AI Kayak Controller Lets The Paddle Show The Way

Controlling an e-bike is pretty straightforward. If you want to just let it rip, it’s a no-brainer — or rather, a one-thumber, as a thumb throttle is the way to go. Or, if you’re still looking for a bit of the experience of riding a bike, sensing when the pedals are turning and giving the rider a boost with the motor is a good option.

But what if your e-conveyance is more of the aquatic variety? That’s an interface design problem of a different color, as [Braden Sunwold] has discovered with his DIY e-kayak. We’ve detailed his work on this already, but for a short recap, his goal is to create an electric assist for his inflatable kayak, to give you a boost when you need it without taking away from the experience of kayaking. To that end, he used the motor and propeller from a hydrofoil to provide the needed thrust, while puzzling through the problem of building an unobtrusive yet flexible controller for the motor.

His answer is to mount an inertial measurement unit (IMU) in a waterproof container that can clamp to the kayak paddle. The controller is battery-powered and uses an nRF link to talk to a Raspberry Pi in the kayak’s waterproof electronics box. The sensor also has an LED ring light to provide feedback to the pilot. The controller is set up to support both a manual mode, which just turns on the motor and turns the kayak into a (low) power boat, and an automatic mode, which detects when the pilot is paddling and provides a little thrust in the desired direction of travel.

The video below shows the non-trivial amount of effort [Braden] and his project partner [Jordan] put into making the waterproof enclosure for the controller. The clamp is particularly interesting, especially since it has to keep the sensor properly oriented on the paddle. [Braden] is working on a machine-learning method to analyze paddle motions to discern what the pilot is doing and where the kayak goes. Once he has that model built, it should be time to hit the water and see what this thing can do. We’re eager to see the results.
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Ping Pong Ball-Juggling Robot

There aren’t too many sports named for the sound that is produced during the game. Even though it’s properly referred to as “table tennis” by serious practitioners, ping pong is probably the most obvious. To that end, [Nekojiru] built a ping pong ball juggling robot that used those very acoustics to pinpoint the location of the ball in relation to the robot. Not satisfied with his efforts there, he moved onto a visual solution and built a new juggling rig that uses computer vision instead of sound to keep a ping pong ball aloft.

The main controller is a Raspberry Pi 2 with a Pi camera module attached. After some mishaps with the planned IR vision system, [Nekojiru] decided to use green light to illuminate the ball. He notes that OpenCV probably wouldn’t have worked for him because it’s not fast enough for┬áthe 90 fps that’s required to bounce the ping pong ball. After looking at the incoming data from this system, an algorithm extracts 3D information about the ball and directs the paddle to strike the ball in a particular way.

If you’ve ever wanted to get into real-time object tracking, this is a great project to look over. The control system is well polished and the robot itself looks almost professionally made. Maybe it’s possible to build something similar to test [Nekojiru]’s hypothesis that OpenCV isn’t fast enough for this. If you want to get started in that realm of object tracking, there are some great projects that make use of that piece of software as well.

Failed Kayaking Data Logger Is Something We Want To See Succeed

How can your love of hobby electronics and your participation in the Canadian National Kayaking Team be combined? Why not use your technical know-how to provide a performance edge? [Geoff Clarke] decided to rig up a paddle for data capture to see if they could learn anything.

Here you can see that a series of flex sensors were applied to one of the business ends of the paddle. These are connected to a microcontroller which is constantly monitoring them and dumping the data onto an SD card. The design will provide about nine minutes of data before the storage is used up. That sounds like a number that might need improving. We could see this being useful to log a series of practice runs on the same course, but with different athletes. By graphing and comparing the data, you should be able to make observations about how the paddle is being held and when force is applied that could help the rest of the team improve.

But we’re way ahead of ourselves. The rig was given a premature test-run and the flex sensors were destroyed by the salt water. We wish this had worked out and hope that [Geoff] will give it another try after rethinking the water proofing.