The Empire Strikes Back With The ESP8266

Like many of us, [Matthew Wentworth] is always looking for a reason to build something. So when he found a 3D model of the “DF.9” laser turret from The Empire Strikes Back intended for Star Wars board games on Thingiverse, he decided it was a perfect excuse opportunity to not only try his hand at remixing an existing 3D design, but adding electronics to it to create something interactive.

As the model was originally intended for a board game, it was obviously quite small. So the first order of business was scaling everything up to twice the original dimensions. As [Matthew] notes, the fact that it still looks so good when expanded by such a large degree is a credit to how detailed the original model is. Once blown up to more useful proportions, he modified the head of the turret as well as the barrel to accept the electronics he planned on grafting into the model.

He created a mount for a standard nine gram servo inside the head of the turret which allows it to rotate, and the barrel got an LED stuck in the end. Both of which are controlled with a NodeMCU ESP8266 development board, allowing [Matthew] to control the direction and intensity of the pew-pew over WiFi. He mentions that in the future he would like to add sound effects that are synchronized to the turret rotation and LED blinking.

For the software side of the project, he used Blynk to quickly build a smartphone interface for the turret. This is the first time he had used Blynk, and reports that outside of a little trial and error, it was some of the easiest code he’s ever written for the Arduino. This is a sentiment we’ve been seeing a lot of recently towards Blynk, and it’s interesting to see how often it shows up in ESP8266 projects now.

Looking ahead [Matthew] says he wants to paint and detail the turret, as the bright orange color scheme probably wouldn’t do terribly well on Hoth. If he can manage the time, he’d also like to add it to the long list of OpenCV-powered turrets that hackers love harassing their friends and family with.

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Arduino One Pixel Camera Sees All (Eventually)

Taking pictures in the 21st century is incredibly easy. So easy in fact that most people don’t even own a dedicated camera; from smartphones to door bells there are cameras built into nearly electronic device we own. So in this era of ubiquitous photography, you might think that a very slow and extremely low resolution camera wouldn’t be of interest. Under normal circumstances that’s probably true, but this single pixel camera built by [Tucker Shannon] is anything but normal.

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Alexa, Attack Intruders

If our doom at the hands of our robot overlords is coming, I for one welcome the chance to get a preview of how they might go about it. That’s the idea behind Project Icarus, an Alexa-enabled face-tracking Nerf turret. Designed by [Nick Engmann],  this impressive (or terrifying) project is built around a Nerf Vulcan, a foam dart firing machine gun mounted on a panning turret that is hidden behind a drop-down cabinet door. This is connected to a Pi Zero equipped with a Pi camera. The Zero is running OpenCV and Google Firebase, which connects it with Amazon’s Alexa service.

It works like this: you say “Alexa, open Project Icarus”. Through the Alexa skill that [Nick] created, this connects to the Pi and starts the system. If you then say “Alexa, activate alpha”, it triggers a relay to open the cabinet and the Nerf gun starts panning around, while the camera mounted on the top of it searches for faces. The command “Alexa, activate beta” triggers the Nerf to open fire.

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Motion Activated Super-Squirter Stands Guard

Thieves beware. If you prowl around [Matthew Gaber]’s place, you get soaked by his motion activated super-squirter. Even if he’s not at home, he can aim and fire it remotely using an iPhone app. And for the record, a camera saves photos of your wetted-self to an SD card.

ESPino, ArduCAM UNO and voltage converter boards
ESPino, ArduCAM UNO and voltage converter boards

The whole security system is handled by three subsystems for target acquisition, photo documentation, and communications. The first subsystem is centered around an ESPino which utilizes a PIR sensor to detect motion. It then turns on a windscreen washer pump and uses pan and tilt servos to squirt water in a pattern toward the victim.

The target acquisition hardware also sends a message to the second subsystem, an ArduCAM ESP8266 UNO board. It takes a burst of photos using an ArduCAM Mini Camera mounted beside the squirter outlet. The UNO can also serve up a webpage with a collection of the photos.

The final subsystem is an iPhone app which talks to both the ESPino and the UNO board. It can remotely control the squirter and provide a video feed of what the camera sees.

One detail of the build we really enjoyed is the vacuum relief valve he fabricated himself. It prevents siphoning through the pump when it’s not on. Don’t miss a demo of the squirter in action after the break.

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Bluetooth Water Cannon Junk Build Shoots Into Our Hearts

We’ve seen a few remote controlled turret builds in the past, but this one from [Noel Geren] is pretty neat: it shoots water and uses Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) for control. Check it out in action in the video below.

[Noel] used the guts of a Nerf Thunderstrike water gun for the firing mechanism, combined with a 3D-printed enclosure and a servo that rotates the turret top. The pump from the gun is connected to a simple relay that replaces the trigger. Both the relay and the servo are connected to an RFDuino with a servo shield, which is programmed to respond to simple commands to rotate and fire.

It’s a nice junk build, and [Noel] has released all of the files for download if you want to build your own. It would make a nice weekend build or a project to do with the kids.

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Nerf Turret controlled by Slack

What happens when you give a former Navy weapons engineer some development boards and ask him to build “something cool”? What happens when you give a kid finger paints? [Seb] obviously built an IoT Nerf Turret Gun controlled via a team communication app.

The weapon was a Nerf Stampede which was hacked so it could be fired electronically. The safety switch was bypassed and a relay provided the firing signal. The electronics stack consists of an Intel Galileo, a motor shield and a relay shield. The turret assembly was built using off the shelf structural parts from Actobotics. Stepper motors provide motion to the turret. The fun begins with how the software is implemented. An iBeacon network detects where people sit at in the office. So when you type in the name of your target in a messaging app, it knows where they’re sitting, aims at them, and pops a nerf dart at them.

The lessons learned are what makes such projects worth their while. For example, USB is a standard. And the standard says that USB cables be not more than 1.8 m long. [Seb] was reminded of this when his electronics worked on his workbench, but refused to work when placed in-situ and connected via a 3m long cable – the serial link just wouldn’t work.

Mounting the gun such that it was nicely balanced was another challenge. Eventually, he had to use a couple of AA cells taped to the front of the gun to get it right. This could be useful though, since he plans to replace the dead weights with a sighting camera. One last hack was to zip tie heat sinks to the motor drivers, and he had a good reason to do that. Read more about it in his blog. And check out the video as someone takes aim and shoots a target via SLACK, the team messaging application.

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Home Made Half Life 2 Turret Powered By Pi

To help expand his inter-dimensional empire, [Solderchips] has decided to build his own Half Life 2 turret. This, he hopes, will automatically track and shoot anyone who hinders the work of Our Benefactors. He’s documenting the process, and has just published his first step: creating a 3D model of the turret and printing it out. The final project will use a Raspberry Pi and a webcam to track rebels and fire on them automatically, especially those with crowbars.

He’s made a promising start, using a papercraft model of the turret to build the 3D model, then modifying it to accommodate the brains (the Raspberry Pi) and the brawns, a couple of small servos that will move the top of the turret around. The next step will perhaps be to add a tilt switch so that the whole thing falls asleep if it falls over. The thing to learn from this project, is that at some point you just have to stop thinking about it and actually make something. This paper model is a big step toward success compared to carrying around the dream in your head.

We’ve seen a few Portal Turret builds and a very nice Wheatley build, but not a decent Half Life 2 turret build, so hopefully [Solderchips] will see this through to completion and release all of his files.