Several video clips of a robot arm manipulating objects in a kitchen environment, demonstrating some of the 12 generalized skills

RoboAgent Gets Its MT-ACT Together

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have shared a pre-print paper on generalized robot training within a small “practical data budget.” The team developed a system that breaks movement tasks into 12 “skills” (e.g., pick, place, slide, wipe) that can be combined to create new and complex trajectories within at least somewhat novel scenarios, called MT-ACT: Multi-Task Action Chunking Transformer. The authors write:

Trained merely on 7500 trajectories, we are demonstrating a universal RoboAgent that can exhibit a diverse set of 12 non-trivial manipulation skills (beyond picking/pushing, including articulated object manipulation and object re-orientation) across 38 tasks and can generalize them to 100s of diverse unseen scenarios (involving unseen objects, unseen tasks, and to completely unseen kitchens). RoboAgent can also evolve its capabilities with new experiences.

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Arctos Robotics: Build A Robot Arm Out Of 3D Printer Spares?

ARCTOS is a 6-DOF robot arm based upon 3D printed mechanics running a modified version of GRBL firmware. Let’s get this straight now, the firmware is open source, but the hardware plans are a paid download, but for less than forty euros, we reckon the investment would be well worth it, judging from the quality of the build instructions and the software support already in place. Continue reading “Arctos Robotics: Build A Robot Arm Out Of 3D Printer Spares?”

$60 Robot Arm Is Compact

Thanks to 3D printing and inexpensive controllers, a robot arm doesn’t need to break the bank anymore. Case in point? [Build Some Stuff] did a good-looking compact arm with servos for under $60. The arm uses an interesting control mechanism, too.

Instead of the traditional joystick, the arm has a miniature arm with potentiometers at each joint instead of motors. By moving the model arm to different positions, the main arm will mimic your motions. It is similar to old control systems using a synchro (sometimes called a selsyn), but uses potentiometers and servo motors.

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How Home Made Robot Arms Used To Be Made

With laser cutters and 3D printers in our arsenal as well as the global toy shop of mass-produced parts and single-board computers, building a robotic project has almost never been easier. In times past though, there was more of a challenge, with a computer likely meaning a chunky desktop model and there being no plethora of motors at low prices, a robot arm required more ingenuity. [Marius Taciuc] shares with us an arm he built from the most minimal of parts back in 2003, and it’s a beautiful exercise in creative reuse.

The arm itself uses metal and FR4 for its structure, and borrows extensively from cassette tape mechanisms for motors and gears. The stronger motor for the forearm is a geared unit from a heating system, and to control all this, a relay board is hooked up to a computer’s parallel port. This last assembly is particularly ingenious, having no optocouplers handy he made his own by coupling LEDs to metal can transistors with their lids removed.

The arm was entered in a competition, and he relates a tale with which we’ll all be familiar — at the critical moment, it didn’t work. Fortunately a last-minute accidental covering of the board with a floppy disk solved the problem, as it turned out that enough light was leaking into those home-made optocouplers to trigger them. The prize was won not just on the strength of the arm, but on his explanation of the lessons learned along the way.

The once-ubiquitous parallel port is now absent from most computers, but there’s still plenty of scope for experimentation if you have one.

3-DOF Robot Arm Wrist Without The Motor Weight

A major challenge of robotic arms is the weight of the actuators, especially closer to the end of the arm. The long lever arm means more torque is required from the other actuators, and everything flexes a bit more. To get around this, [RoTechnic] moved the wrist stepper motors off the arms entirely.

He built a push-pull mechanism that uses braided fishing line to transfer motion to the robot arm’s wrist using Bowden tubes. The motors are mounted on the arm’s base, with a drum and two lengths of fishing line on the shafts. The lines pass through an adjustable tensioner before entering the Bowden tubes. This drum mechanism is also present on each of the three rotating axes of the wrist.

[RoTechnic] used an Arduino-powered RAMPS board as a controller, which is programmed to accept over the serial interface. He created a simple GUI and scripting interface in Jupyter Labs to generate and send command, which seems like an excellent solution for testing.

We can see this mechanism being a useful for a variety of motion applications, and definitely something to add to the idea toolbox. It is somewhat similar to some other cable-operated joints we’ve seen in humanoid robots and other 3D printed arms.

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close-up image of a philodendron houseplant with electrodes attached, connected to a robot arm holding a machete

(Mostly) Harmless Houseplant Wields Machete

In a straight fight between a houseplant and a human, you might expect the plant to be at a significant disadvantage. So [David Bowen] has decided to even the odds a little by arming this philodendron with a robot arm and a machete.

The build is a little short on details but, from the video, it appears that adhesive electrodes have been attached to the leaves of the recently-empowered plant and connected directly to analog inputs of an Arduino Uno.  From there, the text tells us that the signals are mapped to movements of the industrial robot arm that holds the blade.

It’s not clear if the choice of plant is significant, but an unarmed philodendron appears to be otherwise largely innocuous, unless you happen to be a hungry rodent. We hope that there is also a means of disconnecting the power remotely, else this art installation could defend itself indefinitely! (or until it gets thirsty, at least.) We at Hackaday welcome our new leafy overlords.

We have covered the capabilities of plants before, and they can represent a rich seam of research for the home hacker.  They can tell you when they’re thirsty, but can they bend light to their will?  We even held a Plant Communication Hack Chat in 2021.

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Real Robot One Is… Real

Most of the robot arms we see are cool but little more than toys. Usually, they use RC servos to do motion and that’s great for making some basic motion, but if you want something more industrial and capable, check out [Pavel’s] RR1 — Real Robot One. The beefy arm has six degrees of freedom powered by stepper motors and custom planetary gearboxes. Each joint has an encoder for precise position feedback. The first prototype is already working, as you can see in the video below. Version two is forthcoming.

When you see the thing in action, you can immediately tell it isn’t a toy. There are four NEMA23 steppers and three smaller NEMA17 motors. While there are 3D printed parts, you can see a lot of metal in the build, also. You can see a video of the arm lifting up a 1 kilogram barbell and picking up a refreshing soft drink.

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