Beware, arachnophobes, the robots are coming for you!
What else would you be expected to think if you watched a hexapod robot display its best Transformers impression by turning into a wheel and pushing itself in your direction? The BionicWheelBot — developed by [Festo] — should rightly remind you of the cartwheeling Flic-Flac spider, the main inspiration for the robot. Of course, Star Wars fans might justifiably see a Droideka.
The BionicWheelBot can — almost — seamlessly transition between crawling around on six legs, to literally rolling away. To do so, its three pairs of legs sequentially fold up into a shape befitting its namesake and then pauses for a moment — almost for dramatic effect — before the real fun begins.
When it comes to the title of undisputed king of the toy construction kit world, the Danes have it. Lego are ubiquitous in the toybox, and parents worldwide know the joy of stepping barefoot on a stray brick. Aside from the themed sets for youngsters and collectors, we see a lot of Lego in projects that make it to these pages. Sometimes they are from hardware hackers who’ve chosen Lego because they had some to hand or because of its utility, but at other times they come from the Lego community rather than the wider one.
Take the Star Racer from [Alexis Dos Santos] as an example of the former. It’s a table top racing game made entirely from Lego, and with control courtesy of Lego Mindstorms. It’s a real rolling road game, with a track made from five continuous belts of grey Lego sections, with obstacles attached to them. The Podracer slides from side to side at the front under user control, and the object is to avoid them as they come towards you at varying speed.
It’s a beautiful piece of work, and as well as the linked Flickr photographs it can be seen in the YouTube video below the break. The sticker says it’s a highly addictive game, and we’d be inclined not to disagree.
As a new parent, there’s lots you have to do. You have to buy a car seat, get the baby’s room ready, figure out daycare; all the boring but unavoidable minutiae of shepherding a tiny human. But for the more creative types, that list might include warming up the 3D printer or putting a fresh bit in the CNC, as there’s no better way to welcome a little one into the world than giving them some custom gear to get started with.
That’s certainly been the plan for [Matthew Regonini], who’s been showering his son with DIY playthings. He recently wrote in to tell us about his awesome AT-ST high chair build that manages to turn the drudgery of getting a baby to eat into an epic worthy of a John Williams score.
This isn’t the first time [Matthew] has turned dead trees into Imperial hardware. Last year we covered his fantastic AT-AT rocker which utilized the same construction techniques. The parts are cut out of plywood with his CNC, separated, cleaned up on a spindle sander, and finally assembled with wood glue and a few strategic fasteners. The depth and level of detail he’s able to achieve when the individual pieces are stacked up is exceptionally impressive. If builds like these don’t get you thinking about adding a CNC to your workshop, nothing will.
As with the AT-AT, the finish on the high chair is simply a healthy application of polyurethane. This keeps the wood from being porous (important as this build will be seeing its fair share of food and liquids) while retaining a natural look. Some might be tempted to paint it up in appropriate Imperial colors, but that might be a bit imposing considering its intended occupant.
Really, the only downside with this build is how quickly his son will outgrow it. The obvious solution to the problem is a constant supply of fresh babies to pilot it, but that’s one type of creation that we don’t generally detail here on Hackaday. If you have questions, ask your parents.
Incidentally, it’s starting to look like we’ve got a plywood arms-race going on. We’re excited to see somebody take it to the next level. A little scared, but mainly excited.
Prostheses are a great help to those who have lost limbs, or who never had them in the first place. Over the past few decades there has been a great deal of research done to make these essential devices more useful, creating prostheses that are capable of movement and more accurately recreating the functions of human body parts. At Georgia Tech, they’re working on just that, with the help of AI.
[Jason Barnes] lost his arm in a work accident, which prevented him from playing the piano the way he used to. The researchers at Georgia Tech worked with him, eventually producing a prosthetic arm that, unlike most, actually has individual finger control. This is achieved through the use of an ultrasound probe, which is used to detect muscle movements elsewhere on his body, with enough detail to allow the control of individual fingers. This is done through a TensorFlow-based neural network which analyses the ultrasound data to determine which finger the user is trying to move. The use of ultrasound was the major breakthrough which made this possible; previous projects have often relied on electromyogram sensors to read muscle impulses but these lack the resolution required.
The prosthesis is nicknamed the “Skywalker arm”, after its similarities to the prostheses seen in the Star Wars films. It’s not [Jason]’s first advanced prosthetic, either – Georgia Tech has also equipped him with an advanced drumming prosthesis. This allows him to use two sticks with a single arm, the second stick using advanced AI routines to drum along with the music in the room.
It’s great to see music being used as a driver to create high-performance prosthetics and push the state of the art forward. We’re sure [Jason] enjoys performing with the new hardware, too. But perhaps you’d like to try something similar, even though you’ve got two hands already? Try this on for size.
By now we’ve come to expect a bountiful harvest of licensed merchandise to follow every Star Wars film. This year’s crop included many flavors of BB-8 so every fan can find something to suit their taste. At the top of this food chain is a mobile interactive “Hero Droid BB-8”. For those who want to see how it works, [TheMikeSenna] cracked open his unit to feed our curiosity.
Also called “Spin Master BB-8” for the manufacturer, this toy is impressively sophisticated for its price point. The video surveyed the mechanical components inside the ball. Showing how the droid travels, and how the head articulates.
Unless you’ve been living under a high voltage transformer, you’re aware of the latest release in the Star Wars Saga. [John] has a relative that is clearly a big Star Wars fan, so he set about to build them the perfect Christmas present – a levitating Death Star! Instead of reinventing the wheel, [John] decided to start off with a magnetically levitating model of the Earth – a globe. He then took a Death Star mood lamp and gracefully cut it half with his trusty Dremel.
A nice twist for the mood lamp is that it was powered by a hacker’s best friend – five volts from a USB power supply. This made it easy to wire in a LiPo battery along with a charger and some fiber optic lighting. A pile of cat litter to represent a smoldering planet blown to bits ties the whole build together as only cat litter can.
Be sure to visit [John’s] Instructable page for full details along with a video, which you can also see below.
In an increasingly paperless society, writing implements are becoming an obsolete technology for many of us. Certainly not the kind of thing the average person would think to spend more than a couple bucks on, to say nothing of machining one out of a solid piece of aluminum bar stock. But clearly [Bob] is not most people. He recently dropped us a line about a video he uploaded to his aptly-named YouTube channel “Making Stuff”, where he goes through the steps required to turn raw materials into a writing instrument worthy of a Jedi.
Starting with a piece of aluminum chucked up in the lathe, [Bob] cuts out the iconic ribbed profile of Luke’s saber and fills in the gaps with nothing more exotic than a black Sharpie. He then moves on to the more complex shape of the emitter, and then flips the handle over in the lathe and hollows it out so a brass tube can be inserted.
Somewhat surprisingly, it seems more effort ends up being put into the acrylic “blade” than the aluminum handle itself. A chunk of acrylic is drilled and tapped so that it can be mounted in the chuck, and then turned down into a long cylinder. A tip is then cut in the end, the length of the blade is hollowed out, and finally it gets polished up to a nice shine.
The build is completed by inserting a standard ink pen cartridge down the center of the now completed saber. Surely the pen aficionados will lament that he didn’t attempt to build his own ink cartridge as well, but we think he gets a pass considering the rest of it was made from scratch.
If even a glorious writing instrument such as this isn’t enough to get you to re-learn how to write your name, fear not. Whether you’re making music or capturing flags, we’ve played home to numerous other saber projects; eye-safe or otherwise.