Remote-controlled robot toy from air freshener parts

limpy_the_robot

[jcopro] is pretty fond of Glade automatic air fresheners. Using a pair of them, he built a simple remote-controlled toy which he shared with us over the weekend. You may remember that he built a remote shutter release system for his camera using these air fresheners, which we featured a few weeks ago.

Instead of throwing away the shell of the air fresheners after gutting them for motors and gears, he decided to use the excess plastic as a robot chassis. Using a pair of pencils for legs, he constructed his robot, “Limpy.” He removed a pair of motors and control board from an old toy, mounting it to his creation with a few strips of electrical tape.

He admits that he’s reluctant to even call the toy a robot, but he had fun building it, and suggests that it would make a great beginner project. We agree – it would make a great project for kids, especially if you are looking to reuse an old remote-controlled toy they no longer play with.

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Fun slide whistle synth toy

slide_synth

[Dino] recently sent us some info on his latest project, a 555 timer-based slider synthesizer. The synth was built to emulate the sound made by playing a slide whistle, and also as an entry into the 555 Design Contest, which is quickly coming to a close. If you’re not familiar with a slide whistle, just spend a few minutes on YouTube looking for clips of Sideshow Bob – it’s ok, we’ll wait.

The circuit is pretty simple, though the implementation is quite clever. While traditional slide whistles require the user to blow in one end, this electronic version operates using a LED and photo cell. When the main switch is closed, the 555 timer is activated, and a tone is produced. The pitch of the tone is controlled by the LED as it slides in and out of the tube. The more light that hits the photo cell, the higher the pitch, and vice versa.

Continue reading to see a quick demonstration of [Dino’s] slide synth, and be sure to check out his other 555 contest entry we featured a short while back.

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Radar gun teardown

[Jeri Ellsworth] is at it again, this time she takes apart a hot wheels speed gun and in the process she does a good job of  explaining how radar can be used to measure speed.  She also demonstrates a way to determine if an object is approaching or receding from the radar gun.

The Doppler shift is one way to remotely measure the speed of an object. It works by measuring the change in frequency of a wave after it strikes an object. Rather than measuring the Doppler shift of the returning wave most radar guns use the phase shift. The reason is that the frequency shift of a relativly slow object (60mph), to a relitivly high frequency signal(10GHz) is small (about 0.893Hz), where the phase shift varies based on the distance of the object.  This is all just a stepping stone in her quest to build a crude TSA body scanner.

Playing hacker with a toy vault

[Thomas Cannon] created his own hacking game by adding some circuitry to this toy vault. The original toy uses the keypad to control a solenoid keeping the door shut. He kept the mechanical setup, but replaced the original circuit board with his own ATmega328 based internals. He also added a USB port to the front. The gist of the game is that you plug-in through USB to gain access to the vault’s terminal software. If you can make your way through the various levels of admin access the loot inside will be yours.

Spy Video TRAKR: software and first hack

Our initial view of the Spy Video TRAKR “App BUILDR” site had us believing this would be an internet-based code editor and compiler, similar to the mbed microcontroller development tools. Delving deeper into the available resources, we’re not entirely sure that’s an accurate assessment — TRAKR may well permit or even require offline development after all. Regardless of the final plan, in the interim we have sniffed out the early documentation, libraries and standalone C compiler and have beaten it into submission for your entertainment, in order to produce our first TRAKR hack!

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Spy Video TRAKR: the teardown

Last Friday we looked at Wild Planet’s Spy Video TRAKR programmable RC vehicle mostly from an end user perspective. Much of our weekend was spent dismantling and photographing the device’s internal works, and poring over code and documentation, in order to better gauge the TRAKR’s true hackability. Our prior review included some erroneous speculation…we can clarify a number of details now, and forge ahead with entirely new erroneous speculation!

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Spy Video TRAKR: first impressions

At the Bay Area Maker Faire this past May, we had our first glimpse of Wild Planet’s Spy Video TRAKR, a $130 radio-controlled toy with some surprises under the hood.

On the surface, the Spy Video TRAKR — the latest addition to the popular Spy Gear toy line — is an R/C tank with a video camera and night vision, with the added ability to download new “apps” from the internet for extra functions. With a little detective work, one uncovers the TRAKR’s secret double life: it’s also an eminently hackable robotics platform! Prior Spy Gear toys have been popular hack targets, providing inexpensive, mass-produced sources of unusual items such as head-mounted displays. Rather than throw up barriers, Wild Planet has chosen to embrace this secondary market, with plans to release development tools and documentation making it possible to extend the device’s capabilities.

Read on for our image-heavy unboxing and initial impressions.