The Adorable Robot Spot, Now In Affordable Form

If you’ve been following the Boston Dynamics project Spot, you’ve seen its capabilities and how we’re starting to see it being used in public more since its official release last year. But in a true display of how hobbyist electronics have been evolving and catching up with the big companies over the past few years, [Miguel Ayuso Parrilla] shows us his own take on the walking robot with CHOP, one of the finalists in this year’s Hackaday Prize.

CHOP is a DIY quadruped robot that works much in the same way as Spot, although in a smaller form-factor and, perhaps most impressive of all, a bill of materials that can be all acquired for under $500. The entire project is open source, meaning that anyone can built their own version of it with off-the-shelf parts and some 3D printing. If you can’t get the hardware however, you can still play with the PyBullet simulation of the mechanics that were used during the debugging process.

Running the show are two main components, a Raspberry Pi 4B and an Arduino Mega. While the Mega interfaces with the servo controllers and provides filtering for sensors like the inertial measurement unit, the Pi takes all that data in and uses a series of Python scripts in order to determine the gait of the robot and which way the servos should move through an inverse kinematics model. To control the direction in which the body of the robot should accelerate, a Bluetooth remote controller sends commands to the Raspberry Pi.

We’re excited to see home-grown projects rise to this level of complexity, which would be mostly unheard of a few years ago in the maker scene, and only presented by large tech companies with tons of money to spend on research and development. There are other quadruped robots to inspire yourself on than Spot though, like this one with a spherical design and fold-out legs. Check this one in action after the break.

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Rollbot Crams Ten Arms Onto One Wheel

It’s not every day that we see someone trying something new with robot locomotion, but [kong]’s robot Rollyboi was made to do exactly that by mixing up the usual robot-wheel-motor layout. Instead of the robot using motors to drive wheels, Rollyboi is itself the wheel, and uses multiple simple arms (legs?) attached to hobby servo motors to propel itself. The idea is that the arms swivel out one at a time to roll the robot along as needed.

It’s a novel idea, but how well does it work in practice? The first version was blind and mechanically unstable, with no idea which way was up and therefore no way to effectively control which arm needed to be extended, but was nevertheless able to roll along. The next version implemented a simple control system: buttons installed along the outside rim let the robot know how it is moving and which arm to extend next. With two sets of arms (one on each side) the robot becomes capable of executing simple turns by extending one arm more than the other.

In the end, Rollyboi could move but still lacks a means to perceive and navigate its environment. This is made more challenging by the fact that the robot’s body (and therefore any sensors mounted to it) would be in constant motion as the robot moves. Still, it’s interesting to see how far the idea went using only simple hardware, and its motion gives off a certain radial solenoid engine vibe. You can watch a brief video below.

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Quadruped Robot Disguises Itself As A Ball

When the Skynet baseball bot swarms attack, we’ll be throwing [Carl Bugeja] some dirty looks for getting them started. He’s been working on 4B, a little quadruped robot that can transform itself into a sphere almost perfectly.

Before [Carl] was distracted by the wonders of PCB actuators more than a year ago, he started working on this little guy. He finally found some time to get it moving on its own, and the preliminary results look promising to say the least. Inside the 6 cm sphere is a total of 12 servos, 3 for each leg. All of the mechanical parts were 3D printed in nylon on an SLS machine, and the custom PCB has a BLE microcontroller module, an IMU and IR proximity sensors onboard. Everything is open source with all the files available on the Hackaday.io project page.

The microcontroller runs a full inverse kinematic model, so only the desired tip and base coordinate for each leg is input and the servo angles are automatically calculated. Ultimately [Carl] aims to have the robot both walking and rolling controllably. So far he’s achieved some degree of success in both, but it still needs some work (see the videos below. We’re eager to see what the future holds for this delightfully creepy bot.

Walking robots are always an interesting challenge. For more of our future overlords, check out this adorable little cat and this truly terrifying strandbeest.

Upgrade Your Shades To Find Lost Items

Ever wish you could augment your sense of sight?

[Nick Bild]’s latest hack helps you find objects (or people) by locating their position and tracking them with a laser. The device, dubbed Artemis, latches onto your eyeglasses and can be configured to locate a specific object.

Images collected from the device are streamed to an NVIDIA Jetson AGX Xavier board, which uses a SSD300 (Single Shot MultiBox Detection) model to locate objects. The model was pre-trained with the COCO dataset to recognize and localize 80 different object types given input from images thresholded in OpenCV. Once the desired object is identified and located, a laser diode activates.

Probably due to the current thresholds, the demo runs mostly work on objects placed further apart against a neutral background. It’s an interesting look at applications combining computer vision with physical devices to augment experiences, rather than simply processing and analyzing data.

The device uses two servos for controlling the laser: one for X-axis control and the other for Y-axis control. The controls are executed from an Adafruit Itsy Bitsy M4 Express microcontroller.

Perhaps with a bit more training, we might not have so much trouble with “Where’s Waldo” puzzles anymore.

Check out some of our other sunglasses hacks, from home automation to using LCDs to lessening the glare from headlights.

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This Arduino Keeps Its Eyes On You

[Will] wanted to build some animatronic eyes that didn’t require high-precision 3D printing. He wound up with a forgiving design that uses an Arduino and six servo motors. You can see the video of the eyes moving around in the video below.

The bill of materials is pretty simple and features an Arduino, a driver board, and a joystick. The 3D printing parts are easy to print with no supports, and will work with PLA. Other than opening up holes there wasn’t much post-processing required, though he did sand the actual eyeballs which sounds painful.

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Lead Former Makes LED Cubes A Little Easier To Build

There’s no doubting the allure of a nicely crafted LED cube; likewise, there’s no doubting that they can be a tremendous pain to build. After all, the amount of work scales as the cube of the number of LEDs you want each side to have, and let’s face it – with LED cubes, the bigger, the better. What to do about all that tedious lead forming?

[TylerTimoJ]’s solution is a custom-designed lead-forming tool, and we have to say we’re mighty impressed by it. His LED cubes use discrete RGB LEDs, the kind with four leads, each suspended in space by soldering them to wires. For the neat appearance needed to make such a circuit sculpture work, the leads must be trimmed and bent at just the right angles, a tedious job indeed when done by hand. His tool has servo-controlled jaws that grip the leads, with solenoid-actuated lead formers coming in from below to bend each lead just the right amount. The lead former, along with its companion trimmer, obviously went through a lot of iterations before [TylerTimoJ] got everything right, but we’d say being able to process thousands of LEDs without all the tedium is probably worth the effort.

We’re looking forward to the huge LED cubes this tool will enable. Perhaps this CNC wire bender and an automated wire cutter would come in handy for the supporting wires?

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Stubby, The Adorable And Easy To Build Hexapod

stubby

A while back, we had a sci-fi contest on Hackaday.io. Inspired by the replicators in Stargate SG-1, [The Big One] and a few other folk decided a remote-controlled hexapod would be a great build. The contest is long over, but that doesn’t mean development stopped. Now Stubby, the replicator-inspired hexapod is complete and he looks awesome.

The first two versions suffered from underpowered servos and complex mechanics. Third time’s the charm, and version three is a lightweight robot with pretty simple mechanics able to translate and rotate along the XYZ axes. Stubby only weights about 600 grams, batteries included, so he’s surprisingly nimble as well.

The frame of the hexapod is designed to be cut with a scroll saw, much to the chagrin of anyone without a CNC machine. There are three 9g servos per leg, all controlled with a custom board featuring an ATMega1284p and an XBee interface to an old Playstation controller.

Video of Stubby below, and of course all the sources and files are available on the project site.

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