Dummy The Robot Arm Is Not So Dumb

[Zhihui Jun] is a name you’re going to want to remember because this Chinese maker has created quite probably one of the most complete open-source robot arms (video in Chinese with subtitles, embedded below) we’ve ever seen. This project has to be seen to be believed. Every aspect of the design from concept, mechanical CAD, electronics design and software covering embedded, 3D GUI, and so on, is the work of one maker, in just their spare time! Sound like we’re talking it up too much? Just watch the video and try to keep up!

After an initial review of toy robots versus more industrial units, it was quickly decided that servos weren’t going to cut it – too little torque and lacking in precision. BLDC motors offer great precision and torque when paired with a good controller, but they are tricky to make small enough, so an off-the-shelf compact harmonic drive was selected and paired with a stepper motor to get the required performance. This was multiplied by six and dropped into some slick CNC machined aluminum parts to complete the mechanics. A custom closed-loop stepper controller mounts directly to the rear of each motor. That’s really nice too.

Stepper controller mounts on the motor rear – smart!

Control electronics are based around the STM32 using an ESP32 for Wi-Fi connectivity, but the pace of the video is so fast it’s hard to keep up with how much of the design operates. There is a brief mention that the controller runs the LiteOS kernel for Harmony OS, but no details we can find. The project GitHub has many of the gory details to pore over perhaps a bit light in places but the promise is made to expand that. For remote control, there’s a BLE-connected teaching device (called ‘Peak’) with a touch screen, again details pending. Oh, did we mention there’s a force-feedback (a PS5 Adaptive Trigger had to die for the cause) remote control unit that uses binocular cameras to track motion, with an AHRS setup giving orientation and that all this is powered by a Huawei Atlas edge AI processing system? This was greatly glossed over in the video like it was just some side-note not worth talking about. We hope details of that get made public soon!

Threading a needle through a grape by remote control

The dedicated GUI, written in what looks like Unity, allows robot programming and motion planning, but since those harmonic drives are back-drivable, the robot can be moved by hand and record movements for replaying later. Some work with AR has been started, but that looks like early in the process, the features just keep on coming!

Quite frankly there is so much happening that it’s hard to summarise here and do the project any sort of justice, so to that end we suggest popping over to YT and taking a look for yourselves.

We love robots ’round these parts, especially robot arms, here’s a big one by [Jeremy Fielding],  and if you think stepper motors aren’t necessary, because servo motors can be made to work just fine, you may be right.

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Open 3D Engine editor with Amazon Shader Language file and asset from the game Deadhaus Sonata open. (Credit: O3DE project)

Open 3D Engine: Amazon’s Old Clothes Or A Game Engine To Truly Get Excited About?

Recently Amazon announced that they would be open sourcing the 3D engine and related behind their Amazon Lumberyard game tooling effort. As Lumberyard is based on CryEngine 3.8  (~2015 vintage), this raises the question of whether this new open source engine – creatively named Open 3D Engine (O3DE) – is an open source version of a CryTek engine, and what this brings to those of us who like to tinker with 2D, 3D games and similar.

When reading through the marketing materials, one might be forgiven for thinking that O3DE is the best thing since sliced 3D bread, and is Amazon’s benevolent gift to the unwashed masses to free them from the chains imposed on them by proprietary engines like Unity and Unreal Engine. A closer look reveals however that O3DE is Lumberyard, but with many parts of Lumberyard replaced, including the renderer still in the process of being rewritten from the old CryEngine code.

What Makes a Good Game Engine?

My own game development attempts started with the Half Life engine and the Valve Hammer editor, as well as the Doom map editor. This meant that some expectations were set before encountering today’s game engines and their tools. The development experience with the Hammer editor in the late 1990s was pretty much WYSIWYG, and when I was just getting started with Unreal Engine 4 (UE4) a number of years back this was pretty much the same experience, making it relatively easy to hit the ground running. Continue reading “Open 3D Engine: Amazon’s Old Clothes Or A Game Engine To Truly Get Excited About?”

Haptic Feedback “Rifle” Lets You Take Aim In VR

There was a time when virtual reality seemed like it would remain in the realm of science fiction at least for the foreseeable future. Then we were blessed with products like the Power Glove and Virtual Boy which seemed to make it more of a reality, if not a clunky and limited one. Now, though, virtual reality is taking more of a center stage as the technology for it improves and more and more games are released. We can see no greater proof of this than the fact that some gamers are building their own custom controllers to interact with the virtual world in more meaningful ways, like this game controller specifically built for first-person shooter games.

The controller is based on an airsoft gun but completely lacks the ability to fire a projectile, instead using the gun as a base for building the controller. In fact, the gun’s operation is effectively reversed in order to immerse the player into the game by using haptic feedback provided by pressurized air. The air is pumped in to what would be the front of the barrel and is discharged through the receiver when a trigger pull is detected in order to generate a recoil effect. The controller includes plenty of other features as well, including the ability to reload ammunition, change the firing mode, and track motion thanks to its pair of integrated Oculus controllers.

All of the parts for this controller are either 3D printed or readily available off-the-shelf, making this an ideal platform for customization and improvement. There’s also a demo game available from Unity which allows for a pretty easy setup for testing. While the controller looks like an excellent way to enjoy an FPS virtual reality experience, if you’re looking for a more general-purpose controller we are also starting to see a lot of development on that end as well.

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Automated Sentry Turret For Your Secret Lab

There are few things as frustrating when you’re trying to get some serious hacking done than intruders repeatedly showing up without permission. [All Parts Combined] has the solution for you, with a Kinect-based robotic sentry turret to keep them at bay.

The system consists of a Microsoft Kinect V2 connected to a PC, which runs an app to do all the processing, and outputs the targeting information to an Arduino over serial. The Arduino controls a simple 2-axis servo mount with an electric airsoft gun zip-tied to it. The trigger switch is replaced with a relay, also connected to the Arduino.

The Kinect V2 comes with SDKs that really simplify tracking human movement, and outputs the data in an easy-to-use format. [All Parts Combined] used the SDK in Unity, which allows him to choose which body parts to track. He added scripts that detect a few basic gestures, issues voice commands, and generates the serial commands for the Arduino. The servo angles are calculated with simple geometry, using XY coordinates of the target received from the SDK, and the known distance between the Kinect and turret. When an intruder enters the Kinect’s field of view it immediately starts aiming at the intruder’s heart, issues a “Hands Up!” command, and tells the intruder to leave. If the intruder doesn’t comply, it starts an audible countdown before firing. [All Parts Combined] also added a secret disarming gesture (double hand pistols), which turns the turret into an apologetic comrade. All it needs is a Portal-inspired enclosure.

It’s a fun project that illustrates how the Kinect can make complex computer vision tasks relatively simple. Unfortunately the V2 is no longer in production, having been replaced by the more expensive, developer focused Azure Kinect. We’ve covered several Kinect-based projects, including a 3D room scanner and a robotic basketball hoop.

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Apple II Talks To 3D Printer With A Little Modern Help

Controlling most desktop 3D printers is as easy as sending them G-code commands over a serial connection. As you might expect, it takes a relatively quick machine to fire off the commands fast enough for a good-quality print. But what if you weren’t so picky? If speed isn’t a concern, what’s the practical limit on the type of computer you could use?

In an effort to answer that question, [Max Piantoni] set out to control his Ender 3 printer with an authentic Apple IIc. Things were made a bit easier by the fact that he really only wanted to use the printer as a 2D plotter, so he could ignore the third dimension in his code. All he needed to do was come up with a BASIC program that let him create some simple geometric artwork on the Apple and convert it into commands that could be sent out over the computer’s serial port.

Unity controlling the Ender 3

Unfortunately, [Max] ran into something of a language barrier. While the Apple had no problem generating G-code the Ender’s controller would understand, both devices couldn’t agree on a data rate that worked for both of them. The 3D printer likes to zip along at 115,200 baud, while the Apple was plodding ahead at 300. Clearly, something would have to stand in as an interpreter.

The solution [Max] came up with certainly wouldn’t be our first choice, but there’s something to be said for working with what you know. He quickly whipped up a program in Unity on his Macbook that would accept incoming commands from the Apple II at 300 baud, build up a healthy buffer, and then send them off to the Ender 3. As you can see in the video after the break, this Mac-in-the-middle approach got these unlikely friends talking at last.

We’re reminded of a project from a few years back that aimed to build a fully functional 3D printer with 1980s technology. It was to be controlled by a Commodore PET from the 1980s, which also struggled to communicate quickly enough with the printer’s electronics. Bringing a modern laptop into the mix is probably cheating a bit, but at least it shows the concept is sound.

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Ubuntu Update Hack Chat

Join us on Wednesday, July 22 at noon Pacific for the Ubuntu Update Hack Chat with Rhys Davies and Alan Pope!

Everyone has their favorite brands, covering everything from the clothes they wear to the cars they drive. We see brand loyalty informing all sorts of acquisition decisions, not only in regular consumer life but in technology, too. Brand decisions sort people into broad categories like Mac versus PC, or iPhone versus Android, and can result in spirited discussions of the relative merits of one choice over the others. It’s generally well-intentioned, even if it gets a bit personal sometimes.

Perhaps no choice is more personal in hacker circles than which Linux distribution to use. There are tons to choose from, each with their various features and particular pros and cons. Ubuntu has become a very popular choice for Linux aficionados, attracting more than a third of the market. Canonical is the company behind the Debian-based distro, providing editions that run on the desktop, on servers, and on a variety of IoT devices, as well as support and services for large-scale users.

To fill us in on what’s new in the world of Ubuntu, Canonical product manager Rhys Davies and developer advocate Alan Pope will stop by the Hack Chat this week. They’ll be ready to answer all your questions about the interesting stuff that’s going on with Ubuntu, including the recently announced Ubuntu Appliances, easy to install, low maintenance images for Raspberry Pis and PCs that are built for security and simplicity. We’ll also talk about snaps, desktops, and whatever else crops up.

join-hack-chatOur Hack Chats are live community events in the Hackaday.io Hack Chat group messaging. This week we’ll be sitting down on Wednesday, July 22 at 12:00 PM Pacific time. If time zones have you down, we have a handy time zone converter.

Click that speech bubble to the right, and you’ll be taken directly to the Hack Chat group on Hackaday.io. You don’t have to wait until Wednesday; join whenever you want and you can see what the community is talking about. Continue reading “Ubuntu Update Hack Chat”

Toilet Paper Chase And Indoor Cycling Race With Unity And Arduino

While we’re still far away from returning to a pre-Corona everyday life, people seem to have accepted that toilet paper will neither magically cease to exist, nor become our new global currency. But back at the height of its madness, like most of us, [Jelle Vermandere] found himself in front of empty shelves, and the solution seemed obvious to him: creating a lifelike toilet paper chasing game in hopes to distract the competition.

Using Unity, [Jelle] created a game world of an empty supermarket, with the goal to chase after distribution tubes and collect toilet paper packs into a virtual cart. Inspired by the Wii Wheel, he imitated a shopping cart handle built from — as it appears — a sunshade pole that holds an Arduino and accelerometer in a 3D-printed case as game controller. For an even more realistic feel, he added a sound sensor to the controller, and competing carts to the game, which can be pushed out of the way by simply yelling loud enough. You can witness all of this delightful absurdity in his build video after the break.

From racing shopping carts to racing bicycles

But that’s not all. With the toilet paper situation sorted out, [Jelle] found himself in a different dilemma: a cloud foiled his plans of going for a bicycle ride. In the same manner, he ended up building a cycling racing game, once again with Unity and Arduino. From a 3D-scanned model of himself and his bicycle, to automatically generating tracks on the fly and teaching an AI to ride a bike, [Jelle] clearly doesn’t joke around while he’s joking around.

However, the best part about the game has to be the controller, which is his actual bicycle. Using a magnetic door sensor to detect the speed, and a potentiometer mounted with an obscure Lego construction to the handlebar, it’s at least on par with the shopping cart handle — but judge for yourself in another build video, also attached after the break. The only thing missing now is to level up the difficulty by powering the Arduino with the bicycle itself.

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