There was an unbelievable amount of stuff on display at the 2018 World Maker Faire in New York. Seriously, an unreal amount of fantastically cool creations from all corners of the hacker and maker world: from purely artistic creations to the sort of cutting edge hardware that won’t even be on the rest of the world’s radar for a year or so, and everything in between. If you’ve got a creative bone in your body, this is the place for you.
But if there was one type of creation that stood out amongst all others, a general “theme” of Maker Faire if you will, it was robotics. Little robots, big robots, flying robots, battling robots, even musical robots. Robots to delight children of all ages, and robots to stalk the darkest corners of their nightmares. There were robots for all occasions. Probably not overly surprising for an event that has a big red robot as its mascot, but still.
There were far too many robots to cover them all, but the following is a collection of a few of the more interesting robotic creations we saw on display at the event. If you’re the creator of one of the robots we didn’t get a chance to get up close and personal with in our whirlwind tour through the Flushing Meadows Corona Park, we only ask that you please don’t send it here to exact your revenge. We’re very sorry. (Just kidding, if you have a robot to show off drop a link in the comments!)
Open Bionics is a company creating prosthetics inspired by heroines, heroes and the fictional worlds they live in. The designs emblazoned on their first set of bionic hands include ones drawn from Queen Elsa from Disney’s Frozen, and Marvel’s Iron Man. The best thing about what they are doing is they offer you, dear reader, a chance to lend your own super powers of design and engineering. Open Bionics offers up 3D print files for several hand designs, hardware schematics and design files for their controller boards, firmware, and software to control the robotic hands with. Other than their website, you can also find all of the files and more on their GitHub account. If you’d like to devote a good amount of time and become a developer, they have a form to contact them through. To help with sourcing parts for your own build, they sell cables for tendons, muscle sensors, and fingertip grips in their online store.
We first came to learn about this company through a tipster [Dj Biohazard] who pointed to a post about their partnership with an 11-year-old Tilly, who is pictured on the left. Her bionic hand is an Open Bionics prototype whose design is based on the video game, Deus Ex. The best way products like these are improved are through the open source community and people like her.
Specific improvements Open Bionics state on their website are:
The customised bionic arms are manufactured in under 24 hours and the revolutionary socket adjusts as the child grows.
The bionic arms are light and small enough for those as young as eight.
The bionic arms use myoelectric skin sensors to detect the user’s muscle movements, which can be used to control the hand and open and close the fingers.
Read more about Tilly’s story and her partnership with Open Bionic’s on Womanthology. Tilly seems to have a dream of her own to “make prosthetics a high fashion piece – something that amputees can be proud to wear.”
We at Hackaday have written about several open source prosthetic developments such as a five-day event S.T.E.A.M. Fabrikarium program taking place at Maker’s Asylum in Mumbai and the work of [Nicholas Huchet]. What superhuman inspired designs would you create?
Italian startup [Youbionic] have developed this pair of 3D printed hands which aim to extend the user’s multi-tasking capacity. Strapped to the forearm and extending past the user’s natural hand, they are individually operated by flexing either the index or ring fingers. This motion is picked up by a pair of flex sensor strips — a sharp movement will close the fist, while a slower shift will close it halfway.
At present, the hands are limited in their use — they are fixed to the mounting plate and so are restricted to gripping tasks, but with a bit of practice could end up being quite handy. Check out the video of them in action after the break!
When it comes to high-tech bionic legs for amputees, all the cool stuff is titanium, carbon fiber or other, more exotic materials. With carbon fiber “blades” all the rage, it’s easy to forget that simpler technologies still work, and could be made to work even better with the addition of some inexpensive electronics. The Economical Bionic Leg project is the result of that idea.
Project creators [PremJ20] and [G.Vignesh] aren’t kidding about bringing the cost of these bionic legs down. The target goal is $60 per, with stainless steel and silicon rubber as a cheaper alternative to carbon fiber — the rubber would be molded to fit the amputated region. The heart of the project is a Particle Photon development board, with a flex sensor and accelerometer monitoring the prosthesis and supplying data to the cloud. It’s essentially a basic prosthetic leg with a monitoring system built in. Placing a sensor cuff on the regular leg, the artificial limb’s flexibility can be fine-tuned to match the two.
Will this inexpensive bionic leg ever compete in the Olympics, like [Oscar Pistorious] run in the 2012 London event? Probably not — the tech that goes into artificial limbs has the same amount of material science going into it as F1 racing and turbojet design. Still, this is a very cheap way to bring tech into something that desperately needs to be cheaper, and it’s a great Hackaday Prize entry, to boot.
There’s a harsh truth underlying all robotic research: compared to evolution, we suck at making things move. Nature has a couple billion years of practice making things that can slide, hop, fly, swim and run, so why not leverage those platforms? That’s the idea behind this turtle with a navigation robot strapped to its back.
This reminds us somewhat of an alternative universe sci-fi story by S.M. Stirling called The Sky People. In the story, Venus is teeming with dinosaurs that Terran colonists use as beasts of burden with brain implants that stimulate pleasure centers to control them. While the team led by [Phill Seung-Lee] at the Korean Advanced Institute of Science and Technology isn’t likely to get as much work from the red-eared slider turtle as the colonists in the story got from their bionic dinosaurs, there’s still plenty to learn from a setup like this. Using what amounts to a head-up display for the turtle in the form of a strip of LEDs, along with a food dispenser for positive reinforcement, the bionic terrapin is trained to associate food with the flashing LEDs. The LEDs are then used as cues as the turtle navigates between waypoints in a tank. Sadly, the full article is behind a paywall, but the video below gives you a taste of the gripping action.
Festo has released a video showing the workings of their BionicCobot, a pneumatic robot arm developed for lending a helping hand to humans at a workstation. Since it works intimately with humans, it has to be safe, producing no harmful movements, and reacting when encountering an obstacle such as an arm containing delicate human bone. This it does using pneumatics and rotary vanes.
The arm has seven degrees of freedom, three in the shoulder, one in the elbow, another in the lower arm, and two in the wrist. But you won’t find any electric motor or gears. Instead each contains a rotary vane. Compressed air pushes on both sides of the vane. If the air pressure is the same on both sides of the vane then it doesn’t rotate. But with more pressure on one side than the other, the vane rotates. This is much like in a human arm, where two muscles work together to bend the arm, one muscle contracts while the other relaxes. Together they’re referred to as an antagonistic pair. In addition, each joint has a circuit board with two pressure sensors for monitoring the joint.
Using pneumatics, if an obstacle is encountered, the pressure can be released, making it instantly safe. And air being compressible, the joint can behave like a spring, further adding to the safeness. By controlling the pressure, the spring can be made more or less tense.
Developing into a modern hacker and tinkerer requires a lot of things: electronics study, programming knowledge, and patience (among many other things). But, the most important quality a hacker can have is curiosity. The desire to see how things work is what drives most budding hackers towards the dismantling of family appliances and electronic gadgets.
Many end up scavenging parts from the things around the house for their first projects. But, with money and more ambitious builds comes the need to purchase parts off the shelf. There is, however, something to be said for the ingenuity that comes with building something solely with scavenged parts, and that’s what [Evan Booth] decided to do, in a spectacular fashion.