If you know anyone who does crafts, they probably have a drawer with a few million beads loose and mixed together. You’ll sort them out one day, right? Probably not. Unless, of course, you build a robot to do the dirty work for you. That’s what [Kalfalfa] did, using some Phidgets boards, a camera and Open CV. You can see a video of the cardboard machine doing its thing below.
Maybe it is because we are more electronics-minded, but we were impressed with the mechanism to grab just one bead at a time from the hopper. If you watch the video, you’ll see what we mean. However, sometimes a bead jams and a magnetic sensor figures that out so the controller can reverse a bit and try again.
You’d think the color detection would be tough. There was a time when this would involve filters and light sensors and all manner of crazy gyrations. Now it just takes a cheap camera and OpenCV. Of course, RGB LEDs can get rid of filters, too.
The code is, in fact, surprisingly simple, so if you ever wanted to dip your toe into Open CV, this might be a good one to study even if you don’t need to chromotize (yes, we just made that word up) beads.
Oddly, we’ve seen a similar mechanism before made mostly with Lego, but — alas — the link from 2014 is dead although the YouTube video survives.