Robot Travels The World

Around the World in 80 Days may have been an impressive feat of international travel in a world before widespread air transit. In modern times though, it’s not even necessary to leave your home in order to travel around the world. To that end, [Norbert] is attempting to accomplish this journey using a robot that will do the traveling for him as part of this year’s Virtual Maker Faire.

The robot is called the World Tour Robot, and the idea for it is to be small enough to ship to each new location around the world and be simple enough to be repaired easily. It is driven by two servo motors and controlled by a Raspberry Pi which also handles a small camera. Once at its location, it can connect to the internet and then be able to be controlled through a web interface. Locations are selected by application, and the robot is either handed off to the next person in the chain or put back in a box to be shipped.

The robot hasn’t left for its maiden voyage just yet but [Norbert] plans to get it started soon. Hopefully there are enough interesting places for this robot to explore on its trip around the world, although it’s probably best to avoid Philadelphia as it is known to be unfriendly to robots.

Travel Globe Spins You Around Memory Lane

We all have our own preferences when it comes to travel souvenirs — that little something that brings back the memories and feelings of a past holiday every time we look at it, whether it’s the cliché fridge magnet, some local speciality, or just the collection of photos we took. But then there are those journeys that can’t be summarized into a single item and may require a bit more creativity. For [Jonathan], it was last year’s trip around the world that took him and [Maria] to locations all over Europe, Asia, and Oceania, and he found a great way to remember it: an interactive, laser-cut travel globe displaying all the places they went to.

Building a sphere is of course a bit tricky with a laser cutter, so [Jonathan] went for the icosahedron shaped Dymaxion map projection (think of a large d20 dice) and burnt the world onto it. Inside the globe is an ESP8266, an MPU-6050 IMU, and a bunch of LEDs to light up the travel locations using the WLED library. Taking the data from the IMU, he customized the WLED library to determine which way the globe is positioned, and highlights the top-facing location in a different color.

While that would already make a nice souvenir on its own, [Jonathan] didn’t stop here. Using Google’s My Maps service, which lets you create custom maps with own points of interest and have for example photos attached to them, the ESP8266 hosts the travel map also as a web page. Feeding the IMU data to the JavaScript code that’s handling the map API, the globe itself now doubles as an input device to control the virtual map. So whenever the globe is physically rotated to highlight a certain location, the web page’s map is focused to that same location and shows randomly the pictures they have taken there. Check out the video below to see it all in action.

This is a great way to reminisce about a memorable journey even years down the road, and while it may not be flexible to extend, it seems like the kind of trip that deserves a standalone device anyway. Plus, the Dymaxion map is definitely an interesting projection — so here’a a foldable one, just because. And If you like tracking things on a globe, here’s one that shows the location of the ISS.

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A Division In Voltage Standards

During my recent trip to Europe, I found out that converters were not as commonly sold as adapters, and for a good reason. The majority of the world receives 220-240 V single phase voltage at 50-60 Hz with the surprisingly small number of exceptions being Canada, Colombia, Japan, Taiwan, the United States, Venezuela, and several other nations in the Caribbean and Central America.

While the majority of countries have one defined plug type, several countries in Latin America, Africa, and Asia use a collection of incompatible plugs for different wall outlets, which requires a number of adapters depending on the region traveled.

Although there is a fair degree of standardization among most countries with regards to the voltage used for domestic appliances, what has caused the rift between the 220-240 V standard and the 100-127 V standards used in the remaining nations?

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Using An FPGA To Navigate China’s Railroads

If you’re headed over to mainland China as a tourist, it’s possible to get to most of the country by rail. China is huge though, about the same size as the United States and more than twice the size of the European Union. Traveling that much area isn’t particularly easy. There are over 300 train terminals in China, and finding the quickest route somewhere is not obvious at all. This is an engineering challenge waiting to be solve, and luckily some of the students at Cornell Engineering have taken a stab at efficiently navigating China’s rail system using an FPGA.

The FPGA runs an algorithm for finding the shortest route between two points, called Dijkstra’s algorithm. With so many nodes this can get cumbersome for a computer to calculate, but the parallel processing of a dedicated FPGA speeds up the process significantly. The FPGA also includes something called a “hard processor system“, or HPS. This is not a soft-core, but dedicated computing hardware in the form of an ARM Cortex-A9. Testing showed that utilizing both the HPS and the FPGA can speed up the computation by up to ten times over a microcontroller alone.

This project goes into extreme detail on the methodology and the background of the math and coding involved, and is definitely worth a read if you’re interested in FPGAs or traveling salesman-esque problems. FPGAs aren’t the only dedicated hardware you can use to solve these kinds of problems though, if you have a big enough backpack while you’re traveling around China you could also use a different kind of computer.

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Handheld GPS Tracks All The Things

With a GPS on every smartphone, one would be forgiven for forgetting that handheld GPS units still exist. Seeking to keep accurate data on a few upcoming trips, [_Traveler] took on a custom-build that resulted in this GPS data logger.

Keeping tabs on [_Traveler] is a Ublox M8N GPS which is on full-time, logging data every 30 seconds, for up  to 2.5 days. All data is saved to an SD card, with an ESP32 to act as a brain and make downloading the info more accessible via WiFi . While tracking the obvious — like position, speed, and time — this data logger also displays temperature, elevation, dawn and dusk, on an ePaper screen which is a great choice for conserving battery.

The prototyping process is neat on this one. The first complete build used point-to-point soldering on a protoboard to link several breakout modules together. After that, a PCB design embraces the same modules, with a footprint for the ESP’s castellated edges and header footprints for USB charing board, SD card board, ePaper, etc. All of this finds a hope in a 3D printed enclosure. After a fair chunk of time coding in the Arduino IDE the logger is ready for [_Traveler]’s next excursion!

As far as power consumption in the field, [_Traveler] says the GPS takes a few moments to get a proper location — with the ESP chewing through battery life all the while — and plans to tinker with it in shorter order.

Not all GPS trackers are created equal: sometimes all you need is a stripped-down tracker for your jog, or to know exactly where every pothole is along your route.

[Via /r/electronics]

Chest Of Drawers Stores Audio Memories

Some people collect stamps, some collect barbed wire, and some people even collect little bits of silicon and plastic. But the charmingly named [videoschmideo] collects memories, mostly of his travels around the world with his wife. Trinkets and treasures are easy to keep track of, but he found that storing the audio clips he collects a bit more challenging. Until he built this audio memory chest, that is.

Granted, you might not be a collector of something as intangible as audio files, and even if you are, it seems like Google Drive or Dropbox might be the more sensible place to store them. But the sensible way isn’t always the best way, and we really like this idea. Starting with what looks like an old card catalog file — hands up if you’ve ever greedily eyed a defunct card catalog in a library and wondered if it would fit in your shop for parts storage — [videoschmideo] outfitted 16 drawers with sensors to detect when they’re opened. Two of the drawers were replaced by speaker grilles, and an SD card stores all the audio files. When a drawer is opened, a random clip from that memory is played while you look through the seashells, postcards, and what-have-yous. Extra points for using an old-school typewriter for the drawer labels, and for using old card catalog cards for the playlists.

This is a simple idea, but a powerful one, and we really like the execution here. This one manages to simultaneously put us in the mood for some world travel and a trip to a real library.

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This Electric Longboard Collapses For Air Travel

How do you manage to get an electric off-road longboard past TSA and onto an international flight? Simple — make it a collapsible longboard that fits into a carry-on bag.

The mechanical and electrical feats accomplished by [transistor-man] may not be the most impressive parts of this hack. We’re pretty impressed by the build, starting as it did with the big knobby tires and front truck from an unused mountain board and the hub motor from a hoverboard, turning this into a trike. The incredible shrinking chassis comes courtesy of a couple of stout drawer slides and cam locks to keep it locked in place; collapsed, the board fits in a carry on bag. Expanded, it runs like a dream, as the video below shows.

But we think the really interesting part of this hack is the social engineering [transistor-man] did to ensure that the authorities wouldn’t ground his creation for electrical reasons. It seems current rules limit how big a battery can be and how many of them can be brought on a flight, so there was a lot of battery finagling before his creation could fly.

Electric longboards look like a real kick, whether they be all-aluminum or all-plastic, or even all-LEGO. This one, which went from concept to complete a week and a half before the flight, really raises the bar.

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