Why Build Furniture When you can Grow it?

[Gavin Munro] is turning the standard paradigm of furniture making on its head. Instead of harvesting trees and slicing them up into boards – or worse, turning them into sawdust to be used for particle board – [Gavin] is literally growing furniture.

Supple young willow saplings are pruned and trained using wire and plastic form work. The trees are encouraged to grow in the right directions to form legs, arms, seat and back, and eventually the individual pieces are grafted Fg_3_chairs_growingtogether to continue growing into one solid piece. When the chair is mature, the leaves are removed, the chair is cut free from the ground, and with a little seasoning and finishing, you’ve got a unique and functional chair. And what’s more, since it’s a solid piece of wood, there are no joints to loosen over time.

You’ve got to admire the dedication that goes into these chairs. The current crop is about nine years old and still a few years from harvest. There’s a lot to be learned from the organization of a project like this – planning a production line where the first finished pieces are a decade or more from the showroom is no mean feat. Looks like [Gavin] has thought that through as well, by starting a line of lamps that will be turning a profit sooner. The video after the break demonstrates not only [Gavin’s] chairs and lamps, but also features his first harvest of tables.

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Tree climber takes a page from the inchworm book

Sharp talons and a strong torso let this robot climb trees, even while carrying a heavy payload. It uses a simple principle, two gripping units allow it to grab onto the tree. These modules alternate, one grips while the torso moves the other up the tree.

You can make out the trio of rods which connect the front and back half of the robot in the image above. Watch the video after the break to see how the motors move these rods with the dexterity of an inchworm, allowing it not only to climb upwards, but to bend and flex to match the contours encountered in the wild.

This was presented at International Conference on Robotics and Automation a few weeks ago. Unfortunately we can only find an abstract for the paper so please leave a link in the comments if you know where to find the full monty.

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Snake bot climbs trees

While you are out enjoying your Labor Day festivities, keep an eye out for robot snakes in the trees. The CMU robotics lab has built a snake bot named Uncle Sam that can climb trees and poles. As you can see in the video after the break, the bot seems to have no problem at all scaling a tree. It wraps itself around the tree, then rotates down the center of its entire body. Once it has reached the top, it can take in the scenery. Though it is a little creepy looking, at least it isn’t in the water.

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Twitter based Christmas ornaments update

When we introduced you to the Twitter Christmas tree ornaments, sadly we had very little information about the project. Luckily [Rob] made contact and clued us in on the inner workings. It even turns out we were wrong about the usage of Arduinos! We invite you to check out all the juicy inner workings after the break.
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(Yet another) Twitter this controlling Arduino that

Christmas may be over, but we still have a couple of cool holiday related hacks for you. One being [Alpay’s] Twitter based interactive Christmas tree ornaments.

We tried to dig up some more information, but it thus far appears a laptop running Processing searches Twitter for specific Christmas related words (like 1337, that’s Christmas-y), sends a buffer to one of three Arduinos which in turn light up a specific ornament. You can check out a live stream here.

For those wanting a bit more information on Arduino and controlling holiday lights, check out [Alpay’s] GE health care version of Twitter lights, or our previous post on controlling Christmas trees, or you might even try [Michael’s] $10 Walmart light controller.

You’re not seeing double: RGB Christmas trees

[mrpackethead], created this monster of a tree.  As shown in the video, it’s capable of showing animations, patterns, and potentially video. The 6m tall creation is studded with 2000 waterproof RGB LED modules. Software for the tree was written in Apple’s own Quartz Composer and integrated into Madrix, a piece of software designed with the purpose of controlling LEDs. The 600W system is 100% Arduino-free and costs less than the equivalent of 0.04USD per hour to run in New Zealand.

[Geoist] opted for the Arduino way to rig up his own smaller RGB Christmas tree. Finding a slightly kitschy fiber-optic model in his local department store, [Geoist] was eager to harness its colour-changing powers. Upon opening it up, it was discovered that it was controlled by nothing more than a light bulb and a spinning disk of coloured light filters. [Geoist] gutted the setup in favour of a breadboard with 3 RGB lights hooked up to an Arduino. The sketch for it is available on his site.

Tapping Tree Power

[bugloaf] tipped us off about this flower power hack. University of Washington researchers, [Babak], [Brian], and [Carlton] have developed very low power circuits to run directly off of trees. This builds upon the work of MIT researchers and Voltree Power. A voltage of up to around 200mV is generated between an electrode in a tree and an electrode in the ground. Identical metals can be used as electrodes as the process is not like that of a lemon or potato battery. The significant development here is the use of a boost converter and exceptionally low power circuits. What kind of applications can you come up with for this source of power? Maybe you could try to combine this power with the power from donuts and hair.