Pinball Machine Needs No Wizard

Ever since he was a young boy, [Tyler] has played the silver ball. And like us, he’s had a lifelong fascination with the intricate electromechanical beasts that surround them. In his recently-completed senior year of college, [Tyler] assembled a mechatronics dream team of [Kevin, Cody, and Omar] to help turn those visions into self-playing pinball reality.

You can indeed play the machine manually, and the Arduino Mega will keep track of your score just like a regular cabinet. If you need to scratch an itch, ignore a phone call, or just plain want to watch a pinball machine play itself, it can switch back and forth on the fly. The USB camera mounted over the playfield tracks the ball as it speeds around. Whenever it enters the flipper vectors, the appropriate flipper will engage automatically to bat the ball away.

Our favorite part of this build (aside from the fact that it can play itself) is the pachinko multi-ball feature that manages to squeeze in a second game and a second level. This project is wide open, and even if you’re not interested in replicating it, [Tyler] sprinkled a ton of good info and links to more throughout the build logs. Take a tour after the break while we have it set on free play.

[Tyler]’s machine uses actual pinball machine parts, which could quickly ramp up the cost. If you roll your own targets and get creative with solenoid sourcing, building a pinball machine doesn’t have to be a drain on your wallet.

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Machine Vision Keeps Track Of Grubby Hands

Can you remember everything you’ve touched in a given day? If you’re being honest, the answer is, “Probably not.” We humans are a tactile species, with an outsized proportion of both our motor and sensory nerves sent directly to our hands. We interact with the world through our hands, and unfortunately that may mean inadvertently spreading disease.

[Nick Bild] has a potential solution: a machine-vision system called Deep Clean, which monitors a scene and records anything in it that has been touched. [Nick]’s system uses Jetson Xavier and a stereo camera to detect depth in a scene; he built his camera from a pair of Raspberry Pi cams and a Pi 3B+, but other depth cameras like a Kinect could probably do the job. The idea is to watch the scene for human hands — OpenPose is the tool he chose for that job — and correlate their depth in the scene with the depth of objects. Touch a doorknob or a light switch, and a marker is left on the scene. The idea would be that a cleaning crew would be able to look at the scene to determine which areas need extra attention. We can think of plenty of applications that extend beyond the current crisis, as the ability to map areas that have been touched seems to be generally useful.

[Nick] has been getting some mileage out of that Xavier lately — he’s used it to build an AI umpire and shades that help you find lost stuff. Who knows what else he’ll find to do with them during this time of confinement?

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Upgrade Your Shades To Find Lost Items

Ever wish you could augment your sense of sight?

[Nick Bild]’s latest hack helps you find objects (or people) by locating their position and tracking them with a laser. The device, dubbed Artemis, latches onto your eyeglasses and can be configured to locate a specific object.

Images collected from the device are streamed to an NVIDIA Jetson AGX Xavier board, which uses a SSD300 (Single Shot MultiBox Detection) model to locate objects. The model was pre-trained with the COCO dataset to recognize and localize 80 different object types given input from images thresholded in OpenCV. Once the desired object is identified and located, a laser diode activates.

Probably due to the current thresholds, the demo runs mostly work on objects placed further apart against a neutral background. It’s an interesting look at applications combining computer vision with physical devices to augment experiences, rather than simply processing and analyzing data.

The device uses two servos for controlling the laser: one for X-axis control and the other for Y-axis control. The controls are executed from an Adafruit Itsy Bitsy M4 Express microcontroller.

Perhaps with a bit more training, we might not have so much trouble with “Where’s Waldo” puzzles anymore.

Check out some of our other sunglasses hacks, from home automation to using LCDs to lessening the glare from headlights.

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Open Source Kitchen Helps You Watch What You Eat

Every appliance business wants to be the one that invents the patented, license-able, and profitable standard that all the other companies have to use. Open Source Kitchen wants to beat them to it. 

Every beginning standard needs a test case, and OSK’s is a simple one. A bowl that tracks what you eat. While a simple concept, the way in which the data is shared, tracked, logged, and communicated is the real goal.

The current demo uses a Nvidia Jetson Nano as its processing center. This $100 US board packs a bit of a punch in its weight class. It processes the video from a camera held above the bowl of fruit, suspended by a scale in a squirrel shaped hangar, determining the calories in and calories out.

It’s an interesting idea. One wonders how the IoT boom might have played out if there had been a widespread standard ready to go before people started walling their gardens.

Sensing, Connected, Utility Transport Taxi For Level Environments

If that sounds like a mouthful, just call it SCUTTLE – the open-source mobile robot designed at Texas A&M University. SCUTTLE is a low cost (under $350) robot designed for teaching Aggies at the Multidisciplinary Engineering Technology (MXET) program, where it is used for in-lab lessons and semester projects for the MXET 300 – Mobile Robotics undergraduate course. Since it is designed for academic purposes, the robot is very well documented, making it easy to replicate when you follow the instructions. In fact, the team is looking for others to build SCUTTLE’s and give them feedback in order to improve its design.

Available on the SCUTTLE website are a large collection of videos to walk you through fabrication, electronics setup, robot assembly, programming, and robot operation. They are designed to help students build and operate the mobile robot within one semester. Most of the mechanical and electronics parts needed for the robot are off-the-shelf and easy to procure and the rest of the custom parts can be easily 3D printed. Its modular design allows you the freedom to try different options, features and upgrades. SCUTTLE is powerful enough to carry a payload up to 9 kg (20 pounds) allowing additional hardware to be added. To keep cost low and construction easy, the robot uses a simple, two wheel drive system, using a pair of geared motors. This forces the robot to literally scuttle in a “non-holonomic” fashion to move from origin to destination in a sequence of left / right turns and forward moves, so motion planning is interestingly tricky.

The SCUTTLE robot is programmed using Python3 running under Linux and has been tested working on either a BeagleBone Blue or a Raspberry Pi. The SCUTTLE software guide is a good place to get acquainted with the system architecture.

The standard configuration uses ultrasonic sensors for collision avoidance, a standard USB camera for vision, and encoders coupled to the wheel drive pulleys for determining position with respect to the starting origin. An optional USB LiDAR can be added for area mapping. The additional payload capability allows adding on extra sensors, actuators or battery packs.

To complement information on the website, additional resources are posted on GitHub, GrabCAD and YouTube. Building a SCUTTLE robot ought to be a great group project at maker spaces wanting to get hackers started with Robotics. We have covered many Educational Robot projects in the past, but the SCUTTLE really shines with its ability to carry a pretty decent payload at a low cost.

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The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear LCDs

Whether it was rays from the Sun that made a 150 million kilometer trip just to ruin your day or somebody’s unreasonably bright aftermarket headlights, at some point or another we’ve all experienced the discomfort of bright spots in our eyes. But short of wearing welder’s goggles all the time, what can we do? Luckily for us, [Nick Bild] has come up with a solution. Sort of.

Modifying the LCD so it can be seen through.

By adding LCDs to a pair of standard sunglasses, [Nick] has created something he’s calling “Light Brakes”. The idea is that the LCDs, having their backings removed, can essentially be used as programmable shutters to block out a specific part of the image that’s passing through them. With the addition of a Raspberry Pi and a camera, the Light Brakes can identify an unusually bright source of light and block it from the wearer’s vision by drawing a sufficiently large blob on the LCDs.

At least, that’s the idea. As you can see in the video after the break, the LCDs ability to block out a moving source of light is somewhat debatable. It’s also unclear what, if any, effect the “blocking” would have on UV, so you definitely shouldn’t try looking at the sun with a pair of these.

That said, a refined version of the concept could have some very interesting applications. For instance, imagine a pair of glasses that could actively block out advertisements or other unpleasant images from your field of vision. If this all sounds a bit like something out of an episode of Black Mirror, that’s because it is.

Attentive readers may have noticed that this isn’t the first time these fashionable frames have graced the pages of Hackaday. Over the summer they were used in a very interesting field of view home automation project that [Nick] was working on. This also isn’t the first time he’s stuck a pair of small LCDs in front of his eyes in the name of progress. We’re starting to identify something of a trend here, though we certainly aren’t complaining.

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Robot Allows Remote Colleagues To Enjoy Office Shenanigans

[Esther Rietmann] and colleagues built a Telepresence Robot to allow work at home teammates to have a virtual, but physical presence in the office. A telepresence robot is like a tablet mounted on a Roomba, providing motion capability in addition to an audio/video connection. Built during a 48 hour hackathon, it is a bit crude under the hood and misses out on some features, such as a bidirectional video feed. But overall, it pretty much does what is expected from such a device.

The main structure is build from cheap aluminium profiles and sheets. A Raspberry Pi is at the heart of the electronics hardware, with a servo mounted Pi-camera and speaker-microphone pair taking care of video and audio. The two DC motors are driven by H-bridges controlled from the Pi and an idle swivel caster is attached as the third wheel. The whole thing is powered by a power bank. The one important thing missing is an HDMI display which can show a video feed from the remote laptop camera. That may have been due to time constraints, but this feature should not be too difficult to add as a future upgrade. It’s important for both sides to be able to see each other.

The software is built around WebRTC protocol, with the WebRTC Extension from UV4L doing most of the heavy lifting. The UV4L Streaming Server not only provides its own built-in set of web applications and services, but also embeds a general-purpose web server on another port, allowing the user to run and deploy their own custom web apps. This allowed [Esther Rietmann]’s team to build a basic but functional front-end to transmit data from the remote interface for controlling the robot. The remote computer runs a Python control script, running as a system service, to control the drive motors and camera servo.

The team also played with adding basic object, gesture and action recognition features. This was done using PoseNet – a machine learning model, which allows for real-time human pose estimation in the browser using TensorFlowJS – allowing them to demonstrate some pose detection capability. This could be useful as a “follow me” feature for the robot.

Another missing feature, which most other commercial telepresence robots have, is a sensor suite for collusion avoidance, object detection and awareness such as micro switches, IR / ultrasonic detectors, time of flight cameras or LiDAR’s. It would be relatively easy to add one or several sensors to the robot.

If you’d like to build one for yourself, check out their code repository on Github and the videos below.

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