Robot stroller lets baby steer without mowing down other toddlers

We’ve seen strollers and car seats that have a steering wheel for the baby to play with (like in the opening of The Simpsons). But what we hadn’t seen is a stroller that allows baby to actually steer. You might think that a putting a motorized vehicle in the hands of someone so young is an accident waiting to happen. But [Xandon Frogget] thought of that and used familiar hardware to add some safety features.

The stroller seen above is a tricycle setup, making it quite easy to add motors to the two rear wheels. These are controlled by a tablet which you can see nestled on the canopy of the stroller (look for the light reflected on the glass). This interfaces with two Kinect sensors, one pointing forward and the other pointing back. They continually scan the environment, looking for obstacles in the stroller’s path. You can see [Xandon's] little girl holding a Wii Wheel, which connects with the tablet to facilitate steering. A test run at the playground is embedded after the break.

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Pikachu is coming for you (especially on carpet)

If you look closely, you’ll see that Pikachu isn’t sporting a pair of funky throwing stars, but is actually suspended between there. Our furry friend is just putting a happy face on this carpet roving robot called the Carpet Monkey V5. It’s been in the works for years, and this is just one more stop in the prototyping process as the development of version 6 is already under way.

The project is a testament to what can be accomplished using all of the design tools at your disposal. The motive mechanism was conceived as a cross between the qualities of legs and the ease of using wheels. Each of the appendages are covered with strategically placed points meant to grab onto carpet, and allow the ‘wheel’ to grip objects as the machine vaults over them. You can see that each has a spring mechanism to further facilitate gripping with each turn of the axle. This seems to go far beyond what usually comes out of hobby robotics, and we think that’s a great thing!

After the break there’s a video showing how all the parts of these grippers are assembled. See the bot cruising around the room at about 3 minutes in.

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Hacking game port peripherals to work with modern PCs

gameport_hack

[Atiti] has a bad habit of hanging on to old things. Some people call this sort of behavior “hoarding”, but around here we understand his affliction. It turns out that in his collection of old computer peripherals, he located a Thrustmaster Formula 1 racing wheel he used back in the day. Analog racing wheels can cost a pretty penny nowadays, depending on what you buy, so he decided to see if he could hack this outdated controller to work with his new PC.

You see, the problem with this wheel is that it utilized a “game port” connecter to interface with the computer. If you don’t remember the game port, go dig up an old PCI sound card and take a look on the back. That 15-pin connector? That’s a game port. Microsoft discontinued support for the game port once Vista was released, so [Atti] had to figure out how in the world he would get it to work on his new PC.

His solution was an Arduino, which is used to read the analog signals output by the wheel. Those signals are processed and sent to a parallel port joystick emulator, enabling him to use the wheel with any game supporting a standard joystick.

Obviously he could have just gone out to the store and bought a USB wheel, but where’s the fun in that?

Stay tuned for a video demo of his refreshed wheel in action.

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Hydropower generator

[Paul] wanted to have access to renewable energy at his cabin. It’s a relaxing place, nestled in a tall forest that shelters him from the sun and wind. This also means that solar and wind energy aren’t an option. But there is a stream running through the property so he decided to build his own version of a small water-powered generator.

He tapped into a reservoir about 200 feet upstream, split the flow into four smaller hoses, and channeled that into a five-gallon bucket. Inside the bucket you’ll find a Pelton wheel he built which turns a low-RPM generator. He manages to generate 56 VDC at 10 A with this setup, more than enough to charge a bank of batteries.

He does a great job of explaining his setup in the video after the break. If you’re looking for other ideas of how to cut down on your environmental impact check out this compost-powered water heater.

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Super simple gaming controller for Android or iPhone

If you’ve got an iPhone or Android device that you use with a Wii remote when gaming, this quick hack will give you the third hand you need to manage all of that hardware. [Syanni85] mounted his Android phone to a Wii wheel for just a few dollars in parts. He ran across the wheel itself at the dollar store, and the phone is held in place using a universal mounting bracket. A small square pad sticks onto the back of any device and mates with a base. He cut off the unnecessary parts of the base and glued it to the back of the wheel.

If you haven’t tried using a Wii remote with your phone yet, find out how to do it with iPhone or with Android.

Printable mecanum wheel

[Zaggo] developed a printable mecanum wheel. These are designed to allow a wheeled vehicle to move in any direction. He uses parts printed with a Makerbot along with commonly available bearings, bolts, washers, and nuts. Download the STL files need for printing and watch the assembly video after the break. We’ve also included a clip of an unrelated robot project using mecanum wheels so you can see what [Zaggo] will have once he fabricates the rest of the of the wheels. [Read more...]

Robocup bot places wheels perpendicularly

[Eric] built this robot for the 2009 Robocup Jr. competition. The game ball has IR LEDs inside of it and this little bot uses eight IR detectors for tracking. Four motors mounted perpendicular to each other provide locomotion. Since this would normally have you traveling in circles, he used some omnidirectional wheels walled Transwheels. As you can see, they have small rollers built-in and allow movement in any direction if the motors work together. A couple of L298 controller chips handle the motors. [Eric] wrote a program to calculate the PWM necessary to drive the controllers and to coordinate movement of the wheels.

Don’t miss the demo videos after the break and, if you’re not a fan of wheels, stop by and see the bi-pedal soccer robots. [Read more...]

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