We need to have a talk. As tough a pill as it is to swallow, we have to face that fact that some of the technology promised to us by Hollywood writers and prop makers just isn’t going to come true. We’re never going to have a flux capacitor, actual hoverboards aren’t a real thing, and nobody is going to have sword fights with laser beams.
But just because we can’t have real versions of these devices doesn’t mean we can’t make our own prop versions with a few value-added features, like this cool persistence-of-vision lightsaber. [Luni], better known around these parts as [Bitluni] and for his eponymous YouTube channel where he performs wizardry like turning an ESP32 into a software-defined television station, shows he’s no slouch at more mechanical builds either. The hardware is standard POV fare, with a gyro to sense the position of the lightsaber hilt and an ESP32 to run the long Neopixel strip in the blade. There’s also a LiPo pack and a biggish DC-DC converter; the latter contributes mightily to the look of the prop, with its large heatsinks that stick out from the end of the aluminum tubing hilt. There’s also a small speaker and amp for the requisite sound effects on startup and shutdown, and the position-sensitive thrumming is a nice touch too. Check out the POV action in the video below.
What’s that you say? You recall seeing a real lightsaber here before? Well, sort of, but that’s pushing things a bit. Or perhaps you’ve got this more destructive version in mind.
Continue reading “A Nicely Crafted POV Lightsaber”
The image of the crackpot inventor, disheveled, disorganized, and surrounded by the remains of his failures, is an enduring Hollywood trope. While a simple look around one’s shop will probably reveal how such stereotypes get started, the image is largely not a fair characterization of the creative mind and how it works, and does not properly respect those that struggle daily to push the state of the art into uncharted territory.
That said, there are plenty of wacky ideas that have come down the pike, most of which mercifully fade away before attracting undue attention. In times of war, though, the need for new and better ways to blow each other up tends to bring out the really nutty ideas and lower the barrier to revealing them publically, or at least to military officials.
Of all the zany plans that came from the fertile minds on each side of World War II, few seem as out there as a plan to use birds to pilot bombs to their targets. And yet such a plan was not only actively developed, it came from the fertile mind of one of the 20th century’s most brilliant psychologists, and very nearly resulted in a fieldable weapon that would let fly the birds of war.
Continue reading “Hacking When It Counts: Pigeon-Guided Missiles”
For some reason, we seem to really want our robots to walk on two legs like we do. And this despite how much the robots themselves want to be made out of motors, which match up so naturally with wheels. The result is a proliferation of inventive walking mechanisms. Here’s another.
Gyroman is a 3D printed gyroscope with legs. The gyroscope is geared down to lift one leg and then the other. First-semester physics, that we still find a little bit magical, makes the gyro precess and the robot turns a bit. Time these just right and it walks. See the video below for a demo. (Admittedly, Gyroman looks like he’s had a bit too much to drink as he winds down.)
Continue reading “Gyroman Walks with Just One Motor”
The picture above looks like a standard four-wheel drive (4WD) touring car. As one looks closer, a few strange things start to pop out. Where’s the motor? 4 electronic speed controls? What’s going on here? [HammerFET] has created this independent drive R/C car (YouTube link) as a research platform for his control system. The car started off life as a standard Schumacher Mi5 1/10th scale Touring Car. [HammerFET] removed the entire drive system. The motor, differentials, belt drive, and ESC all made for quite a pile of discarded hardware.
He replaced the drive system with 4 Turnigy brushless outrunner motors, installed at the chassis center line. To fit everything together, he had to 3D print new drive cups from stainless steel. The Mi5’s CVD drive shafts had to be cut down, and new carbon fiber suspension towers had to be designed and cut.
The real magic lies in [HammerFET’s] custom control board. He’s using an STM32F4 ARM processor and an InvenSense MPU-6050 IMU which drone pilots have come to know and love. Hall effect sensors mounted above each motor keep track of the wheel speed, much like an ABS ring on a full-scale car.
[HammerFET’s] software is created with MATLAB and SimuLink. He uses SimuLink’s embedded coder plugin to export his model to C, which runs directly on his board. Expensive software packages for sure, but they do make testing control algorithms much simpler. [HammerFET’s] code is available on Github.
Since everything is controlled by software, changing the car’s drive system is as simple as tweaking a few values in the code. Front and rear power offset is easily changed. Going from a locked spool to an open differential is as simple as changing a value from 0 to 1. Pushing the differential value past 1 literally overdrives the differential. In a turn, the outer wheel will be driven faster than it would be on a mechanical differential, while the inner wheel is slowed down. Fans of drifting will love this setting!
[HammerFET] is still working on his software, he hopes to implement electronic torque vectoring. Interested? Check out the conversation over on his Reddit thread.
Continue reading “Independent Wheel Drive R/C Car”
It’s off to the races once again with the Micomouse maze solving contest at the 2011 RoboGames. This is a picture of the winner, a bot called Min7 (main page) which was built by [Ng Beng Kiat]. Using four phototransistors and a flash sensor it managed to first map the contest maze, then speed run it in under four seconds. See both runs in videos after the break. He’s certainly got a leg up on the bots we saw last year. Min7 beats them both in time, and overall control during the speed run.
[Ng] mentions that this year is the first time he’s built a micromouse with four wheels instead of two. There’s a gyro on board which aids navigation by feeding the orientation data to the STM32 chip which controls the device. We took a moment to page through his past designs. It’s remarkable how they’ve evolved through the years. Continue reading “Micromouse wins 2011 maze race in under 4 seconds”
[Thanh] has spent some time flying quad-copters measuring 12” motor to motor, but wanted to build something smaller so that he could fly indoors. Instead of building just one, he actually constructed five different quad-copters, with motor to motor arm spans ranging from 10” to just 3”.
In his forum post, he highlights the construction process of his 10” copter, covering each step in great detail. While he breaks down his component lists into two categories based on motor to motor span, the one common item is the TI MSP430-based controller board. In particular, he used the eZ430-RF2500 development kit, which has the added benefit of a built-in 2.4 GHz wireless radio. His quad-copter uses a Wii Motion Plus gyro board to help keep it aloft, as well a handful of other components which should be pretty familiar to most of our readers.
It’s great to see the construction broken down in such detail, we imagine it will be a great resource for anyone else looking to build their own quad-copter.
Stick around to see a quick video demonstration of his mini quad-copter in action.
Continue reading “MSP430-based palm size quad copter”
While the Segway enjoyed a few years of fame before falling off the radar, [Marcelo Fornaso] is hoping his creation has quite a bit more staying power. Inspired by the Segway’s ability to balance itself, he started thinking about how the concept could be improved. He felt that one of the Segway’s shortcomings arose out of the fact that the base platform was rigid and required the user to lean back and forth outside the device’s frame in order to turn it. He thought that this made the riding experience uncomfortable as well as risked causing the rider to fall over.
His creation, the Tilto, aims to both improve on the turning ability of the Segway while eliminating the need for handlebars. Based on a tilting mountain board design he had been tossing around for a while, the Tilto uses accelerometers and gyros to keep its balance, much like the Segway. His goal was to keep the vehicle balanced while traveling forwards and backwards, but also allowing the device to tilt from side to side without tipping over. This design keeps the rider mostly upright, allowing the user to direct the vehicle by leaning much like you would on a bicycle.
As you can see in the video below, the Tilto works pretty well, even in its prototype form.
Finally, a people mover that lets us get our gangsta lean on!
Continue reading “Watch out Segway, here comes Tilto”