Reachy The Open Source Robot Says Bonjour

Humanoid robots always attract attention, but anyone who tries to build one quickly learns respect for a form factor we take for granted because we were born with it. Pollen Robotics wants to help move the field forward with Reachy: a robot platform available both as a product and as a wealth of information shared online.

This French team has released open source robots before. We’ve looked at their Poppy robot and see a strong family resemblance with Reachy. Poppy was a very ambitious design with both arms and legs, but it could only ever walk with assistance. In contrast Reachy focuses on just the upper body. One of the most interesting innovations is found in Reachy’s neck, a cleverly designed 3 DOF mechanism they called Orbita. Combined with two moving antennae at the top of the head, Reachy can emote a wide range of expressions despite not having much of a face. The remainder of Reachy’s joints are articulated with Dynamixel serial bus servos though we see an optional Orbita-based hand attachment in the demo video (embedded below).

Reachy’s € 19,990 price tag may be affordable relative to industrial robots, but it’s pretty steep for the home hacker. No need to fret, those of us with smaller bank accounts can still join the fun because Pollen Robotics has open sourced a lot of Reachy details. Digging into this information, we see Reachy has a Google Coral for accelerating TensorFlow and a Raspberry Pi 4 for general computation. Mechanical designs are released via web-based Onshape CAD. Reachy’s software suite on GitHub is primarily focused on Python, which allows us to experiment within a Jupyter notebook. Simulation can be done within Unity 3D game engine, which can be optionally compiled to run in a browser like the simulation playground. But academic robotics researchers are not excluded from the fun, as ROS1 integration is also available though ROS2 support is still on the to-do list.

Reachy might not be as sophisticated as some humanoid designs we’ve seen, and without a lower body there’s no way for it to dance. But we are very appreciative of a company willing to share knowledge with the world. May it spark new ideas for the future.

[via Engadget]

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A Tubular Fairy Tale You Control With Your Phone

At first glance, this might appear to be a Rube Goldberg machine made of toys. The truth isn’t far off — it’s a remote-control animatronic story machine driven by its spectators and their phones. [Niklas Roy] and a team of volunteers built it in just two weeks for Phaenomenale, a festival centered around art and digital culture that takes place every other year.

A view of the tubes without the toys.

A red ball travels through a network of clear acrylic tubes using 3D printed Venturi air movers, gravity, and toys to help it travel. Spectators can change the ball’s path with their phones via a local website with a big picture of the installation. The ball triggers animations along its path using break beam detection and weaves a different story each time depending on the toys it interacts with.

Here’s how it works: a Raspberry Pi 4 is responsible for releasing the ball at the beginning of the track and for controlling the track switches. The Pi also hosts a server for smartphones and the 25 Arduino Nanos that control the LEDs and servos of the animatronics. As a bonus animatronic, there’s a giant whiteboard that rotates and switches between displaying the kids’ drawings and the team’s plans and schematics. Take a brief but up-close tour after the break.

This awesome art project was a huge collaborative effort that involved the people of Wolfsburg, Germany — families in the community donated their used and abandoned toys, groups of elementary school kids were brought in to create stories for the toys, and several high school kids and other collaborators realized these drawings with animatronics.

Toys can teach valuable lessons, too. Take this body-positive sushi-snarfing Barbie for example, or this dollhouse of horrors designed to burn fire safety into children’s brains.

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ARM And X86 Team Up In No Compromise Cyberdeck

Over the last couple of years the cyberdeck community has absolutely exploded. Among those who design and build these truly personal computers there are no hard rules, save perhaps making sure the final result looks as unconventional as possible. But one thing that’s remained fairly consistent is the fact that these machines are almost exclusively powered by the Raspberry Pi. Unfortunately, that means they often leave something to be desired in terms of raw performance.

But [MSG] had a different idea. His cyberdeck still has the customary Raspberry Pi inside, but it also has an i7 Intel NUC that can be fired up at the touch of a button. He says it’s the best of both worlds: an energy efficient ARM Linux platform for mobile experimentation, and a powerful x86 Windows box for playing games working from home. It’s the hacker equivalent of business in the front, party in the back.

With a KVM connected to the custom Planck 40% mechanical keyboard and seven inch LCD, [MSG] can switch between both systems on the fly. Assuming he’s got the juice anyway; while the Raspberry Pi 4 and LCD is able to run on a pair of 18650 batteries, the cyberdeck needs to be plugged in if he wants to use the power-hungry NUC. If he ditched the Pi he could potentially load up the case with enough batteries to get the Intel box spun up, but that would be getting a little too close to a conventional laptop.

The whole plurality theme doesn’t stop at the computing devices, either. In addition to the primary LCD, there’s also a 2.13 inch e-paper display and a retro-style LED matrix courtesy of a Pimoroni Micro Dot pHAT. With a little Python magic behind the scenes, [MSG] is able to display things like the system temperature, time, and battery percentage even when the LCD is powered down.

In a post on the aptly-named Cyberdeck Cafe, [MSG] talks about how seeing the VirtuScope built by [bootdsc] inspired him to start working towards his own personal deck, and where he hopes to take the idea from here. The unique USB expansion bay behind the screen holds particular promise, and it sounds like a few add-on modules are already in the works. But of course, it wouldn’t be a true cyberdeck if it wasn’t constantly being improved and redesigned. Come to think of it, that makes at least two rules to live by in this community.

A Crust-Cutting, Carrot-Chopping Robot

[3DprintedLife] sure does hate bread crust. Not the upper portion of homemade bread, mind you — just that nasty stuff around the edges of store-bought loaves. Several dozen hours of CAD later, [3DprintedLife] had themselves a crust-cutting robot that also chops vegetables.

This De-Cruster 9000 is essentially a 2-axis robotic guillotine over a turntable. It uses a Raspberry Pi 4 and OpenCV to seek and destroy bread crusts with a dull dollar store knife. Aside from the compact design, our favorite part has to be the firmware limit switches baked into the custom control board. The stepper drivers have this fancy feature called StallGuard™ that constantly reads the back EMF to determine the load the motor is under. If you have it flag you right before the motor hits the end of the rail and stalls, bam, you have a firmware limit switch. Watch it remove crusts and chop a lot of carrots with faces after the break.

This is far from the dangerous-looking robot we’ve seen lately. Remember this hair-cutting contraption?

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TMD-2: A Bigger, Better, More Collaborative Turing Machine

One of the things we love best about the articles we publish on Hackaday is the dynamic that can develop between the hacker and the readers. At its best, the comment section of an article can be a model of collaborative effort, with readers’ ideas and suggestions making their way into version 2.0 of a build.

This collegial dynamic is very much on display with TMD-2, [Michael Gardi]’s latest iteration of his Turing machine demonstrator. We covered the original TMD-1 back in late summer, the idea of which was to serve as a physical embodiment of the Turing machine concept. Briefly, the TMD-1 represented the key “tape and head” concepts of the Turing machine with a console of servo-controlled flip tiles, the state of which was controlled by a three-state, three-symbol finite state machine.

TMD-1

TMD-1 was capable of simple programs that really demonstrated the principles of Turing machines, and it really seemed to catch on with readers. Based on the comments of one reader, [Newspaperman5], [Mike] started thinking bigger and better for TMD-2. He expanded the finite state machine to six states and six symbols, which meant coming up with something more scalable than the Hall-effect sensors and magnetic tiles of TMD-1.

TMD-2 has a camera for computer vision of the state machine tiles

[Mike] opted for optical character recognition using a Raspberry Pi cam along with Open CV and the Tesseract OCR engine. The original servo-driven tape didn’t scale well either, so that was replaced by a virtual tape displayed on a 7″ LCD display. The best part of the original, the tile-based FSM, was expanded but kept that tactile programming experience.

Hats off to [Mike] for tackling a project with so many technologies that were previously new to him, and for pulling off another great build. And kudos to [Newspaperman5] for the great suggestions that spurred him on.

Over-the-Top Cyberdeck Is Really A Geiger-Deck

If you like it when a hack has a little backstory, then you’re going to love this cyberdeck build log, the first half of which reads like a [Tom Clancy] novel. And the build itself looks the part, like something that fell off a military helicopter as the Special Forces operators were fast-roping into a hot LZ. Or something like that.

The yarn that [Paul Hoets] spins around his cyberdeck, dubbed RATIS for Remote Assault and Tactical Intelligence System, is pretty good reading and pretty imaginative. The cyberdeck itself looks very much the part, built into a Pelican-style air travel case as such things usually are. Based on a Raspberry Pi 4, the lid of the case serves as a housing for keyboard and controls, while the body houses the computer, an LCD display, and an unusual peripheral: a Geiger counter, which is very much in keeping with the device’s “mission profile”. The handheld pancake probe and stout coiled cord with its MILSPEC connectors really sell the look, too.

Imaginative backstory aside, the construction method here is what really shines. Lacking access to a 3D-printer to produce the necessary greebling, [Paul] instead used a laser cutter to make acrylic panels with cutouts. The contrast between the black panels and the yellow backgrounds makes it all look official, and it’s a technique to keep in mind for builds of a more serious nature, too.

Feel free to look through our fine collection of cyberdeck builds. Some have a fanciful backstory like [Paul]’s, others are intended for more practical purposes. Build whatever you want, just make sure to tip us off when you’re done.

Adventures In Overclocking: Which Raspberry Pi 4 Flavor Is Fastest?

There are three different versions of the Raspberry Pi 4 out on the market right now: the “normal” Pi 4 Model B, the Compute Module 4, and the just-released Raspberry Pi 400 computer-in-a-keyboard. They’re all riffing on the same tune, but there are enough differences among them that you might be richer for the choice.

The Pi 4B is easiest to integrate into projects, the CM4 is easiest to break out all the system’s features if you’re designing your own PCB, and the Pi 400 is seemingly aimed at the consumer market, but it has a dark secret: it’s an overclocking monster capable of running full-out at 2.15 GHz indefinitely in its stock configuration.

In retrospect, there were hints dropped everywhere. The system-on-a-chip that runs the show on the Model B is a Broadcom 2711ZPKFSB06B0T, while the SOC on the CM4 and Pi 400 is a 2711ZPKFSB06C0T. If you squint just right, you can make out the revision change from “B” to “C”. And in the CM4 datasheet, there’s a throwaway sentence about it running more efficiently than the Model B. And when I looked inside the Pi 400, there was this giant aluminum heat spreader attached to the SOC, presumably to keep it from overheating within the tight keyboard case. But there was one more clue: the Pi 400 comes clocked by default at 1.8 GHz, instead of 1.5 GHz for the other two, which are sold without a heat-sink.

Can the CM4 keep up with the Pi 400 with a little added aluminum? Will the newer siblings leave the Pi 4 Model B in the dust? Time to play a little overclocking!

Raspberry Overdrive

Overclocking a Raspberry Pi is basically painless. In most cases, it’s as simple as editing your /boot/config.txt file and typing in the desired maximum speed and CPU core voltage. If it doesn’t boot, you pick a lower CPU speed until you get something that works. But that doesn’t mean that you’re going to get the full performance bump — the main CPUs run alongside, or maybe underneath, the GPUs which run the ThreadX RTOS, and throttle the main CPUs when they get hot.

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