Realistic Animatronic Eyes Are An Easy DIY Build

It’s not Halloween yet, but if you’re planning a technically-complicated costume, it might serve you well to start building now. To that end, here’s a guide from [Ikkalebob] on how to produce a compact animatronic eye mechanism.

The eye is inspired by mechanisms used in professional animatronics. However, that doesn’t mean it’s hard to build. Complex machining is done away with in favor of readily reproducible 3D-printed components. The eyes are able to look in different directions and can move realistically, and the build includes working eyelids that have a great blinking action to them that feels very natural. An Arduino Uno is charged with running the eyes, paired with a bunch of hobby servos and an Adafruit PCA9685 servo driver. A hefty 5V, 4 amp power supply is on hand to deliver enough juice so the servos move smoothly without stuttering.

It’s the kind of thing that’s perfect for your spooky familiar, or installing eyes in the back of your head. It would be perfect to hide behind a window or in the bushes, too. Video after the break.

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Image from the paper with items a-d. a) Schematic of the EC navigation system integrated with a smart contact lens consisting of GPS receiver module, Arduino UNO as a processor, and PB display. b) Photograph of contact lens placed on the 3D printed replica eyeball. c) Camera setup of the navigation system on the dashboard of a car. d) Driving schemes updating the direction signal: (1–4) images show the four cases of operational principles used in the navigation system. Based on 0.2 V applied to the common pin, 0 V (off-state) and 0.7 V (on-state) are applied alternately in 5 WEs, and operating voltages with relative voltages of −0.2 V and 0.5 V are obtained (From the figure reads left to right: the name of 6 pins used in the system, their on–off status, the applied voltage, and relative voltage). Scale bar is 2 mm.

Smart Contact Lenses Tell You Where To Go

Augmented Reality (AR) promises to relieve us from from the boredom of mundane reality and can also help you navigate unfamiliar environments. Current AR tech leaves something to be desired, but researchers at the Korea Electrotechnology Research Institute have brought AR contact lenses closer to actual reality.

The researchers micro-printed FeFe(CN)6 ink onto the contact substrate and thermally reduced it at 120˚C for nine seconds to form Prussian Blue, an electrochromic pigment. By confining the material with the meniscus of the ink, resolution was better than previous techniques to display data on contact lenses. While the ability to reversibly change from clear to blue faded after 200 cycles, the researchers were targeting a disposable type of smart contact lens, so degradation of the display wasn’t considered a deal breaker.

Since voltages applied were constant, it seems this isn’t a true bi-stable display like e-ink where power is only required to change states. The on condition of a section required 0.5 V while off was -0.2 V. The researchers printed a contact with straight, left, and right arrows as well as STOP and GO commands. Connected to a GPS-equipped Arduino Uno, they used it to navigate between ten different checkpoints as a demonstration. Only a 3D printed eyeball was brave enough (or had IRB approval) to wear the contact lens, so watching the state change through a macro lens attached to a smartphone camera had to do.

With more AR devices on the way, maybe it’s time to start embedding household objects with invisible QR codes or cleaning your workshop to get ready for your AR workbench.

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Hackaday Links: October 2, 2022

“Necessity is the mother of invention,” or so the saying goes. We’ve never held to that, finding that laziness is a much more powerful creative lubricant. And this story about someone who automated their job with a script is one of the best examples of sloth-driven invention since the TV remote was introduced. If we take the story at face value — and it’s the Internet, so why wouldn’t we? — this is a little scary, as the anonymous employee was in charge of curating digital evidence submissions for a law firm. The job was to watch for new files in a local folder, manually copy them to a cloud server, and verify the file with a hash to prove it hasn’t been tampered with and support the chain of custody. The OP says this was literally the only task to perform, so we can’t really blame them for automating it with a script once COVID shutdowns and working from home provided the necessary cover. But still — when your entire job can be done by a Windows batch file and some PowerShell commands while you play video games, we’re going to go out on a limb and say you’re probably underemployed.

People have been bagging on the US Space Force ever since its inception in 2019, which we think is a little sad. It has to be hard being the newest military service, especially since it branched off of the previously newest military service, and no matter how important its mission may be, there’s still always going to be the double stigmas of being both the new kid on the block and the one with a reputation for digging science fiction. And now they’ve given the naysayers yet more to dunk on, with the unveiling of the official US Space Force service song. Every service branch has a song — yes, even the Army, and no, not that one — and they all sound appropriately martial. So does the Space Force song, but apparently people have a problem with it, which we really don’t get at all — it sounds fine to us.

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Enjoy This Animatronic Eyeball’s Smooth Moves

[Enza3D] shows off a surprisingly compact articulated animatronic eyeball that can be intuitively controlled with a Wii nunchuk controller. The design uses 3D printed parts and some tiny servos, and all of the necessary electronics can be easily purchased online. The mechanical design of the eye is very impressive, and [Enza3D] walks through several different versions of the design, the end result of which is a tidy little assembly that would fit nicely into masks, costumes, or other projects.

A Wii nunchuk is ideal for manual control of such a device, thanks to its ergonomic design and ease of interface (the nunchuk communicates over I2C, which is easily within the reach of even most modest of microcontrollers.) Of course, since driving servos is also almost trivial nowadays, it doesn’t look like working this into an automated project would pose much of a challenge.

The eyeball looks great, but if you want to try for yourself, accessing the design files and code will set you back $10 which might look attractive if an eye like this is the missing link for a project.

On the other hand, enjoying the video (embedded below) and getting ideas from [Enza3D]’s design notes will only cost you a few minutes.

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Bionic Implants Can Go Obsolete And Unsupported, Too

When a piece of hardware goes unsupported by a company, it can be frustrating. Bugs may no longer get fixed, or in the worst cases, perfectly good hardware can stop working entirely as software licences time out. Sadly, for a group reliant on retinal implants from company Second Sight, the company has since stopped producing and supporting the devices that give them a crude form of bionic sight.

The devices themselves consist of electrodes implanted into the retina, which can send signals to the nervous system which appear as spots of light to the user. A camera feed is used to capture images which are then translated into signals sent to the retinal electrodes. The results are low-resolution to say the least, and the vision supplied is crude, but it gives users that are blind a rudimentary sense that they never had before. It’s very much a visual equivalent to the cochlear implant technology.

The story is altogether too familiar; Second Sight Medical Products came out with a cutting-edge device, raised money and put it out into the world, only to go bankrupt down the road, leaving its users high and dry. Over 350 people have the implants fitted in one eye, while one Terry Byland is the sole person to have implants in both his left and right eyeballs. Performance of the device was mixed, with some users raving about the device while others questioned its utility.

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DIY Glasses Aim To Improve Color Vision

Typically, to improve one’s eyesight, we look to tools like corrective lenses or laser eye surgery to improve optical performance. However, [Casey Connor 2] came across another method, that uses light exposure to improve color vision, and set about trying to achieve the same results at home. 

A recent study published in Nature showed that a single exposure to 670 nm light for 3 minutes lead to an improvement in color perception lasting up to a week. The causative method is that cones in the eye get worse at producing ATP as we age, and with less of this crucial molecule supplying energy to cells in the eye, our colour perception declines. Exposure to 670 nm light seems to cause mitochondria in the eye to produce more ATP in a rather complicated physical interaction.

For [Casey’s] build, LEDs were used to produce the required 670 nm red light, installed into ping pong balls that were glued onto a pair of sunglasses. After calculating the right exposure level and blasting light into the eyes regularly each morning, [Casey] plans on running a chromaticity test in the evenings with a custom Python script to measure color perception.

[Casey] shows a proper understanding of the scientific process, and has accounted for the cheap monitor and equipment used in the testing. The expectation is that it should be possible to show a relative positive or negative drift, even if the results may not be directly comparable to industry-grade measures.

We’re eager to see the results of [Casey]’s testing, and might even be tempted to replicate the experiment if it proves successful. We’ve explored some ocular topics in the past too, like the technology that goes into eyeglasses. Video after the break.

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Omnibot From The 80s Gets LED Matrix Eyes, Camera

[Ramin assadollahi] has been busy rebuilding and improving an Omnibot 5402, and the last piece of hardware he wanted to upgrade was some LED matrix eyes and a high quality Raspberry Pi camera for computer vision. An Omnibot was something most technical-minded youngsters remember drooling over in the 80s, and when [ramin] bought a couple of used units online, he went straight to the workbench to give the vintage machines some upgrades. After all, the Omnibot 5402 was pretty remarkable for its time, but is capable of much more with some modern hardware. One area that needed improvement was the eyes.

The eyes on the original Omnibot could light up, but that’s about all they were capable of. The first upgrade was installing two 8×8 LED matrix displays to form what [ramin] calls Minimal Expressive Eyes (MEE), powered by a Raspberry Pi. With the help of a 3D-printed adapter and some clever layout, the LED matrix displays fit behind the eye plate, maintaining the original look while opening loads of new output possibilities.

Adding a high quality Raspberry Pi camera with wide-angle lens was a bit more challenging and required and extra long camera ribbon connector, but with the lens nestled just below the eyes, the camera has a good view and isn’t particularly noticeable when the eyes are lit up. Having already upgraded the rest of the hardware, all that remains now is software work and we can’t wait to see the results.

Two short videos of the hardware are embedded below, be sure to give them a peek. And when you’re ready for more 80s-robot-upgrading-action, check out the Hero Jr.

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