Skelly The Skeleton Is A Scary Good Musician

There are a lot of things to like about [BoneConstructor]’s Skelly the skeleton robot project. Note that we said, “project”. That’s because not only does the robot work well and is built well, but the journey he took to make it contains steps we’ve all taken ourselves. We can say that with confidence since it’s his first, and we’ve all had those.

Skelly started life as a skeleton sitting in [BoneConstructor]’s antique race car at local car shows. Its eyes lit up and it made a moaning sound, which didn’t always work right.  From there came lessons learned with head and arm servos, followed by problems with a PS2 remote and a control board. When he realized he’d have to write his own code, he was stymied by his lack of programming skills. But then he found Visuino, which as you can guess from the name is a visual way to program Arduinos, mostly consisting of drag-and-drop. From there on, the path was smoother, if not completely linear.

Rather than rapidly burn through servos by mounting the bones directly to the servo arms, he fitted bearings into the bone sockets, put the limbs on shafts through those bearings, and used pusher rods connected to the servo arms to turn those shafts. It’s no wonder the arms work so well. He took that sturdy and resilient approach with the wrists and neck too. He even made its right foot able to tap in tune with the music.

And from there we begin to understand some of the method to his madness. Check out the videos below, and on his page and you’ll see how wonderfully Skelly moves to the music. It even took a moment for us to realize he wasn’t actually playing the piano. But best of all, we like how he rocks out to AC/DC’s Shoot To Thrill (Iron Man 2 Version). We’re really impressed by how well those robot arms hold up given that this is a first robot.

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Intellibuoy Keeps Track of the Water

With world oceans ranging in cleanliness from pretty nasty to OMG, we need to get a handle on what exactly is going on. High School students from Hackensack, NJ built the Intellibuoy, a floating water quality sensor. The buoy has an anemometer and digital rain gauge up top, as well as a LED beacon to comply with maritime regulations.

Flotation is provided by a framework of sealed 3/4″ and 3″ PVC pipes that look strong enough to protect the electronics from a casual boat-bump. High above the water (under ideal conditions) there is the waterproof control box, packing two Arduino UNOs which listen to the sensors. A turbidity sensor measures how much silt is in the water; the other sensors measure Ph, dissolved oxygen, and temperature. The sensor pod is suspended inside a double ring of PVC for maximum protection. Each ‘Duino also has a SD card shield that stores the data of the respective sensors.

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Bringing MATLAB to a Vacuum Near You

The essence of hacking is modifying something to do a different function. Many of us learned as kids, though, that turning the family TV into an oscilloscope often got you into trouble.

These days, TVs are flat and don’t have high voltage inside, but there’s always the family robot, often known as a Roomba. Besides providing feline transportation, these little pancake-shaped robots also clean floors.

If you don’t want to evict the cat and still get a robust domestic robot platform for experimentation, about $200 will get you a Roomba made to be hacked — the iRobot Create 2. [Gstatum] has a tutorial for using a Raspberry Pi and MATLAB to get one quickly running and even doing basic object recognition using the Pi’s camera.

The code even interfaces with Twitter. The impressive part is the code fits on about a page. This isn’t, however, completely autonomous. It uses a connected phone’s sensor’s so that the phone’s orientation controls the robot’s motion, but the robot does use sensors to prevent driving into walls or falling off a cliff. It also can detect being picked up and uses the Pi’s camera to detect a green flag.

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Reanimating Boney the Robot Dog

[Divconstructors] cashed in after Halloween and picked up a skeleton dog prop from the Home Depot, for the simple and logical purpose of turning it into a robot.

The first step was to cut apart the various body parts, followed by adding bearings to the joints and bolting in a metal chassis fabricated from 1/8″ aluminum stock. This is all pretty standard stuff in the Dr. Frankenstein biz. For electronics he uses a Mega with a bark-emitting MP3 shield on top of it. Separately, a servo control board manages the dozenish servos — not to mention the tail-wagging stepper.

[Divconstructors] actually bought two skeletons, one to be his protoype and the other to be the nice-looking build. However, we at Hackaday feel like he might have missed an opportunity: As any necromancer can tell you, a freakish combination of two skeletons beats out two normal skeletons any night of the week. Also, two words for you to consider: cyberdog ransomeware. We imagine you don’t really feel ransomware until there’s the family robodog ready to test out its high-torque jaw servos on your flesh. Of course if he were a real dog we could either remotely control him with a hot dog, or just give him a talking collar.

Gorgeous Engineering Inside Wheels of a Robotic Trail Buddy

Robots are great in general, and [taylor] is currently working on something a bit unusual: a 3D printed explorer robot to autonomously follow outdoor trails, named Rover. Rover is still under development, and [taylor] recently completed the drive system and body designs, all shared via OnShape.

Rover has 3D printed 4.3:1 reduction planetary gearboxes embedded into each wheel, with off the shelf bearings and brushless motors. A Raspberry Pi sits in the driver’s seat, and the goal is to use a version of NVIDA’s TrailNet framework for GPS-free navigation of paths. As a result, [taylor] hopes to end up with a robotic “trail buddy” that can be made with off-the-shelf components and 3D printed parts.

Moving the motors and gearboxes into the wheels themselves makes for a very small main body to the robot, and it’s more than a bit strange to see the wheel spinning opposite to the wheel’s hub. Check out the video showcasing the latest development of the wheels, embedded below.

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Mindstorms Forkliftbots Gonna Take Your Job

With every advance in robotics, we get closer to being able to order stuff from Amazon and have no human being participate in its delivery. Key step in this dream: warehouse robots, smart forklifts able to control and inventory and entire warehouse full of pallets, without the meat community getting involved. [Thomas Risager] designed just such a system as part of his Masters Thesis in Software Engineering. It consists of five LEGO Mindstorms robots working in concert (video embedded below), linked via WiFi to a central laptop. Mindstorms’ native OS doesn’t support WiFi (!!!) so he reflashed the EV3’s ARM9 chip with software developed using Java and running under LeJOS. On the laptop side [Thomas] wrote a C++ application that handles the coordination and routing of the forklifts. We can see a lot of weary forklift drivers ready to kick back and let a robot have the full-time job for a change.

The robots use WiFi to a central laptop. Mindstorms’ native OS doesn’t support WiFi (!!!) so [Thomas] reflashed the EV3’s ARM9 chip with software developed using Java and running under LeJOS. On the laptop side he wrote a C++ application that handles the coordination and routing of the forklifts. [Thomas] is sharing his forklift design.

Now to scale up — maybe with DIY forklifts like we published earlier? We can see a lot of weary forklift drivers ready to kick back and let a robot have the full-time job for a change.

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3D-Printed Robot Golem Only a Tiny Bit Creepy

ASPIR, the Autonomous Support and Positive Inspiration Robot is an goblin-sized robot, designed by [John Choi], aims to split the difference between smaller hobbyist robots and more robust but pricy full-sized humanoids only a research institute could afford. By contrast, [John] estimates it cost a relatively meager $2,500 to create such a homunculus.

The robot consists of 33 servos of various types moving the limb, controlled by an Arduino Mega with a servo control shield seated on it. The chassis uses 5 kg of filament and took 300 hours to print, and it has a skeleton made up of aluminum hex rods. Spring-loaded RC shocks help reinforce the shoulders. There are some nice touches, like 3D-printed hands with living hinge fingers, each digit actuated by a metal-gear micro servo. It stores its power bricks in its shins. For sensors it includes a chest-mounted webcam and a laser distance sensor.

The main design feature is the Android smartphone serving as its brains, and also — at least cosmetically — its eyes. Those eyes… might be just a teensy bit too Chucky for our taste. (Nice work, [John]!)