An Exoskeleton Arm For A Hacker On A Budget

Whether it is motivated by a dream of superhuman strength courtesy of a mech suit or of mobility for those with impaired muscle function, the powered exoskeleton exerts a curious fascination among engineers. The idea of a machine-augmented human body achieving great things is thwarted though by the difficulty of the task, actuators and power sources small enough to be worn comfortably represent a significant challenge that is not easily overcome. It’s a subject that has captivated [Kristjan Berce] since at a young age seeing his grandmother struggling with lifting, and he presents a working powered exoskeleton arm as a proof of his ideas.

It’s a wonderful exercise in low-tech construction with hand tools and a drill press on pieces of aluminium and wood. Motive power comes from an automotive windscreen wiper motor, and electrical power comes from a hefty LiPo attached to the device’s harness. There is a feedback potentiometer incorporated into the elbow joint, and an Arduino oversees the operation under the direction of a pair of glove-mounted buttons. It’s certainly impressive to see it in the video below lifting a bicycle, though we wonder how its weight might affect someone with less muscle function than average.

Projects like this one are very good to see, because there’s a chance that somebody out there may be helped by building one of these. However there is always a note of caution to be struck, as the best solutions come from those who need them and not those who merely think they have the solution. We have written about the Engineer Saviour Trap here in years past.

This isn’t the first prosthetic arm we’ve seen though, we covered a hackerspace in England printing one for a local youngster.

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An Epic Mech Cockpit Build For Steel Battalion

Steel Battalion was released for the Xbox in 2002, and remains one of the most hardcore mech simulators of all time. It became legendary for its huge twin-stick controller covered in buttons, and for deleting your save game if you failed to eject in time. It took giant robot gaming to a new level, but fundamentally, you were still playing in front of a TV at home. Things really got serious in 2015, with the completion of the Big Steel Battalion Box – the battlemech cockpit of your dreams.

Coaching the player is a key part of BSBB gameplay, with a manual created specifically for this purpose.

If you’re thinking this is just a television in a dark room with some stickers, you’d be very wrong. The Imgur thread covers the build process, and it’s one heck of a ride. Things started with a custom cabinet being built, intentionally sized to induce claustrophobia. There’s a swivelling seat with a 4-point harness, and a hatch to seal the player inside. During initial testing of the box to determine how dark it was, one of the makers was trapped inside and had to call for help. That should highlight how serious the build really is.

The controller was modified and hooked up to custom electronics to add realistic effects. Get hit? Feel the seat rumble thanks to motors and a subwoofer in the base. Mech terminally damaged? The entire cockpit is bathed in flashing red light. There’s even smoke effects rigged up to make things even more stressful during battle.

The entire setup is connected to the outside world, where a coach can view the action inside through a video feed from the Xbox and several internal cameras. A basic manual is provided to help the coach keep the player alive during their first moments of combat. This is courtesy of a custom intercom setup, built using surplus Chinese aviation headsets. There’s even a red telephone to give that authentic military feel.

It’s a build that covers just about every detail you could think of. If you’re keen to try it out, it’s on permanent loan to The Museum of Art And Digital Entertainment in Oakland, California. It recalls memories of a similar build created to play Artemis. Video after the break.

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About That Giant Robot Battle Last Night

Two years ago we wrote about a giant robot battle between the USA and Japan. After two years in the making, MegaBots (team USA) and Suidobashi (team Japan) were finally ready for the first giant robot fight. If you are into battle bots, you probably did not miss the fight that happened around 7:00 pm PST. If you missed it, you can watch the whole thing here.

There were two duels. First it was Iron Glory (MkII) vs. Kuratas, and after that it was Eagle Prime (MkIII) vs. Kuratas.

Be warned, spoilers ahead.

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VR Mech’s Missing Link: The Phone In Your Pocket

In the process of making a homemade Mech Combat game that features robot-like piloted tanks capable of turning the cockpit independent of the direction of movement, [Florian] realized that while the concept was intuitive to humans, implementing it in a VR game had challenges. In short, when the body perceives movement but doesn’t feel the expected acceleration and momentum, motion sickness can result. A cockpit view that changes independently of forward motion exacerbates the issue.

To address this, [Florian] wanted to use a swivel chair to represent turning the Mech’s “hips”. This would control direction of travel and help provide important physical feedback. He was considering a hardware encoder for the chair when he realized he already had one in his pocket: his iPhone.

By making an HTML page that accesses the smartphone’s Orientation API, no app install was needed to send the phone’s orientation to his game via a WebSocket in Unity. He physically swivels his chair to steer and is free to look around using the VR headset, separate from the direction of travel. Want to try it for yourself? Get it from [Florian]’s GitHub repository.

A video is embedded below, but if you’re interested in details be sure to also check out [Florian]’s summary of insights and methods for avoiding motion sickness in a VR Mech cockpit.

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Hackaday Links: The 2017 One

You screwed everything up last night. The end of 2016 had a leap second, so instead of the seconds going up from 57, 58, 59… 00, there was a 61st second in the last minute of the year. Yeah, 2016 just wouldn’t quit. [Michel] built a device to keep track of 2016’s leap second using GPS, and everything worked beautifully.

Remember MechWarrior? There’s a reason those mid-90s games used mechs instead of more organic characters. Computers couldn’t draw that many polygons, making MechWarrior a stylistic choice driven by the limitations of technology. Here’s a real MechWarrior that could rip your head off without trying.

The Hackaday Retro Edition is a Web 1.0 version of our main blog, and a challenge to retrocomputing enthusiasts. [PK] recently got his Psion Series 3a surfing the interwebs with a little help from PPP and a Raspberry Pi. He also got a Psion Series 7 online using the same method, but that was a little more anti-climatic.

The NES Classic Edition costs too much, the cords are too short, and you can’t play anything but the pre-installed games. There’s a solution to this: [Andrew] has been working on the Beagle Entertainment System for a while now, and it’s ready for a proper release. The BES uses the SNES9X, VBA-M, and Nestopia emulators, with the original ROMs, and has a ‘shield’ for SNES gamepads. You can’t do better than this, and it’s cheaper than the NES Classic Edition.

Vacuum pens, or vacuum pickup tools, or whatever you want to call them, are really useful when working with SMD parts. You can build your own out of an aquarium pump, duct tape, a lighter, paperclip, and a mechanical pencil, but that lacks the elegance of a footswitch-operated, solenoid valve pickup tool. [Dave] built a great version of a vacuum pickup tool from scratch for less than $200. There’s NTP fittings on here, so you know it has to be great.

fundungeonTerrible news! I’m in Vegas next week for CES. While I’ll be spending most of my time figuring out ‘which internet of things is best internet of things’, I might have some time for a Hackaday CES meetup.

The best idea I have for a Hackaday CES meetup is the Fun Dungeon in the Trashy Castle. It has Skee Ball and Crazy Taxi. If you have a better idea of where Hackaday fans and aficionados can meet up for an hour or two, leave a note in the comments below.

Lightweight Robosuit Is Like Stilts On Steroids

What would you do if you were a foot or two taller? How about if you had an arm span two times as wide as you have now?

A group of Japanese engineering students asked themselves the same question and built a wearable chassis that does just that. Their project is called “Sukerutonikusu”, which we believe roughly translates to: “This is freaking awesome, we’ll take two!”. [Thopter] however informs us that it translates to “Skeletonics”, a fusion of the words “skeleton” and “mechanics”.

The suit is comprised of lightweight aluminum pipes and sheeting, allowing for it to be powered solely by the person wearing it. Stepping inside the chassis looks like it lifts the wearer about a foot and a half off the ground, while increasing their wingspan by nearly 6 feet! In the video embedded below you can see that while in the suit, the wearer is quite agile, and even has the ability to run at a decent tick.

If this ever comes to market, you can bet we will buy one in a heartbeat – until then, we will have to settle for making RoboCop sounds as we walk about the office.

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