Furniture And Motors Make A Strange Bedfellow

Beds! They don’t move around enough, so the young people say. They need more motors, more horsepower, more self-driving smarts – right? Honestly, we’re not sure, but if that’s the question being asked, [randofo] has the answer.

Aptly named, Bedfellow is an art project that sought to create a bed that could explore and socialise with occupants aboard. The core principle was not just to create a bed that could move under its own power, but one that could intelligently drive around and avoid obstacles, too. This is achieved through the use of ultrasonic sensors, with an Arduino Mega as the brains. The bed chooses a random direction in which to move, checking for obstacles on the way. It’s pretty basic as far as “self-driving” technology goes, but it gets the job done.

Far from being a lightweight artistic statement, the bed has some serious performance credentials. The drivetrain is a couple of 4 horsepower DC motors with speed controllers cribbed from a golf cart. These are fed through a 20:1 gear reduction to boost torque and avoid the bed moving too quickly. [Randofo] reports it can comfortably haul 12 people without slowing down, and we don’t doubt it. With that much power, your average flatback bed would be ripped to pieces, but never fear for this one – there’s plenty of heavy engineering holding it together.

It’s refreshing to see an art project executed with both elegant aesthetics and brutally powerful hardware. Sure, it might not be much good for sleeping unless you live in a loft with a concrete floor, but hey – they’re awfully popular these days. Now all it needs are some ground effects.

Wave Goodbye To Honda Asimo, A Robot That Would Wave Back

Fans of technology will recall a number of years when Honda’s humanoid robot Asimo seemed to be everywhere. In addition to its day job in a research lab, Asimo had a public relations side gig showing everyone that Honda is about more than cars and motorcycles. From trade shows to television programs, even amusement parks and concert halls, Asimo worked a busy publicity schedule. Now a retirement party may be in order, since the research project has reportedly been halted.

Asimo’s activity has tapered off in recent years so this is not a huge surprise. Honda’s official Asimo site itself hasn’t been updated in over a year. Recent humanoid robots in media are more likely to be in context of events like DARPA Robotics Challenge or from companies like Boston Dynamics. Plus the required technology has become accessible enough for us to build our own two-legged robots. So its torch has been passed on, but Asimo would be remembered as the robot who pioneered a lot of thinking into how humanoid robots would interact with flesh and blood humans. It was one of the first robots who could recognize human waving as a gesture, and wave back in return.

Many concepts developed from Asimo will live on as Honda’s research team shift focus to less humanoid form factors. We can see Honda’s new ambitions in their concept video released during CES 2018 (embedded below.) These robots are still designed to live and work alongside people, but now they are specialized to different domains and they travel on wheels. Which is actually a step closer to the Jetsons’ future, because Rosie rolls on wheels!

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Hackaday Links: July 1, 2018

Remember when computer mice didn’t have scroll wheels? The greatest mouse of all time, the Microsoft Intellimouse Explorer 3.0, is back in production. This mouse was released in 2003, before the popularity of ‘gaming’ mice from the likes of Razer, and at the time it was the standard mouse for RTS and FPS professional gamers. After producing a few million of these mice, the molds died or the sensors were out of stock, Microsoft stopped shipping the Intellimouse Explorer 3.0, and the ones that were out in the wild slowly died. Now this fantastic mouse is back, and it’s only going to set you back $40. Believe me when I say this is one of the greatest user interface devices ever created, right up there with the Model M keyboard.

Another week, another update on building an airplane in a basement. [Peter Sripol] has basically finished the fuselage of his homebuilt ultralight with working elevator, rudder, and landing gear that looks like it might hold up.

The Pebble was one of the most successful crowdfunding campaigns ever, and now it’s dead. Pebble was bought by Fitbit for $40M, and now the Pebble servers are off, as of June 30th. Of course there are community-based projects to keep the Pebble working, notably the rebble project.

It’s time for Steam’s summer sale, and your wallet is crying. The standout deal is the Steam Link, a sort of ‘thin client for Steam’ that plugs into your TV, looks on the network for your battlestation, and allows you to play Fortnite or whatever on the big screen. The Steam Link normally sells for $50, but with the summer sale it’s two dollars and fifty cents.

Here are a few experiments in CNC joinery. [Mirock] has a CNC machine and a few pieces of wood, and explored what is possible when you want to join two boards at ninety degrees to each other. Why is this interesting? One of the joints on this simple box project consists of a circle with a hole on one board, and a pin on the other. This is basically a Knapp joint, a ‘dovetail’ of sorts that was developed in the 1860s. This was the first popular machine-made joint in woodworking, and if you ever see it on an antique, it solidly dates that piece to any time between 1870-1900. Of course, now that you can just buy a CNC router, an infinite variety of joints are possible, and [Mirock] can experiment with all sorts of combinations of pins and tails and mortises and tenons.

Raspberry Pi Zero Stepper Driver, First of Many Modules

The Raspberry Pi in general (and the Zero W model in particular) are wonderful pieces of hardware, but they’re not entirely plug-and-play when it comes to embedded applications. The user is on the hook for things like providing a regulated power source, an OS, and being mindful of proper shutdown and ESD precautions. Still, the capabilities make it worth considering and [Alpha le ciel] has a project to make implementation easier with the Raspberry Pi Zero W Stepper Motor Module, which is itself part of a larger project plan to make the Pi Zero W into a robust building block for robotic and CNC applications.

[Alpha le ciel] is building this stepper motor module as the first of many Raspberry Pi hats meant to provide the Raspi with the hardware for robotics applications. This module, in particular, features two A4988 stepper motor drivers, a connector for a power supply or battery providing 7-20V, and a buck converter to bring that power down to the 5V needed by the Pi itself. All the relevant pins are broken out onto the Pi’s GPIO header, making this module the simplest way possible to add a pair of motors to a Pi. What does that mean? Printers or self-balancing robots, really whatever you want.

A stepper driver that conforms to the footprint of the Pi Zero is a good start, and the larger concept of creating additional modules is a worthy entry to the Hackaday Prize.

Nintendo Switch Gets Internal Trinket Hardmod

If you haven’t been following the Nintendo Switch hacking scene, the short version of the story is that a vulnerability was discovered that allows executing code on all versions of the Switch hardware and operating system. In fact, it’s believed that the only way to stop this vulnerability from being exploited is for Nintendo to release a new revision of the hardware. Presumably there are a lot of sad faces in the House of Mario right about now, but it’s good news for us peons who dream of actually controlling the devices we purchase.

To run your own code on Nintendo’s latest and greatest, you must first put it into recovery mode by shorting out two pins in the controller connector, and then use either a computer or a microcontroller connected to the system’s USB port to preform the exploit and execute the binary payload. It’s relatively easy, but something you need to do every time you shut the system down. But if you’re willing to install an Adafruit Trinket M0 inside your Nintendo Switch, you can make things a little easier.

Stemming from work done by [atlas44] and [noemu], the final iteration of this mod was created by [Quantum-cross]. The general idea is to strip down the Trinket M0 board to as small as possible by removing the USB port and a few capacitors, and then install it inside the Switch’s case. By wiring it up to power, the back of the USB-C connector, and the controller connector, the Trinket can interact with all the key components involved in the exploit.

You can even use the Switch’s USB port to update the firmware on the Trinket to load different payloads, though in his walkthrough video after the break, [xboxexpert] mentions eventually this won’t really be necessary as the homebrew software environment on the Switch matures. Indeed, there will almost certainly come a time when performing this exploit on every boot of the system will be made unnecessary, rendering this modification obsolete. But until then, this is a pretty slick way of getting your feet wet in the world of Switch hacking.

It was only six months or so back that we were reading about the first steps towards running arbitrary code on the Nintendo Switch, and just a few months prior to that we saw people experimenting with controlling the system with a microcontroller.

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Heartwatch Monitors Your Ticker

The heart! A pump of the most fantastical kind, it is capable of operating for decades without rest. It’s responsible for supplying vital oxygen to the body’s subsystems, and can be readily monitored with modern technology. [Dave Vernooy] wanted to build a watch that could take heartrate and blood oxygen measurements – so he did.

Named Heartwatch, the device is a DIY smartwatch build with a bunch of exciting features. Heart monitoring is taken care of by the MAX30102 sensor which integrates all the hardware to sense heart rate and oxygen saturation into a single tiny plastic package. There’s then an assortment of accelerometers, gyros and even a color LCD to display all the wonderful information.

It’s all wrapped up in a 3D printed case, with an ATMEGA1284 running the show. The project just goes to show how much can be achieved with an 8-bit processor – there’s not always a need to run a high-powered ARM chip for an embedded project.

There are a fair few DIY smartwatch builds out there – like this classy unit with an OLED screen.

PCB Holder Quick-fix Turns Out To Be Big Improvement

When something needs improving, most hacks often make a small tweak to address a problem without changing how things really work. Other hacks go a level deeper, and that’s what [Felix Rusu] did with his 3D printed magnetic holders. Originally designed to address a shortcoming with the PCB holders in his LE40V desktop pick-and-place machine, they turned out to be useful for other applications as well, and easily modified to use whatever size magnets happen to be handy.

The problem [Felix] had with the PCB holders on his pick-and-place was that they hold the board suspended in midair by gripping the sides. The board is held securely, but the high density of parts on panelized PCB designs leads to vibrations in the suspended board as the pick-and-place head goes to work. Things are even worse when the board is v-scored for the purpose of easily snapping apart the smaller boards later; they sometimes break along the score lines due to the stress.

Most people would solve this problem by putting a spacer underneath the board to stabilize things, but [Felix] decided to go a level deeper and change the mounting system altogether with a simple mod. The boards now lie on a flat metal plate, and his magnetic holders are simple to make and easily do the job of holding any size PCB secure. As a bonus, it turns out that the holders also do a passable job of holding work materials down on a laser cutter’s honeycomb table. A video overview is embedded below, and the design files are available on Thingiverse.

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