I2C To The Max With ATtiny

The Arduino is a powerful platform for interfacing with the real world, but it isn’t without limits. One of those hard limits, even for the Arduino MEGA, is a finite number of pins that the microcontroller can use to interface with the real world. If you’re looking to extend the platform’s reach in one of your own projects, though, there are a couple of options available. This project from [Bill] shows us one of those options by using the ATtiny85 to offload some of an Arduino’s tasks using I2C.

I2C has been around since the early 80s as a way for microcontrollers to communicate with each other using a minimum of hardware. All that is needed is to connect the I2C pins of the microcontrollers and provide each with power. This project uses an Arduino as the controller and an arbitrary number of smaller ATtiny85 microcontrollers as targets. Communicating with the smaller device allows the Arduino to focus on more processor-intensive tasks while giving the simpler tasks to the ATtiny. It also greatly simplifies wiring for projects that may be distributed across a distance. [Bill] also standardizes the build with a custom development board for the ATtiny that can also double as a shield for the Arduino, allowing him to easily expand and modify his projects without too much extra soldering.

Using I2C might not be the most novel of innovations, but making it easy to use is certainly a valuable tool to add to the toolbox when limited on GPIO or by other physical constraints. To that end, [Bill] also includes code for an example project that simplifies the setup of one of these devices on the software end as well. If you’re looking for some examples for what to do with I2C, take a look at this thermometer that communicates with I2C or this project which uses multiple sensors daisy-chained together.

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Waterjet-Powered Speedboat For Fun And Research

There are a lot of cliches about the perils of boat ownership. “The best two days of a boat owner’s life are the day they buy their boat, and the day they sell it” immediately springs to mind, for example, but there is a loophole to an otherwise bottomless pit of boat ownership: building a small robotic speedboat instead of owning the full-size version. Not only will you save loads of money and frustration, but you can also use your 3D-printed boat as a base for educational and research projects.

The autonomous speedboats have a modular hull design to make them easy to 3D print, and they use a waterjet for propulsion which improves their reliability in shallow waters and reduces the likelihood that they will get tangled on anything or injure an animal or human. The platform is specifically designed to be able to house any of a wide array of sensors to enable people to easily perform automated tasks in bodies of water such as monitoring for pollution, search-and-rescue, and various inspections. A monohull version with a single jet was prototyped first, but eventually a twin-hulled catamaran with two jets was produced which improved the stability and reliability of the platform.

All of the files needed to get started with your own autonomous (or remote-controlled) speedboat are available on the project’s page. The creators are hopeful that this platform suits a wide variety of needs and that a community is created of technology enthusiasts, engineers, and researchers working on autonomous marine robotic platforms. If you’d prefer to ditch the motor, though, we have seen a few autonomous sailboats used for research purposes as well.

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Robotic Ball-Bouncing Platform Learns New Tricks

[T-Kuhn]’s Octo-Bouncer platform has learned some new tricks since we saw it last. If you haven’t seen it before, this device uses computer vision from a camera mounted underneath its thick, clear acrylic platform to track a ball in 3D space, and make the necessary (and minute) adjustments needed to control the ball’s movements with a robotic platform in real time.

We loved the Octo-Bouncer’s mesmerizing action when we saw it last, and it’s only gotten better. Not only is there a whole new custom ball detection algorithm that [T-Kuhn] explains in detail, there are also now visualizations of both the ball’s position as well as the plate movements. There’s still one small mystery, however. Every now and again, [T-Kuhn] says that the ball will bounce in an unexpected direction. It doesn’t seem to be a bug related to the platform itself, but [T-Kuhn] has a suspicion. Since contact between the ball and platform is where all the control comes from, and the ball and platform touch only very little during a bounce, it’s possible that bits of dust (or perhaps even tiny imperfections on the ball’s surface itself) might be to blame. Regardless, it doesn’t detract from the device’s mesmerizing performance.

Design files and source code are available on the project’s GitHub repository for those who’d like a closer look. It’s pretty trippy watching the demonstration video because there is so much going on at once; you can check it out just below the page break.

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Telepresence Robot Navigates Upgrades

As time marches on and a good percentage of us are still isolating from society at large, the progress of technology isn’t kept as stagnant. Earlier this year we featured a project about a much-needed small telepresence robot with an exceptionally low barrier for entry, and with the progress of time it has received several upgrades and some crowdfunding, all while preserving its original intent of a simple and easily-operated way of keeping in contact with others.

The new robot is still based on the cardboard design that holds a smartphone and drives it around using a microcontroller platform, but thanks to its small size and low power requirement this seems to suit it nicely. Improvements over the original design include a more robust one-size-fits-all phone mount and a more refined cardboard body. Also, since the small size is a little bit of a downside when navigating anywhere that isn’t a desk or counter, the new version makes it easier to make modifications such as adding a pedestal which can elevate the phone and improve the experience of the remote driver. A number of other optional modifications are possible as well, including a grabbing arm.

While telepresence robots unfortunately are needed now more than ever, we are happy to see people like [Ross] take on projects like this which will hopefully help improve our shared situation by allowing us to have a more involved level of contact with people we would otherwise prefer to see in person. If you’d like to build your own without waiting on the crowdfunding, be sure to check out the original project we featured back in April.

Get Back Out There, Robotically

When interacting with reality at a distance is the best course of action, we turn to robots. Whether that’s exploring the surface of Venus, the depths of the ocean, or (for the time being) society at large, it’s often better to put a robot out there than an actual human being. We can’t all send robots to other planets, but we can easily get them in various other places with telepresence robots.

This tiny telepresence robot comes to us from [Ross] at [Crafty Robot] who is using their small Smartibot platform as a basis for this tiny robot. The smartibot drives an easily-created cardboard platform, complete with wheels, and trucks around a smartphone of some sort which handles the video and network capabilities. The robot can be viewed and controlled from any other computer using a suite of web applications that can be found on the project page.

The Smartibot platform is an inexpensive platform that we’ve seen do other things like drive an airship, and the creators are hoping that as many people as possible can get some use out of this quick-and-easy telepresence robot if they really need something like this right now. The kit seems like it would be useful for a lot of other fun projects as well.

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Robotic Ball Bouncer Uses Machine Vision To Stay On Target

When we first caught a glimpse of this ball juggling platform, we were instantly hooked by its appearance. With its machined metal linkages and clear polycarbonate platform, its got an irresistibly industrial look. But as fetching as it may appear, it’s even cooler in action.

You may recognize the name [T-Kuhn] as well as sense the roots of the “Octo-Bouncer” from his previous juggling robot. That earlier version was especially impressive because it used microphones to listen to the pings and pongs of the ball bouncing off the platform and determine its location. This version went the optical feedback route, using a camera mounted under the platform to track the ball using OpenCV on a Windows machine. The platform linkages are made from 150 pieces of CNC’d aluminum, with each arm powered by a NEMA 17 stepper with a planetary gearbox. Motion control is via a Teensy, chosen for its blazing-fast clock speed which makes for smoother acceleration and deceleration profiles. Watch it in action from multiple angles in the video below.

Hats off to [T-Kuhn] for an excellent build and a mesmerizing device to watch. Both his jugglers do an excellent job of keeping the ball under control; his robotic ball-flinger is designed to throw the ball to the same spot every time.

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ArrBot Is A Fast Way To Get Out Standing In A New Field Of Robotics

[Junglist] correctly points out that agricultural robotics is fast on its way to being the next big thing (TM) and presents his easy to build ArrBot platform so others can get hacking fast. 

The frame is built out of the same brackets and aluminum tubing used to add handrails to stairwells on buildings. Not only is this a fast way to do it, the set-up can be guaranteed to be sturdy since hand rails are often literally standing between life and death. The high ground clearance allows for all sorts of sensors and devices to be mounted while still being able to clear the plants below. 

For motion hub motors driven by an ODrive were re-purposed for the task. He explored turning the wheels as well, but it seems like  differential steer and casters works well for this set-up. ROS on an Nividia Jetson runs the show and deals with the various sensors such as a stereoscopic camera and IMU.

We’re excited to see what hacks people come up with as research in this area grows. (Tee-hee!) For example, [Junglist] wants to see the effect of simply running a UV light over a field rather than spraying with pesticides or fungicides would have.