Don’t hit that switch!

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Hackaday reader [Danukeru] sent us a video featuring a box-based robot with an interesting personality. The box is fairly simple and from the outside seems to consist only of a switch and an LED. When the switch is flipped however, the box comes to life.

When the box is activated, the lid opens, and a small arm reaches out to turn the switch off. We’ve seen that plenty of times, but this one turns out to be a little different. In the video, this process seems to repeat a couple dozen times before the robot gets angry and flips out. At first we thought that the end portion of the video was done with a bit of digital trickery, but after reviewing the creator’s blog, it looks like it could be legit. It is very hard to see the box’s innards in the video, but it does house a remote control car chassis that allows it to move around and spin out, as seen below.

It’s a pretty neat project, and if you can handle reading the creator’s site via Google translate, there is plenty of picture documentation of the build process for your perusal.

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Internet-controlled robotic arm

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[Trav] was pondering virtual reality and decided it was no longer all that it was cracked up to be, so he created an experience in what he calls “Remote Reality”. While we have seen many installations over the years that allow people to remotely interact with objects across the globe, his Orbduino project consists of more than simply toggling lights on and off (though he’ll let you do that too).

In his house, he has set up a robotic playground of sorts that allows anyone who visits a chance to play around with the robotic arm he has installed there. The arm is situated in a pen filled with random objects which can be stacked and moved around. He also promises to show you something fun, provided you can guide the arm to pick up an object and hold it against the target positioned outside the pen.

He didn’t forget the obligatory remote light controls either. You can turn the overhead lights on and off, as well as control a multi-colored orb situated in the corner of the room. Most of the project’s interface is done with an Arduino Mega, which handles the robot arm interface, as well as messing with the light installations.

If you have some free time, swing by his site and give the robotic arm a try. It’s a fun little time waster that you will likely enjoy.  Just make sure to take it easy on his web server!

Automatic ball launcher is for the dogs

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A while back, [Dino] built an automatic ball launcher for his dogs, but he wanted to revise it to make it smaller and a bit more user-friendly. While watching an episode of “Prototype This”, he came across a great idea to improve his launcher, so off to the workshop he went.

He repurposed a power window motor from a car, and mounted it to some wood-reinforced aluminum sheeting in his garage. He added a piece of aluminum tubing to serve as a spring-loaded launch arm, which is drawn back by a small lever attached to the window motor.

When a ball is dropped onto a switch at the bottom of the launcher, the window motor starts turning, which pulls the launch arm back into place. Once the arm reaches the tipping point, the spring snaps it forward, launching the ball across the yard. The lever attached to the window motor eventually makes its way back under the launch arm, and is stopped by a switch that is also attached to the motor.

After the prototype was finished, he added some more wood to protect the mechanism from his dogs and vice versa. A hopper was added to the top of the structure to allow the dogs to load the launcher themselves, after a bit of training.

Now, some of you might wonder what is wrong with [Dino’s] arm. Truth be told, it works just fine. If you are a frequent Hack-a-Day visitor, you know that he spends plenty of time in the workshop, so this is an easy way to let the dogs entertain themselves until their owner is ready to play.

Check out the video embedded below for a demonstration of the launcher, as well as a detailed walkthrough of how the mechanism works.

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Remote-controlled robot toy from air freshener parts

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[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

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[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.