Remote Control Robot Deals Dominoes

Oh, dominoes — the fun of knocking them down is inversely proportional to the pain of setting them all up again. [DIY Machines] is saving loads of time by automating the boring part with a remote control domino-laying machine. If only it could pick them back up.

This machine can be driven directly over Bluetooth like an R/C car, or programmed to follow a predetermined path via Arduino code. Here’s how it works: an Arduino Uno drives two servos and one motor. The 1:90 geared motor drives the robot around using a 180° servo to steer. A continuous servo turns the carousel, which holds nearly 140 dominoes. We love that the carousel is designed to be hot-swappable, so you can keep a spare ready to go.

[DIY Machines] really thought of everything. Every dozen or so dominoes, the machine leaves a gap in case one of the dominoes is tipped prematurely. There are also a couple of accessories for it, like a speedy domino loading stick and a fun little staircase bridge to add to your domino creations. Though all the machine files are freely available, [DIY Machines] requests a small donation for the accessories files. Check out the complete build video after the break, followed by a bonus video that focuses on upgrading the machine with an HM10 Bluetooth module for controlling it directly with a phone.

This certainly isn’t the first domino-laying device we’ve seen, though it might be the most accessorized. [Matthias Wandel]’s version uses only one motor to move and deal the dominoes.

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Circuit Sculpture Vibration Sensor

Here’s your useful and beautiful circuit for the day — [New Pew]’s vibration sensor takes manual control of the flip-flop inside a 555 timer and lights an LED in response. Use it to detect those vibrations you expect, like laundry machines, or those you only suspect, like the kind that might be coming from your engine. This gadget isn’t super-precise, but it will probably get the job done.

The vibration-detecting bit is a tiny ball bearing soldered to the spring from an old pen, which is tied between the trigger and ground pins of the 555. When the chip is powered with a 9 V battery, nearby vibrations will induce wiggle in the spring, causing the ball bearing to contact the brass rod and completing the circuit. When this happens, the internal flip flop’s output goes high, which turns on the LED. Then the flip flop must be reset with a momentary button. Check out the build video after the break.

Want to pick up Earthly vibrations? You can detect earthquakes with a homemade variable capacitor, a 555, and a Raspberry Pi.

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ESP8266 Socket Is A Snap-Fit, Breadboard-Friendly Wonder

It all started with wanting to program an ESP-12 variant of an ESP8266 module without involving any solder. Displeased with all the socket offerings on Thingiverse, [tweeto] set out to design their own breadboard-friendly snap-fit socket.

This certainly looks like a handy solution. All you have to do is print the thing, add all the wires, and stick your ESP in there. Even that wire is easy to find; [tweeto] used 0.8 mm paper clips which are sturdy, conductive, and haunting the darkest corners of every desk drawer. They’re also a little bit on the thick side, so [tweeto] plans to test out 0.6mm copper wire in the future.

The challenge with this type of print is to design something that will stand up to repeated breadboardings without losing legs or falling apart. [tweeto]’s elegant solution is a tiny groove for each wire in the bottom of the socket — it keeps the wire in place by countering the play caused by inserting it into and removing it from a breadboard. See how [tweeto] bends the paper clips in the short video after the break.

There’s more than one way to use 3D printing to your circuit-building advantage, even in permanent circuits — just take a look at this PCB-free Arduboy.

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Helping Hands, Reinvented

[Nixie] was tired of using whatever happens to be around to hold things in place while soldering and testing. It was high time to obtain a helping hands of some kind, but [Nixie] was dismayed by commercial offerings — the plain old alligator clips and cast metal type leave a lot to be desired, and the cooling tube cephalopod type usually have the alligator clips just jammed into the standard tube ends with no thought given to fine control or the possibility of reducing cable count.

[Nixie] happened to have some unneeded cooling tube lying around and started designing a new type of helping hands from the ground plane up. Taking advantage of the fact that cooling tubes are hollow,  [Nixie] routed silicone-jacketed wires through them for power and low speed signals. These are soldered to five banana jacks that are evenly spaced around an alligator clip.

Even if you don’t need power, all those extra alligators would come in quite handy for circuit sculpture or anything else that requires a lot of hands. [Nixie] put the files up on Thingiverse if you want to make your own.

We’ve seen plenty of helping hands over the years, but this concrete-based helper ought to cement your decision to make your own.

Rhythm Game Controller Can’t Be Beat

There’s this whole class of vertically scrolling rhythm games that take both hands and look really fun to play, albeit hard on the joints. You can buy specialized controllers for them, but they’re ridiculously expensive for what they are — just a handful of switches and two knobs. It’s exactly the kind of thing you should build to your taste for far less money.

Inspired by a pocket version of the Voltex controller that is also pretty darned expensive, [OmniSaiRen] set out to make their own on the cheap by building an awesome little macro keyboard that’s smaller and easier to use than the specialized controller. Inside there’s an Arduino Pro Micro taking input from eight Cherry MX switches and two optical encoders. The game treats the encoders as vertical and horizontal mouse movements, so [OmniSaiRen]’s code scans the encoders for their positions.

[OmniSaiRen] wrote their own matrix code and says it’s ugly, but it works well enough to play the game. What more can you ask for? A cool sticker to go on the top? Done. It’s too cold outside to paint, anyway. If it’s a one-handed game pad you need, check out this sweet little thing.

Via r/duino

A Tubular Fairy Tale You Control With Your Phone

At first glance, this might appear to be a Rube Goldberg machine made of toys. The truth isn’t far off — it’s a remote-control animatronic story machine driven by its spectators and their phones. [Niklas Roy] and a team of volunteers built it in just two weeks for Phaenomenale, a festival centered around art and digital culture that takes place every other year.

A view of the tubes without the toys.

A red ball travels through a network of clear acrylic tubes using 3D printed Venturi air movers, gravity, and toys to help it travel. Spectators can change the ball’s path with their phones via a local website with a big picture of the installation. The ball triggers animations along its path using break beam detection and weaves a different story each time depending on the toys it interacts with.

Here’s how it works: a Raspberry Pi 4 is responsible for releasing the ball at the beginning of the track and for controlling the track switches. The Pi also hosts a server for smartphones and the 25 Arduino Nanos that control the LEDs and servos of the animatronics. As a bonus animatronic, there’s a giant whiteboard that rotates and switches between displaying the kids’ drawings and the team’s plans and schematics. Take a brief but up-close tour after the break.

This awesome art project was a huge collaborative effort that involved the people of Wolfsburg, Germany — families in the community donated their used and abandoned toys, groups of elementary school kids were brought in to create stories for the toys, and several high school kids and other collaborators realized these drawings with animatronics.

Toys can teach valuable lessons, too. Take this body-positive sushi-snarfing Barbie for example, or this dollhouse of horrors designed to burn fire safety into children’s brains.

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Amazon’s Custom T-Shirt May Rub You The Wrong Way

How far would you go in pursuit of the perfect black t-shirt? Would you let Amazon build a virtual double of your body? They already know so much about you, so what’s a body scan or two between customer and company?

So here’s the deal — Amazon is trying to launch a brand of bespoke clothing called Made for You, and they’re starting with custom solid color t-shirts. Here’s how it works: you give them $25 along with information about your height, weight, and skin tone. Then you upload two pictures of your torso to their app, and these get turned into a 3D model of your body. Once your avatar is built to match, you design your shirt to fit the model. In theory, you get a really good idea of how it will fit.

You can choose from two different fabrics and eight colors, and can customize the neckline, the shirt length, and the sleeve length. If you want to, you can put your name on the tag. Then your perfect t-shirt gets made in the US from imported fabric — either lightweight or medium weight pima cotton. We’re not sure if robots or people are making them, but our money is on people. After all, Amazon is the company that created Mechanical Turk to form a pool of humans available to do on-demand work via the Internet. This is along those lines but with tailors sewing to your specifications. The big questions are what do you get, how does the technology make these better than off-the-rack, and do you give up your privacy in return?

One-Size Fits One

To say that these are custom t-shirts is a bit of a stretch. Oh you don’t need to worry about the t-shirts being skin-tight and showcasing your spare tire — if it’s a relaxed fit you want, that’s one of the options. But the current options are limited.

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