Join us on Wednesday, May 20 at noon Pacific for the Animatronics Hack Chat with Will Cogley!
While robots have only a made a comparatively recent appearance on the technology timeline, people have been building mechanical simulations of living organisms for a long time indeed. For proof, one needs only to look back at the automatons built by clever craftsmen to amuse and delight their kings and queens. The clockwork mechanisms that powered fanciful birds and animals gave way to the sophisticated dolls and mannequins that could perform complex tasks like writing and performing music, all with the goal of creating something that looked and acted like it was alive.
Once the age of electronics came around, the springs that drove the early automatons and the cams that programmed their actions were replaced by motors and control circuits. New materials made once-clunky mechanisms finer and more precise, sensors and servos made movements more lifelike, and the age of animatronics was born.
Animatronics have since become a huge business, mostly in the entertainment industry. From robotic presidents to anachronistic dinosaurs to singing rodents designed to sell pizza, animatronics have been alternately entertaining and terrifying us for decades. The fact that they’re not “real” robots doesn’t make the melding of mechanical, electrical, and computer systems into a convincing representation of a real being any less challenging. Will Cogley has more than a few amazing animatronic designs under his belt, some of which we’ve featured on Hackaday. From hearts to hands to slightly terrifying mouths, Will puts a ton of work into his mechanisms, and he’ll stop by the Hack Chat to tell us all about designing and building animatronics.
Our Hack Chats are live community events in the Hackaday.io Hack Chat group messaging. This week we’ll be sitting down on Wednesday, May 20 at 12:00 PM Pacific time. If time zones have got you down, we have a handy time zone converter.
Click that speech bubble to the right, and you’ll be taken directly to the Hack Chat group on Hackaday.io. You don’t have to wait until Wednesday; join whenever you want and you can see what the community is talking about.
Continue reading “Animatronics Hack Chat”
Behold the wondrous complexity of the human hand. Twenty-seven bones working in concert with muscles, tendons, and ligaments extending up the forearm to produce a range of motions that gave us everything from stone tools to symphonies. Our hands are what we use to interface with the physical world on a fine level, and it’s understandable that we’d want mechanical versions of ourselves to include hands that were similarly dexterous.
That’s a tall order to fill, but this biomimetic mechatronic hand is a pretty impressive step in that direction. It’s [Will Cogley]’s third-year university design project, which he summarizes in the first video below. There are two parts to this project; the mechanical hand itself and the motion-capture glove to control it, both of which we find equally fascinating. The control glove is covered with 3D-printed sensors for each joint in the hand. He uses SMD potentiometers to measure joint angles, with some difficulty due to breakage of the solder joints; perhaps he could solve that with finer wires and better strain relief.
The hand that the glove controls is a marvel of design, like something on the end of a Hollywood android’s arm. Each finger joint is operated by a servo in the forearm pulling on cables; the joints are returned to the neutral position by springs. The hand is capable of multiple grip styles and responds fairly well to the control glove inputs, although there is some jitter in the sensors for some joints.
The second video below gives a much more detailed overview of the project and shows how [Will]’s design has evolved and where it’s going. Anthropomorphic hands are far from rare projects hereabouts, but we’d say this one has a lot going for it.
Continue reading “Mechatronic Hand Mimics Human Anatomy To Achieve Dexterity”
For all those who have complained about Rubik’s Cube solving robots in the past by dismissing purpose-built rigs that hold the cube in a non-anthropomorphic manner: checkmate.
The video below shows not only that a robot can solve the classic puzzle with mechanical hands, but it can also do it with just one of them – and that with only three fingers. The [Yamakawa] lab at the University of Tokyo built the high-speed manipulator to explore the kinds of fine motions that humans perform without even thinking about them. Their hand, guided by a 500-fps machine vision system, uses two opposing fingers to grip the lower part of the cube while using the other finger to flick the top face of the cube counterclockwise. The entire cube can also be rotated on the vertical axis, or flipped 90° at a time. Piecing these moves together lets the hand solve the cube with impressive speed; extra points for the little, “How’s that, human?” flick at the end.
It might not be the fastest cube solver, or one that’s built right into the cube itself, but there’s something about the dexterity of this hand that we really appreciate.
Continue reading “Robot Solves Rubik’s Cube With One Hand Tied Behind Its Back”