Tag Archives: Robotics

A low-cost robotic hand (tutorial) mirroring your own fingers

via Arduino Blog

roboticHand

Marco Pucci shared on our Facebook Page a link to the tutorial he made for a low-cost Robotic Hand able to mirror the movement of our own hand. He created it  in the laboratory of new technology of Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera (“Academy of fine arts of Brera”), a state-run public academy in Milan, Italy.

robot_hand_1

The hand works with flex sensors attached to the glove’s fingers, they are analysed by an Arduino which then moves servo motors connected to threads attached to the robotic hand.

You can follow the tutorial (in italian, but you can use google translate) on this page www.marcopucci.it/arduino/ , download a zip with all the sketches, and watch a demo video below:

 

Steer a car. With cheese.

via Raspberry Pi

Building your own remote-controlled robot or car is a favourite activity for kids who are using a Pi to learn about programming and electronics.

But this is the first one we’ve encountered that interfaces with a remote control made of cheese.

We absolutely love MaKey MaKey here at Pi Towers: it’s a kit that enables you to use any conductive objects in place of keypresses or switches, and there is little more engaging when you’re a kid than being able to build inputs out of things you’re more used to eating for dinner. I think this setup is a considerable imaginative leap forward from the standard bananapiano. I am not knocking bananapianos. Bananapianos are great. But it’s the canonical MaKey MaKey project, and so many people stop there, when there’s a whole world of conductive objects out there; and a whole world of things to make them control.

Like cheese. And tiny cars.

This is the work of Conor O’Neill, who wanted to do some family electronics his kids would enjoy. You can read a great writeup of his project on his website, with all the code you’ll need, and thoughts on where he wants to take the project next.

We salute your greasy forefingers, Conor and kids.

HummingBird Duo is an Arduino At Heart Robotics Kit for Ages 10 to 110

via Arduino Blog

hummingbird

Today we want to introduce you to a new Arduino at Heart Partner launching on Kickstarter this week: Hummingbird Duo is an electronics kit designed to be fun and educational for a fourth grader, a high school student, a college engineering student, or an adult maker.

Hummingbird Duo  creates a bridge between making and classroom education combining craft materials, electronic components and drag &drop programming. Part of Hummingbird’s mission is, in fact, to explode common conceptions of how robotics can be used in K-12 education:

 We have designed several levels of learning into the Hummingbird experience. Instead of a steep learning curve, learners go up a staircase where each step increases skills and where mastering each step allows one to use the Hummingbird in a new and more interesting way.

 

The kit was developed by BirdBrain Technologies, a Pittsburgh, PA firm founded by Tom Lauwers in 2010 to commercialize educational technology developed by the Carnegie Mellon Robotics Institute’s CREATE lab and since 2012, they have pledged 1% of their net profits to the Computer Science Teacher’s Association.

hummingbird-duo

Support them on Kickstarter!

 

 

MakerBot Stories | Engineers of Smart Toys Hack Hardware

via MakerBot

Five years ago, Ian Bernstein was working at a robotics company and dreaming of controlling robots with his smartphone. “Back in 2009, nobody was doing it,” says Bernstein, a cofounder and CTO of Orbotix, a Boulder, CO, company that makes connected toys. The Sphero is a versatile robotic ball that can be used as anything from a tool to teach children programming to a ball in a game of miniature golf.

“When we started Orbotix, I was building all the Sphero prototypes with paper clips and brass and stuff like that, and you can only go so far,” Bernstein said. “Having the MakerBot and being able to make more advanced parts, we’re doing bigger and better things now.”

The next big thing from Orbotix is a cylinder with wheels that’s a Sphero crossbred with a remote control car. Originally known as the Sphero 2B, it’s now called Ollie.

Bernstein made the breakthrough prototype of an Ollie on a MakerBot Replicator 2 Desktop 3D Printer. He printed the wheels in green PLA and other parts in purple, so he dubbed his prototype The Joker. Late one night at the Orbotix office, The Joker hit a jump and flew through the air, clearing four stacked Sphero boxes. The moment was captured on video, and that’s when everyone knew that they had something special in Ollie, Bernstein says.

“We're doing bigger and better things now.” – Ian Bernstein, cofounder, Orbotix

Hacking is essential to Orbotix’s company culture, and having 3D printers (back to a MakerBot Thing-O-Matic) allows employees to play around with hardware too. “Hack Fridays” are reserved for experimenting with new ideas. Also, Bernstein says, “Meetings have gone from a lot of arguing to, ‘OK, cool idea. Make it!’” Orbotix now has two MakerBot Replicator 2 Desktop 3D Printers in Boulder and another at their outpost in China.

If you can’t wait for Ollie to launch this fall, watch the video for a preview. And Orbotix offers a free ramp for your Sphero on Thingiverse.

Laika Explorer: what it’s like to build a Raspberry Pi accessory startup

via Raspberry Pi

A lot of companies are building Raspberry Pi add-ons – Raspberry Pi accessory businesses have been called out by the UK’s Daily Telegraph this year as one of their top 2014 startup investments. It gives us enormous pleasure to watch people build jobs and businesses around the Raspberry Pi, and we watch the numerous companies which add to the ecosystem with great interest.

Laika Explorer was a successful Kickstarter last year, which promised a powerful robotics controller for the Pi, controlled with Scratch or Python. Last week I had mail from Andy Bakin, who has allowed us to share how he’s expanding production – and how he’s using a Raspberry Pi as part of his test rig (something we’re seeing an increasing number of factories doing; even the factory that builds Raspberry Pis tests them using a Pi now). Over to Andy!

Testing Times

I am pleased to say that the Laika Explorer is moving into its second production run: this time we are making 1000 units. This is great news but as production volumes ramp up, the efficiency of manufacturing has to increase. The first 500 units were individually inspected, programmed, and tested by hand. This took a long time and used up a fair share of my Sunday evenings when I should have been resting, sipping a glass of red and catching an episode of Breaking Bad in preparation for the week ahead. And so the need for a production tester is a priority as I move towards receiving that box of 1000 Explorers.

Now I have made quite a few production test jigs in the past when moving previous designs into manufacture. They have always been custom builds with the test program running as firmware on a bespoke PCB. This is fine if the product is stable and is not set to change much. It is also fine if you do not plan to release many new designs which will each require their own specific test equipment. The nice thing about this approach is that the test equipment can be neatly self-contained in a box, stored easily and grabbed off the shelf when needed. The problem arises when the product being tested has new functionality which needs testing and therefore requires the test jig program to be updated. Not a huge issue but it does require getting to the test jig and ‘flashing’ the new firmware to incorporate new test routines. There are concerns from a hardware point of view too as most of the test jigs I have made use a customised PCB of some kind which makes it hard to quickly put together another jig if you want to double your testing capacity.

Now, the Explorer is the first in what will be a range of products all designed to work together. Up to 32 different modules will be made, which means that I need a test set-up that can easily be replicated, updated and switched between designs depending on which one is coming off the production line. I also want to be able to get remote access to the test equipment, which will be used at the manufacturers, so I can update and add test routines from the convenience of my office and keep an eye on the pass/fail rate to quickly respond to any problems.

Let’s Get Jiggy With It!

The solution is to run the test software on a networked Raspberry Pi connected to a Laika Explorer which is housed inside a test fixture. The test fixture and test software is unique to each design as electrical connections have to be made to the PCB test points, and, of course, the test algorithm will be different for each device being tested. As the Laika uses USB it will be easy to swap the test jig hardware when a different product needs testing. The test program can very easily be selected using the software.

Probe-ably For The Best

We begin with a PCB design, in this case done in Eagle, which is used to create a .dxf file (this is an industrial format for use by CNC milling machines) containing the different layers of the board. The dxf file was then opened in a CAD program and a new layer created which would be used by the CNC machine to drill holes in a piece of 12mm MDF perfectly in line with the test points on the PCB.

Here are some of the test points on the Explorer labelled TP1, TP2 etc.

 These test points will make electrical contact with a test probe when the PCB is placed in the jig. These probes are expensive little things as they are spring loaded and gold-plated for longevity and reliability:

The Hardware

Here is the Explorer in place on the jig:

There is a bit of tidying up to do but here is what it looks like underneath:

 The wires are connected to a port expander which is then connected to the Explorer so a variety of voltages can be read and checked by the software (future Laika modules will include port expanders). The analogue inputs are connected to the motor drivers of the test jig Explorer and PWM is used to set a voltage that the ADC on the device under test must read.

I have taken the decision to program firmware on the Explorer as they come off the production line. The alternative is to have them programmed before being placed on the board but that means it is more difficult to update the firmware if I need to. After a period of time I may decide that the firmware is not going to change and move to this method of programming as it might be quicker, but for now I like the flexibility of post-production programming, and it’s pretty quick any way. To program these devices I have used an AVRDUDE connected directly to the RPi:

Controlling it all with Software

This is the best part of this project as the result is a simple graphical user interface which anyone can use to program and test a PCB. All the user has to do is click ‘RUN’ and the Python script uses the AVRDUDE to program the Explorer’s Atmel chip, and then check all functions of the device under test by reading in voltages. This was the purpose of this project: to create a ‘red light/green light’ tester which either indicates a ‘pass’ or a ‘fail’. In the case of a fail, details will be given as to the error found and the information logged for record keeping, and downloading by me remotely.

Two Explorers: One Pi

To use an Explorer to effectively test another Explorer meant I had to add some functionality to the Laika drivers so that more than one board can be plugged into the Raspberry Pi without conflict, and be independently controlled. By giving the test jig Explorer a different USB device descriptor, I was able to write software which could differentiate the two Explorers on the same USB connection. This opens up the possibility of connecting many Explorers all on the same USB.

GUI

The GUI was designed in Glade and Gtk+3 was used to interface to Python. This is a great way of creating an event driven program to control the test jig. As Laika can easily be controlled through Python, it was quite straightforward to build the test jig software.

It Came To Pass

Hopefully most of the Explorers off the production line will pass these production tests without any issues, but inevitably there will be the odd one that doesn’t for some reason. This is expected and target failure rates are typically around 1% for builds of this size. The important thing is to detect these failures and extract the problematic PCB from the batch. For low-cost designs being manufactured in millions as opposed to thousands, then testing in this way becomes far too time consuming and would probably cost more in time and labour than the product itself. In this case the production is so finely tuned that the failure rate becomes more like 0.1% and the fact that someone will occasionally receive a defective piece of electrical equipment is accepted- we’ve all been that 0.1% at some point I’m sure.

Pi-powered Ping Pong Pursuit

via Raspberry Pi

Will Jessop is a systems administrator for 37signals and he runs the North West Ruby User Group in Manchester. I bumped in to him recently and discovered he was working on a personal project with a Raspberry Pi. The aim of the project is to solve the problem of ping pong balls on the floor at the 37signals office in Chicago. The solution is a web-enabled robot with mounted camera allowing people to collect balls in to a basket.

The original version of the robot used the Custard Pi breakout, and then I suggested he looked at the MotorPiTX motor controller developed by Jason Barnett. He ordered one and joined Manchester Hackspace and began working on building or otherwise sourcing all the parts needed for the robot.

An early mains powered version using the MotorPiTX

Finding the new motor board much neater sitting on the original chassis, Will proceeded to design and 3D print motor mounts, caterpillar track mounts, a new base, a ball basket, and then added a mounted picamera with fish-eye lens.

3D printed parts

The underside, showing the pi

With a neat little camera robot, Will looked at options for battery powering it so it could roam free. Looking at power requirements and testing its usage while running the motors and streaming video over wireless, Will opted for a 5000mAh 7.4V lithium battery. He also added a lifter arm to the chassis, controlled independently of the robot itself.

Pi camera board with fish-eye lens

Basket case

All the software on the Pi is written in Go, which Will sees as a great language for the Raspberry Pi as it creates small, efficient, statically compiled binaries that easily fit within the resource limits of the Pi. This runs alongside Will’s gamepad library (in C, available as a Ruby gem) on a laptop. Will also wrote a power control script to aid clean Pi shutdown via the MotorPiTX.

With the robot roaming free on its new battery, controlled by an xbox controller, the camera feed streaming over wifi, and the lifter arm functional, it was ready to present at the 16th Manchester Raspberry Jam! On a tour of the Manchester Hackspace during the Jam, Eben, Liz and Pete got to see it in action. Eben got hold of the controller and took it round picking up ping pong balls by watching the video stream on the laptop.

Playing at Madlab

Eben, Pete Will, Liz and Andrew at Manchester Hackspace

Eben – moustache and all – examines the robot

Eben gets a go

Will then took the robot to Miami to show it off at RubyConf, where many Rubyists got to have a play with it.

In action at RubyConf

Robot picking up ping pong balls:

Robot’s eye view:

Check out the series of posts on Will’s blog. Thanks to Manchester Hackspace and Jason Barnett for helping to facilitate the project. The robot’s not been installed in the 37signals office yet, but when web access to it is available, we’ll be sure to post the link so you can all have a go!

Will also wrote a Go library for the Pimoroni Piglowgithub.com/wjessop/go-piglow. Go and take a look, have a play, and let us know what you think!

Ryanteck’s RTK-000-001 motor controller – robotics on a budget

via Raspberry Pi

We first met Ryan Walmsley when he was fifteen, back in May 2012. He’d been emailing and tweeting with us for months at that point (mostly variations on WHEN CAN I BUY ONE?), and he then proceeded to knock our socks off very shortly after we started shipping by producing, out of the blue, the Rastrack map, which Pi users can register their Pis on, showing the geographical spread of the project. We still use Rastrack regularly: it’s a great visual aid at talks and workshops.

At that point, Ryan had only really worked on web programming, but since buying his (first) Pi he’s gone on to learn Python, has done a huge amount of work on electronics and physical computing, and has been running Raspberry Jams in Stevenage, all while studying at sixth-form college. Ryan’s a really important part of the Raspberry Pi community. We rely on the passion, enthusiasm and skill of people like Ryan to get the word about Raspberry Pi out, and we think he’s great.

Ryan showing me his motor controller at work, at this weekend’s Manchester Raspberry Jam

Once he’d done a bit of dabbling with a soldering iron, we discovered that Ryan had a bit of a gift for electronics, and he’s visited Pi Towers a couple of times since we moved into our new offices to give us a hand adapting 1980s educational robots to work with Raspberry Pi. (Lots of schools still have discontinued equipment hanging around in cupboards.) He’s coming back in January for some formal work experience, and we are preparing to set him to work on some office-automation hacking when he gets here. We encouraged him to put his expertise to work in the meantime by contributing to the add-on board ecosystem, and so Ryan has developed something he himself felt was missing: a cheap, simple, solder-it-yourself motor controller board.

RTK-000-001 is a very straightforward, inexpensive motor controller for the Raspberry Pi, designed for hobbyist and schools robotics. It can drive two DC motors at 0.5A each, which screw into terminals on the board. The board itself clips neatly to the top of the Pi, and you can then mount the whole assembly on a robot of your choice. Ryan’s made demo code available, so you can get started right away: in under 25 lines of Python you can get your robot spinning in alternate directions at five-second intervals, and it’s easy to progress from there to start programming it yourself.

Ryan has a Tindie running to get the fifty orders he needs to get the price to the low level he thinks the RTK-000-001 should sell at. Please think about ordering one yourself: we get very excited when we see young people like Ryan building businesses around the Raspberry Pi, and we’re looking forward to using the board in our own offices. (Ryan, I have plans for getting you motorising all *kinds* of stuff in January. Our life-sized Minecraft sword would be 100% better if it started spinning on the wall when sent a command.)

Nintendo audio – on analogue instruments

via Raspberry Pi

I don’t know much about this project. I spotted it earlier today on Twitter, where all I had to go on was this:

So I clicked on the link, which took me to YouTube – and I found this. Matt’s right. His friend Dave is a genius.

What you’re seeing and hearing here is the music and sfx from Mario, Mario 2, Mario 3 and Zelda, played on a player piano and robotic percussion, all mediated by a couple of Raspberry Pis. In the “About” section under the video, Dave says:

The piano and percussion play live during actual gameplay, mirroring the sounds that would normally be created electronically by the NES. All audio, including music and sound effects, is translated in realtime so that it is produced by the instrument most closely resembling the characteristics of the original electronic sound.

Playlist:

0:00 - Mario
0:53 - Mario 2
2:59 - Mario 3
4:06 - Zelda
6:02 - Mario 2 (End Theme)

For those interested in the technical details, both the piano and the percussion use solenoids to drive their player mechanisms. The piano uses Yamaha’s Disklavier system to strike keys, and the percussion uses a custom solution to strike the drum sticks. Both the piano and percussion are each controlled by Raspberry Pis which have custom software to control each instrument. The software is responsible for translating the NES audio to instructions which ultimately define which solenoid should be actuated. In full disclosure, there is normally a half-second audio delay that was removed in editing, but it’s still very playable live. The piano is controlled through the Disklavier’s MIDI interface, while the percussion’s solenoids are directly controlled through the Pi’s GPIO interface.

Dave, we thought this was amazing. Get in touch when you see this; we’d like to know more about who you are and what else you’ve been doing with your Pis!

Edit to add: Dave mailed me. He’s David Thompson from Detroit, MI, and doesn’t have a personal website at the moment, but assures me that he’ll send a link when he does. As well as being a musician, Dave is also a hobbyist photographer and has some ideas up his sleeve for some more Pi projects: I hope we’ll hear from him again soon. Thanks Dave!

Laika: a hardware control platform for the Raspberry Pi

via Raspberry Pi

Laika is a modular add-on board for the Raspberry Pi that allows control of motors, switches, lamps, robots and more. There are plenty of great hardware control boards out there for the Raspberry Pi but we especially like this one because of the educational focus.There’s lots more information on what it can do and how you can use it on their Kickstarter page.

How a learning environment should look

In 2014 computing is coming back into the UK school curriculum. And whilst this makes many of us run outside at random intervals to do Snoopy’s Happy Dance we shouldn’t underestimate the challenges involved. Computing is effectively a brand new subject and there are currently few specialist teachers, so the easier we can make it to teach (and learn) computing in an accessible, engaging and creative way the better. This is especially true in primary school.

So anyone creating educational resources to go along with their hardware or software makes us happy and the Laika team are doing just that. Here they are running a robotics workshop at Highgate School in London.

You can read more about Laika here and if you’d like to get hold of one for yourself or for your school then their Kickstarter has just a few days left to run. We think that Laika has great educational potential but of course you don’t have to be in school to start learning.

A Laika-Pi powered rover wandering the icy wastes of Europa, the smallest of the Galilean moons.

Rapiro – the cutest robot you’ll ever meet, now on Kickstarter

via Raspberry Pi

A new Kickstarter was launched this morning: check out the video first, and then I’ll tell you about what we’ve seen first-hand of the project.

We met Shota Ishiwatari at the three-day Raspberry Jam in Tokyo in May. He’s an established inventor of very, very cool stuff – you may have read about his Nekomimi cat ears, which were featured all over the internet when they came out last year. These ears have a 14-point electroencephalography sensor that presses against your forehead; they’re operated by your brainwaves, and lie flat, twitch or perk up in line with your emotions. Here’s a short video in case you’ve not seen them before:

And here’s some British lady wearing a pair. They really do work. No video, thank God. You can buy a set at Nekomimi.com.

Shota-san has real skill in getting that very special sort of Japanese cuteness (there’s even a word for it: かわいい, or kawaii) combined with tech. He does all the technical development, CAD and physical modelling, circuit design and building, programming (and sewing, in the case of Nekomimi) himself. His current Kickstarter is Rapiro, (RAspberryPIRObot), and it’s quite the most かわいい thing I’ve ever seen. Rapiro had his first public outing at a hardware breakout session at the Tokyo Jam.

You’ll notice that the prototype we’re playing with here is not the same as the one in the Kickstarter video; after the event we got Shota-san sorted out with a camera board in time for the Kickstarter. Rapiro’s not just cute: he’s very adaptable. He’s voice activated (and he can be set to recognise and respond to only his owner’s voice), or, with a wifi or bluetooth dongle, he can be controlled with a phone or gaming handset. He’s a connected device, so he can alert you to emails or Facebook messages; he can manage your calendar and work as a sort of very cute secretary/butler, bringing you objects from around the house and reminding you about meetings. Away from home for the week? Walk him around the house and use the camera in his forehead to monitor what’s going on: Rapiro makes a great security droid. He can even water your plants for you while you’re away. And with an IR LED, he can act as a remote control for your TV, or turn on your air conditioning if you’re lucky enough to live somewhere where it’s needed.

And because the technology is Pi-based, Rapiro will, if it makes its Kickstarter goals, be much less expensive than currently available equivalents. Shota-san says that at the retail price he’s set, Rapiro works out at 1/4th the price of current aesthetic robot kits, and 1/10th the price of current Linux-powered humanoid robot kits.

The prototype we got to see worked perfectly. We’ve already ordered a unit for the Foundation, which we’re going to be using in schools and other teaching workshops. We think robotics is a really powerful way to get young people interested in physical computing, and we think Rapiro is the most engaging and inviting example of Pi-based robotics we’ve seen yet. This is a Kickstarter we’re very exited about.

Many thanks to Yuriko Ikeda for the photographs (thank you very much for the homemade umeboshi too, Yuriko-san, and for the recipe!)

The State of Free Hardware for Robotics

SERB Robot, CC photo by flickr user oomlout

FreeIO.org is currently running a poll to determine what sort of free hardware project the community would most like to see developed. At present the poll is leaning heavily towards robots. So I thought it would be worthwhile to do a quick survey of existing free/open hardware robot projects to see what there is to work with and improve on. There are a lot of FLOSS (Free/Libre Open Source Software) robotics projects out there too but this article will focus on hardware projects that are under free hardware licenses. See the FreeIO.org “about page” to learn more about the concepts of free / open hardware.

I’ve attempted to list the projects roughly in chronological order by the project’s creation date. To qualify for this list, a project needs several attributes: 1) it must be a complete mobile robot, not just part of a robot such as a manipulator arm 2) the hardware design documents (e.g. CAD files, schematics, etc) must be available under a free license (i.e. a license that protects the user’s basic freedoms – licenses with commercial-use restrictions are NOT free/open licenses, 3) at least one working robot must have been developed and demonstrated. Projects that are in the planning stages didn’t make the list as we’d like to see well-proven designs that have been well-tested in the real world.

Read on for the full list of free/open hardware robot designs!

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Hexy the Hexapod now in the Maker Shed

via MAKE » Category: Open source hardware

MKAB1-2What has 6 legs, 19 servos, an Arduino for brains, and ultrasonic sensor eyes? It's Hexy the Hexapod robot from Arcbotics, and it's available in the Maker Shed just in time for the Holidays.

Read the full article on MAKE

Meet the Rovera: A MAKE Hangout on Air at 2pm PST/5pm EST Today!

via MAKE » Category: Open source hardware

Meet the Rovera.Today marks the debut of the bimonthly "editor's choice" hangout on air, live and online on Google+. This week MAKE editorial director Gareth Branwyn will discuss robots and the Rovera, a new Arduino-powered robot now available in the Maker Shed. As we typically do, we'll announce a special offer during the hangout.

Read the full article on MAKE