Train Your Robot To Walk with a Neural Network

[Basti] was playing around with Artificial Neural Networks (ANNs), and decided that a lot of the “hello world” type programs just weren’t zingy enough to instill his love for the networks in others. So he juiced it up a little bit by applying a reasonably simple ANN to teach a four-legged robot to walk (in German, translated here).

While we think it’s awesome that postal systems the world over have been machine sorting mail based on similar algorithms for years now, watching a squirming quartet of servos come to forward-moving consensus is more viscerally inspiring. Job well done! Check out the video embedded below.

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Make Use of Your Drone Video with WebODM

If you ever watch the original Star Trek, Captain Kirk and crew spend a lot of time mapping new parts of the galaxy. In fact, at least one episode centered on them taking images of some new part of space. It might not be new, but if you have a drone, you probably have accumulated a lot of frames of aerial imagery from around your house (or wherever you fly).

WebODM allows you to create georeferenced maps, point clouds and textured 3D models from your drone footage. The software is really an integration and workflow manager for Open Drone Map, which does most of the heavy lifting.

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Hackaday Links: December 11, 2016

We have a contest going on right now challenging you to do the most with 1 kB of data. If you want to get into this, here’s how you do it for a dollar. Use the PIC12C508A. It’s an 8-pin DIP, has 768 bytes of program ROM and 25 bytes of data RAM. [Shaos] is trying to generate NTSC on this thing.

Remember that Internet of Cookie Oven Kickstarter from the links post a few weeks ago? It was funded. It has a heating element that is ‘more energy efficient than traditional electric elements’, and there’s still no consensus over how a resistive heating element can be more efficient. It’s either 100% efficient, or 0% efficient, depending on how you look at it.

[Matthias Wandell], master of wood gears recently built a 20″ bandsaw from scratch. It’s a wood frame, wood wheels, a (currently) underpowered motor, and a few bits of metal and rubber. The video build log is fantastic, so start here and work your way forward.

Way back in the day, Sparkfun sold a Bluetooth rotary phone. Yes, at some point in the past, phones didn’t have touchscreens or even buttons. In any event, Sparkfun hasn’t sold these phones for quite a long time. Now there’s a new hotness: giving these rotary phones a GSM module.

Here’s a little Hackaday Events housekeeping. On January 23rd, we’re going to have a meetup in NYC. We’ll also have a meetup in LA sometime in January as well. Also in January I’ll be attending CES, reporting on the latest Internet of Toasters. A week later, Hackaday will be at ShmooCon in Washington, DC. At ShmooCon last year, we had a breakfast meetup in the DC Hilton. This year, I want to do something similar. If you have an idea of what to do, leave a note in the comments.

Arduino Clock Is HAL 1000

In the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, HAL 9000 — the neurotic computer — had a birthday in 1992 (for some reason, in the book it is 1997). In the late 1960s, that date sounded impossibly far away, but now it seems like a distant memory. The only thing is, we are only now starting to get computers with voice I/O that are practical and even they are a far cry from HAL.

[GeraldF6] built an Arduino-based clock. That’s nothing new but thanks to a MOVI board (ok, shield), this clock has voice input and output as you can see in the video below. Unlike most modern speech-enabled devices, the MOVI board (and, thus, the clock) does not use an external server in the cloud or any remote processing at all. On the other hand, the speech quality isn’t what you might expect from any of the modern smartphone assistants that talk. We estimate it might be about 1/9 the power of the HAL 9000.

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Mini Retro PET Computer

There was a time that the Commodore PET was the standard computer at North American schools. It’s all-in-one, rugged construction made it ideal for the education market and for some of us, the PET started a life-long love affair with computers. [Ruiz Brothers] at Adafruit has come up with a miniature PET model run on a microcontroller and loaded up with a green LED matrix for a true vintage look.

While not a working model of a PET, the model runs on an Adafruit Feather M0 Basic Proto which is an Atmel ATSAMD21 Cortex M0 microcontroller and can display graphics on Adafruit’s 16×9 charlieplexed led matrix.The ATSAMD21 is the chip used in the Arduino Zero, so I’m sure we’ll see more of this chip in the future. Like all of the tutorials at Adafruit, this one is very detailed with step-by-step animated pictures to help you along. Obviously, you don’t need the exact hardware that they’re using, but if you’re putting in an order from Adafruit anyway, why not?

The plans for the 3D printed PET are available for free, so even if you don’t want to put their LED matrix and microcontroller in it, you can still print yourself out a great looking prop and 3D printing the PET will only use about a dollar’s worth of filament. Of course, while this is a cool retro model, if you have a Commodore PET lying around, you could probably do something else with it. We don’t, so that sound you hear is the sound of our 3D printer printing up the past.

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Tiny-TS: Just How Small Can A Playable Synethesiser Get?

The early electronic synthesizers were huge machines, racks of electronic modules that filled entire rooms. Integration of electronics over time successively reduced them, first to the size of a large piece of furniture, then to  tabletop consoles, to standalone keyboards, and to small MIDI black boxes taking their instructions from another instrument or a computer. The original mass of discrete electronics had been reduced to a pile of ICs, then chipsets, then finally single ICs and software implementations on microcomputers.

It’s thus possible to make a synthesizer these days that is pretty small. If you can fit a microcontroller in it, you can fit a synth into it. But how about a playable synthesizer? One with a keyboard, on which you can give a recital? How small can you make one of those? [Jan Ostman] has a contender for the smallest playable synthesizer prize with his Tiny-TS, a credit-card synthesiser with a one-octave capacitive keyboard and analog controls for synthesis parameters.

The heart of the synth is an ATMega328, for which he provides the software. The parameters adjustable by a series of pots are listed as DCO: Coarse pitch and Double, DCF: Filter peak and ENVmod, and ENV: Attack and Release affecting amplitude. You can build your own, or he tells us that he has the project up as a Kickstarter campaign if you fancy the chance of buying one ready-made.

In case you are wondering, it doesn’t sound too bad. Some minimalist synths sacrifice the breadth of sounds they can create, but not this one. He takes it through its paces in a YouTube video which we’ve put below the break.

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Miniature Engine Model Made Of Paper

You can make a lot of stuff out of paper, but a single-stroke engine model less than an inch across? That’s a new one, courtesy of Russian hacker [Aliaksei Zholner], who built a quite remarkable model of a single-stroke engine out of paper (in Russian, translated version via Google Translate). Measuring less than an inch across, it is driven by compressed air and accurately models the rotary action of a single-stroke engine, where a piston in the cylinder drives a flywheel that creates the engine cycle.

The creator has managed to run it at up to about 60 revolutions per second, or about 3600rpm. That’s an impressive speed for a few bits of paper and glue, and there is even an input restrictor that can control the airflow that drives the model.  We’ve featured some interesting paper creations before, such as this papercraft robot and a Strandbeest, but this one is a step beyond. [Aliaksei] has also made the plans and template for this available, so those with steady hands can go ahead and try to make their own.

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