Writing On A Whiteboard, Performed By A Robot

For some of us here at Hackaday, school is but a very distant memory. All that teenage awkwardness we’d rather forget, synth pop, and 8-bit computers were cool the first time around, and our newer classrooms didn’t have blackboards any more. The Whiteboard Future Had Arrived, and it came with solvent-laden pens that our more rebellious classmates swore would get you high if you sniffed them for long enough. Innocent times. Kids nowadays probably get their lessons from iPads, but the whiteboard isn’t finished just yet. [f4hdk] has updated his board with Scribot, a whiteboard-writing robot arm driven by a couple of stepper motors and a nicely-engineered set of belts, that writes text from ASCII files in a custom-designed vector font.

At the end of the arm is a whiteboard marker, and in a neat twist it has an eraser on its rear end. A quick flip of the servo holding the marker, and it can rub out any of its work. Behind it all is an LPC1789 Cortex M3-based Mbed board with appropriate servo driver boards, and for those curious enough to take a second look there is a full code repository. The result as you can see in the video below the break is a very well-executed whiteboard writer. Your 1980s teacher might have grumbled at the new technology, but certainly couldn’t accuse it of doing a bad job!

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Heat Seeking Robot and Camera Tear Down

[Marco Reps] found an HT02 thermal imaging camera in his mailbox. He found the resolution was fine for looking at big objects but worthless for examining circuit boards. So he decided to just tear it into pieces — an urge we totally understand.

Inside was a thermopile sensor that was easy to reverse engineer. So [Marco] decided to rework a Raspberry Pi robot to use the camera and turn it into a heat seeker.

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Roomba-Riding Beer Butlers Will Serve Us All

[Josh] isn’t one to refuse a challenge, especially when robots are involved. The latest dare from friends and family? Build a beer robot that can bring beverages at everyone’s beck and call.

The build consists of two main parts: the refrigerated cooler and the butler part, which comes courtesy of a Roomba Discovery from a fellow roboticist. [Josh] is basing the design on double-walled and insulated restaurant coolers. He built the refrigerated beverage hold from two stainless steel trash cans, sized an inch or so apart in diameter, and filled the gap with expanding foam insulation. He then cut away several inches from the bottom of the liner can to make room for the cooling unit, reinstalled the drip tray, and made a [airflow-allowing platform] by drilling a bunch of holes in an antimicrobial plastic cutting board.

At first, he tried a Peltier unit from an electric Igloo cooler, but that doesn’t work as well as [Josh] hoped, so he’s redesigning the can to use a mini fridge compressor. This meant making custom evaporator and condenser coils from copper tubing to match the compressor’s load spec. Go through [Josh]’s build logs over on IO and you’ll get a free mini-course on expanding foam and refrigeration.

[Josh] is currently working on some different butler modes for this robot. These run the gamut from simply sitting nearby with cold beverages and opening with the wave of a hand to doing voice-triggered beverage butler-ing at everyone’s beck and call. We applaud his efforts thus far and will be following this one with great thirst interest to see how he handles navigation and voice control.

Learning Software In A Soft Exosuit

Wearables and robots don’t often intersect, because most robots rely on rigid bodies and programming while we don’t. Exoskeletons are an instance where robots interact with our bodies, and a soft exosuit is even closer to our physiology. Machine learning is closer to our minds than a simple state machine. The combination of machine learning software and a soft exosuit is a match made in heaven for the Harvard Biodesign Lab and Agile Robotics Lab.

Machine learning studies a walker’s steady gait for twenty periods while vitals are monitored to assess how much energy is being expended. After watching, the taught machine assists instead of assessing. This type of personalization has been done in the past, but the addition of machine learning shows that the necessary customization can be programmed into each machine without a team of humans.

Exoskeletons are no stranger to these pages, our 2017 Hackaday Prize gave $1000 to an open-source set of robotic legs and reported on an exoskeleton to keep seniors safe.

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Social Networking Robot Actually Respects Privacy

[Fribo] the robot is a research project in the form of an adorable unit that hears and speaks, but doesn’t move. Moving isn’t necessary for it to do its job, which is helping people who live alone feel more connected with their friends. What’s more interesting (and we daresay, unusual) is that it does this in a way that respects and maintains individuals’ feelings of privacy. To be a sort of “social connector and trigger” between friends where every interaction is optional and opt-in was the design intent behind [Fribo].

The device works by passively monitoring one’s home and understands things like the difference between opening the fridge and opening the front door; it can recognize speech but cannot record and explicitly does not have a memory of your activities. Whenever the robot hears something it recognizes, it will notify other units in a circle of friends. For example, [Fribo] may suddenly say “Oh, one of your friends just opened their refrigerator. I wonder what food they are going to have?” People know someone did something, but not who. From there, there are two entirely optional ways to interact further: knocking indicates curiosity, clapping indicates empathy, and doing either reveals your identity to the originator. All this can serve as an opportunity to connect in some way, or it can just help people feel more connected to others. The whole thing is best explained by the video embedded below, which shows several use cases.

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Floor Mopping Robot Takes Cleanliness to the Next Level

While it’s nice to have a robot vacuum your floors for you, a vacuum can only clean your house so much. For a really deep clean, you’ll also need to run a mop over the hard floor surfaces. [Josh] took this to its logical conclusion and built a robot that can really scour his floors for his entry into this year’s Hackaday Prize.

The robot has the ability to spray the floor with a cleaning solution, and then drive over it and scrub the floors with a squeegee. Its designed in a way that allows it to get into tight corners without needing a special brush, and of course it has all the bells and whistles that other robots have, such as ultrasonic sensors, collision detection, and a brain that allows it to navigate a course and get the entire area cleaned.

There are many videos of the robot in action on the project site, showing its operation and testing various features of the device. It’s a pretty interesting take on the home robot, and since its Open Hardware you can build your own if you’re often frustrated by having to mop your own floors, or you could modify it to do things other than squeegee the floors clean.

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These Gorgeous Robot Parts are Hand-Made

[Dickel]’s robot MDi #4 has been in progress for several years, but what we wanted to draw your attention to is the way the parts have been fabricated and what kind of remarkable results are possible with careful design, measurement, cutting, and finishing. Much of MDi #4 was made by hand-cutting and drilling sheets of high impact polystyrene (HIPS) with a utility knife and layering them as needed. Epoxy and aluminum provide gap filling and reinforcement of key sections, and fiberglass took care of one of the larger sections.

The process [Dickel] follows is to prototype using cardboard first. Parts are then designed carefully in CAD, and printed out at a 1:1 scale and glued to sheets of polystyrene. Each sheet is cut and drilled by hand as necessary. Layers are stacked and epoxied, embedding any hardware needed in the process. Two examples of embedding hardware include sealing captive nuts into parts with epoxy, or using aluminum to add reinforcement. After some careful sanding, the pieces look amazing.

Scroll down a bit on that project page and you’ll see plenty of great photos of the process [Dickel] used. A video highlighting the head and a video showing the careful work that goes into making each part are embedded below.

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