Compact M&M Sorter Goes Anywhere

Let’s face it — eating different colored candy like M&Ms or Skittles is just a little more fun if you sort your pile by color first. The not-fun part is having to do it by hand. [Jackofalltrades_] decided to tackle this time-worn problem for engineering class because it’s awesome and it satisfies the project’s requirement for sensing, actuation, and autonomous sequencing. We’d venture to guess that it satisfies [Jackofalltrades_]’ need for chocolate, too.

Here’s how it works: one by one, M&Ms are selected, pulled into a dark chamber for color inspection, and then dispensed into the proper cubby based on the result. [Jackofalltrades_] lived up to their handle and built a color-detecting setup out of an RGB LED and light-dependent resistor. The RGB LED shines red, then, green, then blue at full brightness, and takes a voltage reading from the photocell to figure out the candy’s color. At the beginning, the machine needs one of each color to read in and store as references. Then it can sort the whole bag, comparing each M&M to the reference values and updating them with each new M&M to create a sort of rolling average.

We love the beautiful and compact design of this machine, which was built to maximize the 3D printer as one of the few available tools. The mechanical design is particularly elegant. It cleverly uses stepper-driven rotation and only needs one part to do most of the entire process of isolating each one, passing it into the darkness chamber for color inspection, and then dispensing it into the right section of the jar below. Be sure to check out the demo after the break.

Need a next-level sorter? Here’s one that locates and separates the holy grail of candy-coated chocolate — peanut M&Ms that didn’t get a peanut.

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Friendly Webcam Robot Keeps An Eye On Privacy

Wouldn’t it be nice if every webcam had a hardware switch? Especially for those built-in webcams like the one in your laptop. Since they don’t have switches yet, we’re just stuck trying to remember to turn them off or re-apply the sticker after every meeting. [Becky Stern] was tired of trying to remember to blind the all-seeing eye, and decided to make a robot companion that would do it for her.

Essentially, a servo-driven, 3D-printed eyelid covers the eye’s iris and also the web cam directly underneath. At first, we though [Becky] had liberated the business parts of a cheap webcam and built it into the eyeball, but this is far less intrusive. The eyeball simply sits atop the monitor, and [Becky] can control the eyelid two ways: she can set a timer with the potentiometer to close it automatically after some number of minutes, or else do it on demand using the momentary button. We’d love to see it tied directly to Zoom and or whatever else [Becky] uses regularly. Be sure to check out the build and demo video after the break to see it in action.

We love this cute and friendly reminder that the camera could be watching us. It’s way less creepy than this realistic eyeball webcam that looks around and blinks.

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Robotic Bartender Built With Industrial-Grade Hardware

Robotic bartenders are a popular project around these parts. If there’s one thing hackers love, after all, it’s automating tasks – as much for the challenge as for the actual time saved. This build from a group of [Teknic Servo] engineers is an impressive example of what can be done with some industrial-grade hardware.

The bartender is built as a demo project for the ClearCore controller, [Teknic’s] industrial-grade device capable of interfacing with a whole bunch of servomotors and sensors to get the job done. The controller is hooked up to a bunch of ClearPath servomotors that handle spinning the bottle carousel, muddling or stirring the beverage, or transporting the drinking glass through the machine. There’s also several interlocks to avoid the patron coming into contact with the bartender’s moving parts while it’s working, and a standard bar-style mixer dispenser actuated with solenoids to keep things simple. Drink selection and control is via a touch screen, with sliders for selecting preferences such as alcohol content and sweetness.

The bartender is certainly capable of producing a neat drink (pun intended), and serves as a great example of how easily a project can be put together with industrial-grade hardware. If you’ve got the budget, you might find using an industrial plug-and-play components quicker than assembling development boards, motor controller shields and other accessories on breakout boards. There’s always more than one way to get the job done, after all.

We’ve seen some great barbots over the years, from builds relying on robotic arms to those focused on ultimate speed. Video after the break.

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Leap Motion Controls Hands With No Glove

It isn’t uncommon to see a robot hand-controlled with a glove to mimic a user’s motion. [All Parts Combined] has a different method. Using a Leap Motion controller, he can record hand motions with no glove and then play them back to the robot hand at will. You can see the project in the video, below.

The project seems straightforward enough, but apparently, the Leap documentation isn’t the best. Since he worked it out, though, you might find the code useful.

An 8266 runs everything, although you could probably get by with less. The Leap provides more data than the hand has servos, so there was a bit of algorithm development.

We picked up a few tips about building flexible fingers using heated vinyl tubing. Never know when that’s going to come in handy — no pun intended. The cardboard construction isn’t going to be pretty, but a glove cover works well. You could probably 3D print something, too.

The Unity app will drive the hand live or can playback one of the five recorded routines. You can see how the record and playback work on the video.

This reminded us of another robot hand project, this one 3D printed. We’ve seen more traditional robot arms moving with a Leap before, too. Continue reading “Leap Motion Controls Hands With No Glove”

Auto Ball Launcher Will Be Your Dog’s New Best Friend

If there’s one bright spot on the blight that is this pandemic, it’s got to be all the extra time we’re spending with our pets. Dogs especially love that we’re home all the time and want to spend it playing, but sometimes you need to get stuff done. Why not head outside with your laptop and keep the dog happy with an automatic ball launcher?

This is a work in progress, and [Connor] plans to publish a BOM and the STL files once it’s all finished. For now, it’s a working prototype that shoots a ball into the air and about 25 feet away, from the looks of it. Far enough to be fun, but not so far that it goes over the fence.

All [Connor] has to do is drop the ball in the top, which you know is going to lead to training the dog to do it himself. A proximity sensor detects the ball and starts up a pair of 540 R/C motors, then a servo drops the ball down the internal chute. The motors spit the ball out with great force with a pair of profiled, 3D-printed wheels that are controlled by a Turnigy ESC and an Arduino Nano.

In the future, [Connor] plans to print a cover for the electronics and enlarge the funnel so it’s easier for the dog to drop in the ball. Check out the brief demo and build video after the break.

All dogs should be able to get in a good game of fetch as often as they want, even if they happen to be blind.

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Remote Controlled Car Gets Active Suspension

Active suspensions are almost a holy grail for cars, adding so much performance gain that certain types have even been banned from Formula 1 racing. That doesn’t stop them from being used on a wide variety of luxury and performance cars, though, as they can easily be tuned on the fly for comfort or improved handling. They also can be fitted to remote controlled cars as [Indeterminate Design] shows with this electronic servo-operated active suspension system for his RC truck.

Each of the four servos used in this build is linked to the mounting point of the existing coilover suspension on the truck. This allows the servo to change the angle that the suspension is positioned while the truck is moving. As a result, the truck has a dramatic performance enhancement including a tighter turning radius, more stability, and the capability of doing donuts. The control system runs on an Arduino with an ESP32 to enable live streaming of data, and also includes an MPU6050 to monitor the position of the truck’s frame while it is in motion.

There’s a lot going on in this build especially with regard to the control system that handles all of the servos. Right now it’s only programmed to try to keep the truck’s body relatively level, but [Indeterminate Design] plans to program several additional control modes in the future. There’s a lot of considerations to make with a system like this, and even more if you want to accommodate for Rocket League-like jumps. Continue reading “Remote Controlled Car Gets Active Suspension”

Eyecam Is Watching You In Between Blinks

We will be the first to admit that it’s often hard to be productive while working from home, especially if no one’s ever really looking over your shoulder. Well, here is one creepy way to feel as though someone is keeping an eye on you, if that’s what gets you to straighten up and fly right. The Eyecam research project by [Marc Teyssier] et. al. is a realistic, motorized eyeball that includes a camera and hangs out on top of your computer monitor. It aims to spark conversation about the sensors that are all around us already in various cold and clinical forms. It’s an open source project with a paper and a repo and a how-to video in the works.

The eyebrow-raising design pulls no punches in the uncanny department: the eye behaves as you’d expect (if you could have expected this) — it blinks, looks around, and can even waggle its brow. The eyeball, brow, and eyelids are actuated by a total of six servos that are controlled by an Arduino Nano.

Inside the eyeball is a Raspberry Pi camera connected to a Raspi Zero for the web cam portion of this intriguing horror show. Keep an eye out after the break for the Eyecam infomercial.

Creepy or fascinating, it succeeds in making people think about the vast amount of sensors around us now, and what the future of them could look like. Would mimicking eye contact be an improvement over the standard black and gray oblong eye? Perhaps a pair of eyes would be less unsettling, we’re not really sure. But we are left to wonder what’s next, a microphone that looks like an ear? Probably. Will it have hair sprouting from it? Perhaps.

Yeah, it’s true; two eyes are more on the mesmerizing side, but still creepy, especially when they follow you around the room and can shoot frickin’ laser beams.

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