Hackaday Prize Semifinalist: Picking Up Litter With Robots

On beaches, in parks, and in [BDM]’s back yard, there’s a lot of liter everywhere. The normal solution to this problem is to hire someone or find some volunteers to pick up all this trash. We’re living in the future, though, and that means robots. For his Hackaday Prize entry, [BDM] is building a robot that picks up trash.

A robot that picks up litter is a very, very interesting problem. It can’t be controlled by a person, or else it would be more efficient to just get out there and kill your back picking up bottles. This means it must work autonomously, and that means identifying litter, picking it up, and disposing of it.

For the identification part of the problem, [BDM] is using computer vision that captures an RGB image and discriminates against natural objects. Right now the computer vision is far from perfect, but it does a very good job, all things considering.

The next biggest problem is picking the trash up and disposing of it. For this, [BDM] has repurposed a Power Wheels and attached a DIY robot arm. It’s not a very powerful arm, and a children’s toy probably isn’t the best platform, but it is the start of something very, very cool.

You can check out [BDM]’s video for the project below.

The 2015 Hackaday Prize is sponsored by:

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Robot trash can catches anything you throw near it

This guy is about to toss the blue ball half way between the book shelf and the waste basket. By the time it gets there the waste basket will have moved into position to catch the ball perfectly. It’ll do the same for just about anything you throw.

We’re unable to read the captions but it looks like this may have been made as part of a commercial which is shown in the first few seconds of the video after the break. From there we see the development of a locomotive mechanism which will fit into the bottom of the bin. It start as a single swivel wheel, but gets more complicated quite quickly. Once the low-profile three-wheeler is milled and assembled it’s time to start writing the code to translate input from a Kinect 3D camera and extrapolate the position for catching the trash. The final result seems to do this perfectly.

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Oscilloscope clock made possible by dumpster diving

We see people driving around the night before trash collection and reclaiming items doomed to the land fill (or on their way to recycling… who knows). We’re beginning to think we need to join those ranks. Case in point is this vintage oscilloscope which [Bob Alexander] plucked from the curb in the nick of time. Here’s the kicker, when he got it home he found it still worked! He couldn’t let this opportunity go to waste, so he figured out how to turn it into a clock without losing the ability to use it as a scope.

You probably already know that it’s possible to display your own graphics on an oscilloscope. In fact, you can buy a board from Sparkfun which will turn the scope into an analog clock, and that’s exactly what [Bob] did. But he was met with two problems, the X-axis was flipped and he didn’t have an easy way to power the board.

He struggled with the voltage supply, frying his first attempt at boosting the internal 6.3V supply to use with a linear 5V regulator. His second attempt worked though, soldering a 12V regulator to the transformer. He was then on to the X-axis correction, using a rail-to-rail op-amp to invert the signal. The project finishes by adding toggle controls and buttons on the back of the case to switch between scope and clock modes, and to set the time.

Cellphone crowd-pleasers

When you start to think about the cellphone waste our society produces it can be quite daunting. How many cell phones have you had in recent years? Now multiply that by five billion cellphone subscribers. [Anthony Goh] and [Neil Mendoza] found something to do with a very┬áminuscule┬áportion of those left-overs; building interactive birds out of the old parts. You’ll have to check out their accomplishments in the video after the break as the image above doesn’t do them justice. Interactivity for the exhibit is provided by an Arduino, which communicates with one working phone via a serial connection. The phone can still make and receive calls, and controls parts from other, less functional cellphones. They can call each other, or receive calls from the audience.

Yes, there is art in garbage. But there’s also a lot of hacks waiting to happen. Take a look at the Nokia cellphone LCD feature and then start scavenging.

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A fantastic collection of slapped together bots

[David Williamson] has put together some pretty amazing little robots from bits of stuff he laying around the house. What initially caught our attention was this drawing robot over at HackedGadgets. We were impressed by the construction, as it looks like almost all of it was scrap. Upon clicking through the link we found a small collection that kept as amused for quite a while. Each one has some aspect that is surprising in its use of mundane materials. Need an omniwheel? Why not use plastic beads. Want a rail from which a robot can hang and drive? why not use drinking straws. Many of them may not have much for a brain, but the construction of the mechanisms is usually pretty interesting alone. You can see clips of some of his creations in the video after the break.

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Marvelous Magnetic Machines

[HP Friedrichs] wrote in to tell us about an upcoming book titled Marvelous Magnetic Machines. Ordinarily, we skip over promotional hype. After watching his promo video though, we couldn’t help but share. We want a copy of this book. In this book you’ll find details on how to build a number of different motors from scrap. You can see several variations in the promo video. He also notes that the music was created by himself and some friends a few years ago. If [H.P. Friedrichs] sounds familiar, it is because he’s been sending us fantastic projects since at least 2006.

Super quick and cheap trackball

[Elgatoandaluz] has posted this guide on how to tear apart a standard optical mouse and build a custom trackball. He’s using a ping pong ball , mounted above the laser as the trackball itself, which seems like it would be a little lite, but functional. The case is scrap cardboard. We really like that you could toss this together relatively quickly and have a custom layout. He recommends using Sakasa Mouse for inverting the axes and X-control for mapping the buttons(direct download).