constructed both the background and the elf’s body from a scrap piece of plywood, drawing and painting everything by hand, and then secured the plywood with a simple 2×4 that serves as a stand. The bulk of the hack is rather simple, and reflects the longstanding technique of traditional cel animation: the non-moving portions are kept stationary and only the moving parts need to change. In this case, [Stephen’s] shortcut is to insert a tablet as the elf’s face.

The tablet is a BlackBerry PlayBook, which moves the eyes around and spouts off a few Santa-related quips while animating the mouth. [Stephen] encountered a problem with the PlayBook’s 5-minute screen timeout function, and had to design a custom application to prevent the tablet from entering sleep mode while it played through the animations. His future plans are to drill a hole through the plywood and expose the tablet’s light sensor to detect when someone walks by, then have the elf spring to life in response. You can see his progress so far in the video below.

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Running a Laundromat with an Arduino

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[Hubert] sent us a tip about a friend’s project to rescue a laundromat from its failing electronics. We’re not entirely sure what went wrong with the old control center, but considering a replacement would have cost nearly 25,000 EUR, we think [Stefan] found the perfect solution: he gave it an Arduino and Android overhaul (translated).

Although [Stefan] explains that the boards were defective, perhaps one of our German readers can help us out with a more specific translation. More clear, however, are the steps taken to upgrade the system. The situation at the laundromat was a bit of an emergency: there was no way for customers to pay for use of the machines. As a result, [Stefan] had free reign to overhaul things as he saw fit. He decided to remove the complex button setup in favor of a touchscreen Android tablet, which provided users with a simple interface to make selections. The tablet serves only as an input device. The heavy lifting is handled by an Arduino Mega 2560, which hooks up to what remains of the original system and controls the 27 machines in the laundromat.

[Stefan] admits that he isn’t a particular fan of the Arduino, but that for the price, it’s a tough solution to beat. He’s not the only one overhauling with Arduinos. Check out some other examples of upgraded machines, like the Arduino-enhanced PopCARD vending machine.

UPDATE: [Andreas] sent in a better translation of the project page which we’ve included below. He worries his written English isn’t the best, but we think it is a lot easier to understand than the machine translation. Thank you for you work [Andreas!]

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