Tag Archives: robot

Landmine-clearing Pi-powered C-Turtle

via Raspberry Pi

In an effort to create a robot that can teach itself to navigate different terrains, scientists at Arizona State University have built C-Turtle, a Raspberry Pi-powered autonomous cardboard robot with turtle flippers. This is excellent news for people who live in areas with landmines: C-Turtle is a great alternative to current landmine-clearing robots, since it is much cheaper, and much easier to assemble.

C-Turtle ASU

Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Why turtle flippers?

As any user of Python will tell you*, turtles are amazing. Moreover, as the evolutionary biologist of the C-Turtle team, Andrew Jansen, will tell you, considering their bulk** turtles move very well on land with the help of their flippers. Consequently, the team tried out prototypes with cardboard flippers imitating the shape of turtle flippers. Then they compared their performance to that of prototypes with rectangular or oval ‘flippers’. And 157 million years of evolution*** won out: the robots with turtle flippers were best at moving forward.

C-Turtle ASU

Field testing with Assistant Professor Heni Ben Amor, one of the C-Turtle team’s leaders (Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now)

If it walks like a C-Turtle…

But the scientists didn’t just slap turtle flippers on their robot and then tell it to move like a turtle! Instead, they implemented machine learning algorithms on the Pi Zero that serves as C-Turtle’s brain, and then simply let the robot do its thing. Left to its own devices, it used the reward and punishment mechanisms of its algorithms to learn the most optimal way of propelling itself forward. And lo and behold, C-Turtle taught itself to move just like a live turtle does!

Robotic C-Turtle

This is “Robotic C-Turtle” by ASU Now on Vimeo, the home for high quality videos and the people who love them.

Landmine clearance with C-Turtle

Robots currently used to clear landmines are very expensive, since they are built to withstand multiple mine explosions. Conversely, the total cost of C-Turtle comes to about $70 (~£50) – that’s cheap enough to make it disposable. It is also more easily assembled, it doesn’t need to be remotely controlled, and it can learn to navigate new terrains. All this makes it perfect for clearing minefields.

BBC Click on Twitter

Meet C-Turtle, the landmine detecting robot. VIDEO https://t.co/Kjc6WxRC8I

C-Turtles in space?****

The researchers hope that robots similar to C-Turtle can used for space exploration. They found that the C-Turtle prototypes that had performed very well in the sandpits in their lab didn’t really do as well when they were released in actual desert conditions. By analogy, robots optimized for simulated planetary conditions might not actually perform well on-site. The ASU scientists imagine that C-Turtle materials and a laser cutter for the cardboard body could be carried on board a Mars mission. Then Martian C-Turtle design could be optimized after landing, and the robot could teach itself how best to navigate real Martian terrain.

There are already Raspberry Pis in space – imagine if they actually made it to Mars! Dave would never recover

Congrats to Assistant Professors Heni Ben Amor and Daniel Aukes, and to the rest of the C-Turtle team, on their achievement! We at Pi Towers are proud that our little computer is part of this amazing project.

C-Turtle ASU

Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

* Check out our Turtley amazing resource to find out why!

** At a length of 7ft, leatherback sea turtles can weigh 1,500lb!

*** That’s right: turtles survived the extinction of the dinosaurs!

**** Is anyone else thinking of Great A’Tuin right now? Anyone? Just me? Oh well.

The post Landmine-clearing Pi-powered C-Turtle appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

IoT Sleepbuddy, the robotic babysitter

via Raspberry Pi

You’re watching the new episode of Game of Thrones, and suddenly you hear your children, up and about after their bedtime! Now you’ll probably miss a crucial moment of the show because you have to put them to bed again. Or you’re out to dinner with friends and longing for the sight of your sleeping small humans. What do you do? Text the babysitter to check on them? Well, luckily for you these issues could soon be things of the past, thanks to Bert Vuylsteke and his Pi-powered Sleepbuddy. This IoT-controlled social robot could fulfil all your remote babysitting needs!

IoT Sleepbuddy – babyphone – Design concept

This is the actual concept of my robot and in what context it can be used.

A social robot?

A social robot fulfils a role normally played by a person, and interacts with humans via human language, gestures, and facial expressions. This is what Bert says about the role of the Sleepbuddy:

[For children, it] is a friend or safeguard from nightmares, but it is so much more for the babysitters or parents. The babysitters or parents connect their smartphone/tablet/PC to the Sleepbuddy. This will give them access to control all his emotions, gestures, microphone, speaker and camera. In the eye is a hidden camera to see the kids sleeping. The speaker and microphone allow communication with the kids through WiFi.

The roots of the Sleepbuddy

As a student at Ghent University, Bert had to build a social robot using OPSORO, the university’s open-source robotics platform. The developers of this platform create social robots for research purposes. They are also making all software, as well as hardware design plans, available on GitHub. In addition, you will soon be able to purchase their robot kits via a Kickstarter. OPSORO robots are designed around the Raspberry Pi, and controlled via a web interface. The interface allows you to customise your robot’s behaviour, using visual or text-based programming languages.

Sleepbuddy Bert Vuylsteke components

The Sleepbuddy’s components

Building the Sleepbuddy

Bert has provided a detailed Instructable describing the process of putting the Sleepbuddy together, complete with video walk-throughs. However, the making techniques he has used include thermoforming, laser cutting, and 3D printing. If you want to recreate this build, you may need to contact your local makerspace to find out whether they have the necessary equipment.

Sleepbuddy Bert Vuylsteke assembly

Assembling the Sleepbuddy

Finally, Bert added an especially cute touch to this project by covering the Sleepbuddy in blackboard paint. Therefore, kids can draw on the robot to really make it their own!

So many robots!

At Pi Towers we are partial to all kinds of robots, be they ones that test medical devices, play chess or Connect 4, or fight other robots. If they twerk, or are cute, tiny, or shoddy, we maybe even like them a tiny bit more.

Do you share our love of robots? Would you like to make your own? Then check out our resource for building a simple robot buggy. Maybe it will kick-start your career as the general of a robot army. A robot army that does good, of course! Let us know your benevolent robot overlord plans in the comments.

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Pool playing robot

via Dangerous Prototypes

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BVarv  wrote an instructable detailing the build of his pool playing robot project with Arduino:

I redesign the prototype with servos, belts and gears at the points of rotation to add programmable motion.
While doing so, I stumble across an easy win. It turns out that the “parked under the table” orientations, and the “perpendicular to the table” orientations are regular stops for pool playing robots. Adding two tabs to a layer of the table pedestal and placing two switches on the motion platform is a simple way to reliably detect those positions.

Project instructables here.

Check out the video after the break.

Raspberry Turk: a chess-playing robot

via Raspberry Pi

Computers and chess have been a potent combination ever since the appearance of the first chess-playing computers in the 1970s. You might even be able to play a game of chess on the device you are using to read this blog post! For digital makers, though, adding a Raspberry Pi into the mix can be the first step to building something a little more exciting. Allow us to introduce you to Joey Meyer‘s chess-playing robot, the Raspberry Turk.

The Raspberry Turk chess-playing robot

Image credit: Joey Meyer

Being both an experienced software engineer with an interest in machine learning, and a skilled chess player, it’s not surprising that Joey was interested in tinkering with chess programs. What is really stunning, though, is the scale and complexity of the build he came up with. Fascinated by a famous historical hoax, Joey used his skills in programming and robotics to build an open-source Raspberry Pi-powered recreation of the celebrated Mechanical Turk automaton.

You can see the Raspberry Turk in action on Joey’s YouTube channel:

Chess Playing Robot Powered by Raspberry Pi – Raspberry Turk

The Raspberry Turk is a robot that can play chess-it’s entirely open source, based on Raspberry Pi, and inspired by the 18th century chess playing machine, the Mechanical Turk. Website: http://www.raspberryturk.com Source Code: https://github.com/joeymeyer/raspberryturk

A historical hoax

Joey explains that he first encountered the Mechanical Turk through a book by Tom Standage. A famous example of mechanical trickery, the original Turk was advertised as a chess-playing automaton, capable of defeating human opponents and solving complex puzzles.

Image of the Mechanical Turk Automaton

A modern reconstruction of the Mechanical Turk 
Image from Wikimedia Commons

Its inner workings a secret, the Turk toured Europe for the best part of a century, confounding everyone who encountered it. Unfortunately, it turned out not to be a fabulous example of early robotic engineering after all. Instead, it was just an elaborate illusion. The awesome chess moves were not being worked out by the clockwork brain of the automaton, but rather by a human chess master who was cunningly concealed inside the casing.

Building a modern Turk

A modern version of the Mechanical Turk was constructed in the 1980s. However, the build cost $120,000. At that price, it would have been impossible for most makers to create their own version. Impossible, that is, until now: Joey uses a Raspberry Pi 3 to drive the Raspberry Turk, while a Raspberry Pi Camera Module handles computer vision.

Image of chess board and Raspberry Turk robot

The Raspberry Turk in the middle of a game 
Image credit: Joey Meyer

Joey’s Raspberry Turk is built into a neat wooden table. All of the electronics are housed in a box on one side. The chessboard is painted directly onto the table’s surface. In order for the robot to play, a Camera Module located in a 3D-printed housing above the table takes an image of the chessboard. The image is then analysed to determine which pieces are in which positions at that point. By tracking changes in the positions of the pieces, the Raspberry Turk can determine which moves have been made, and which piece should move next. To train the system, Joey had to build a large dataset to validate a computer vision model. This involved painstakingly moving pieces by hand and collecting multiple images of each possible position.

Look, no hands!

A key feature of the Mechanical Turk was that the automaton appeared to move the chess pieces entirely by itself. Of course, its movements were actually being controlled by a person hidden inside the machine. The Raspberry Turk, by contrast, does move the chess pieces itself. To achieve this, Joey used a robotic arm attached to the table. The arm is made primarily out of Actobotics components. Joey explains:

The motion is controlled by the rotation of two servos which are attached to gears at the base of each link of the arm. At the end of the arm is another servo which moves a beam up and down. At the bottom of the beam is an electromagnet that can be dynamically activated to lift the chess pieces.

Joey individually fitted the chess pieces with tiny sections of metal dowel so that the magnet on the arm could pick them up.

Programming the Raspberry Turk

The Raspberry Turk is controlled by a daemon process that runs a perception/action sequence, and the status updates automatically as the pieces are moved. The code is written almost entirely in Python. It is all available on Joey’s GitHub repo for the project, together with his notebooks on the project.

Image of Raspberry Turk chessboard with Python script alongside

Image credit: Joey Meyer

The AI backend that gives the robot its chess-playing ability is currently Stockfish, a strong open-source chess engine. Joey says he would like to build his own engine when he has time. For the moment, though, he’s confident that this AI will prove a worthy opponent.

The project website goes into much more detail than we are able to give here. We’d definitely recommend checking it out. If you have been experimenting with any robotics or computer vision projects like this, please do let us know in the comments!

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Robot Arm From Recyclables

via hardware – Hackaday

A robot assistant would make the lives of many much easier. Luckily, it’s possible to make one of your own with few fancy materials. The [circuito.io] team demonstrates this by building a robot arm out of recyclables!

With the exception of the electronics — an Arduino, a trio of servo motors, and a joystick — the arm is made almost completely out of salvaged recyclables: scrap wood, a plastic bottle, bits of plastic string and a spring. Oh, and — demonstrating yet another use for those multi-talented tubers — a potato acts as a counterweight.

Instead of using screws or glue, these hackers used string made from a plastic bottle as a form of heat shrink wrap to bind the parts of the arm together. The gripper has only one pivoting claw for greater strength, and the spring snaps it open once released. Behold: your tea-bag dunking assistant.


Code for the project is available to download from their site. Given this straightforward tutorial, it’s hard to find a reason NOT to embark on building your first robot arm — if you haven’t already begun.

We at Hackaday love seeing projects that strive to reuse materials in inventive ways. That said, you needn’t rely on a shiny new Arduino for this robot arm. If you have an aging palm pilot kicking around, that will also do the trick.


Filed under: Arduino Hacks, hardware, robots hacks

Taking A Robot For A Drive

via hardware – Hackaday

Instructables user [Roboro] had a Mad Catz Xbox steering wheel controller he hasn’t had much use for of late, so he decided to hack and use it as a controller for a robot instead.

Conceivably, you could use any RC car, but [Roboro] is reusing one he used for a robot sumo competition a few years back. Cracking open the controller revealed a warren of wires that were — surprise, surprise — grouped and labelled, making for a far less painful hacking process. Of course, [Roboro] is only using the Xbox button for power, the player-two LED to show the connection status, the wheel, and the pedals, but knowing which wires are which might come in handy later.

An Arduino Uno in the wheel and a Nano in the robot are connected via CC41-A Bluetooth modules which — despite having less functionality than the HM10 module they’re cloned from — perform admirably. A bit of code and integration of a SN754410 H-bridge motor driver — the Arduino doesn’t supply enough current to [Roboro]’s robot’s motors — and the little robot’s ready for its test drive.

[Roboro]’s suggested improvements are servo steering for the robot, upgrading to the HM10 module, more sensors to take advantage of the other buttons on the wheel, and a camera — because who doesn’t love some good ol’ fashioned FPV racing?


Filed under: Arduino Hacks, hardware, robots hacks