Long Live Jibo, Our Adorable Robot Companion

Jibo, the adorable robot made by Jibo, Inc., was getting phased out, but that didn’t stop [Guilherme Martins] from using his robot companion for one last hack.

When he found out that the company would be terminating production of new Jibos and shutting down their servers, he wanted to replace the brain of the robot so that it would continue to live on even after all of its software had become deprecated. By the time the project started, the SDK downloads had already been removed the from developer’s site, so they looked at other options for controlling Jibo.

The first challenge was to not break the form factor in order to disassemble Jibo. They only managed to remove the battery from the bottom, realizing that the glass frame held the brain room. From within the robot, they were able to find the endless rotation joint for the head and the heart of the electronics. Jibo uses a DC motor, encoder, and IR sensor at each of three distinct levels to detect reference points.

They decided to use Phidgets modules to interface with these devices. While the DC motor controller handles 2A and has an encoder port, the Phidgets are able to provide software with the encoder and PID built-in. The 4x Digital Input Module was used for detecting the IR switch and connecting the modules to the computer.

[Martins] decided to use LattePanda, a hackable Windows 10 development board, for the brain of the new Jibo. The board was luckily able to fit inside the compartment for Jibo, but since it requires more power the unit is powered with 12V regulated to 5V in order to have less current passing through the wires. The DC motors, meanwhile, run at 12V and the IR switches and encoders at 5V.

A program developed in Unity3D plays the eye animations, and a C# program interfaces with the Phidgets. The final configuration was to fit Jibo onto a robotic arm to augment its behaviors. We previously wrote about Toppi, the robotic arm artist, that was used as the base for Jibo’s new home.

You can check out the result in the video below.

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Hackaday Prize China Finalists Announced

In the time since the Hackaday Prize was first run it has nurtured an astonishing array of projects from around the world, and brought to the fore some truly exceptional winners that have demonstrated world-changing possibilities. This year it has been extended to a new frontier with the launch of the Hackaday Prize China (Chinese language, here’s a Google Translate link), allowing engineers, makers, and inventors from that country to join the fun. We’re pleased to announce the finalists, from which a winner will be announced in Shenzhen, China on November 23rd. If you’re in Shenzen area, you’re invited to attend the award ceremony!

All six of these final project entries have been translated into English to help share information about projects across the language barrier. On the left sidebar of each project page you can find a link back to the original Chinese language project entry. Each presents a fascinating look into what people in our global community can produce when they live at the source of the component supply chain. Among them are a healthy cross-section of projects which we’ll visit in no particular order. Let’s dig in and see what these are all about!

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What Better Than A Hexapod?

What’s more awesome than a normal hexapod robot? What about a MEGA hexapod?

Max the Megapod, a six-legged 3D-printed walking robot, is an open source, Arduino-based, Bluetooth controlled, Scratch programmable creation made possible by [Steven Pendergrast]. The design for Max was based on a previous hexapod project, Vorpal the Hexapod, which has since been built at hundreds of schools worldwide.

Max clocks in at two feet in diameter, expanding to three when sprawled out on the ground. In addition, the hexapod is able to dance, walk, and run as fast as the smaller version, covering ground at twice the speed due to its size.

The scaling for the project – about 200% from the original hexapod – required some creativity, as the goal was for the components to be printed on a modest-sized printer with an 8 inch cube bed. In addition, since Max weighs 9 pounds on average, real bearings (608 Skate bearings) needed to be used for the servo mounts.

The electrical system had to be changed to account for the larger currents drawn by the larger servos (MG958s). and the power distribution harness needed to be redesigned. The current harness take about two hours to build for the larger hexapod, compared to 15 minutes for the original design.

The results are both hilarious and adorable, especially given the endless modifications made to give Max a unique flair. Perhaps a GIGApod could be coming up next?

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Gutted Hoverboard Becomes Formidable Track-Drive Robot

When “hoverboards” first came out, you may have been as disappointed as we were that they did not even remotely fulfill the promises of Back to the Future II. Nothing more than a fancified skateboard, hoverboards are not exactly groundbreaking technology. That doesn’t mean they’re not useful platforms for hacking, though, as this hoverboard to track-propelled robot tank conversion proves.

Most of the BOM for this build came from the junk bin – aluminum extrusions, brackets, and even parts cannibalized from a 3D-printer. But as [pasoftdev] points out, the new-in-box hoverboard was the real treasure trove of components. The motors, the control and driver electronics, and the big, beefy battery were all harvested and mounted to the frame. To turn the wheels into tracks, [pasoftdev] printed some sprockets to fit around the original tires. The tracks were printed in sections and screwed to the wheels. Idlers were printed in sections too, using central hubs and a clever method for connecting everything together into a sturdy wheel. Printed tank tread links finished the rolling gear eventually; each of the 34 pieces took almost five hours to print. The dedication paid off, though, as the 15-kg tank is pretty powerful; the brief video below shows it towing an office chair around without any problems.

We noticed that [pasoftdev] found the assembly of the tread links a bit problematic. These 3D-printed links that are joined by Airsoft BBs might make things a little easier next time.

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OpenLeg – The Open Source Robot Leg

There’s an old saying about standing on the shoulders of giants, but how about doing so with an open source leg? Well, your robots might do so at least, thanks to OpenLeg, a new open source project for building robot legs. Created by [Joey Byrnes], this started out as a senior project for a course at the University of Illinois. The idea is to create a robot leg that others can use to build four-legged robots that can amble around the neighborhood, much like those built by Boston Dynamics. Continue reading “OpenLeg – The Open Source Robot Leg”

Meccano Max Gets Hacked

There are plenty of “smart” toys out in the marketplace, some with more features than others. Nevertheless, most makers desire complete control over a platform, something that’s often lacking in any commercial offering. It was just this desire that motivated [MrDreamBot] to start hacking the Meccano Max.

Meccano Max is a small-statured companion robot, at about 30 centimeters high. Not content with the lack of an API, [MrDreamBot] decided to first experiment with creating an Arduino library to run Max’s hardware. With this completed, work then began on integrating a Hicat Livera devboard into the hardware. This is an embedded Linux system with Arduino compatibility, as well as the ability to stream video and connect over WiFi. Thus far, it’s possible to control Max through a browser, while viewing a live video feed from the ‘bot. It’s also possible to customize the expressions displayed on Max’s face.

Oftentimes, it pays to replace stock hardware rather than try and work with the limitations of the original setup, and this project is no exception. With that said, we’re still hoping someone out there will find a way to get Jibo back online. Look after your robot friends! Video after the break.

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Your Next Robot Needs Googly Eyes, And Other Lessons From Disney

There are so many important design decisions behind a robot: battery, means of locomotion, and position sensing, to name a few. But at a library in Helsinki, one of the most surprising design features for a librarian’s assistant robot was googly eyes. A company called Futurice built a robot for the Oodi library and found that googly eyes were a very important component.

The eyes are not to help the robot see, because of course they aren’t functional — at least not in that way. However without the eyes, robot designers found that people had trouble relating to the service robot. In addition, the robot needed emotions that it could show using the eyes and various sounds along with motion. This was inspired, apparently, by Disney’s rules for animation. In particular, the eyes would fit the rule of “exaggeration.” The robot could look bored when it had no task, excited when it was helping people, and unhappy when people were not being cooperative.

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