Tag Archives: Arduino bootloader

Flames and acid can’t stop this soft robot

This robot may not look all that intimidating at first glance, but beware — is is as resilient as they come. A group from Harvard University’s Whiteside Research Group has unleashed their latest indestructible design upon the world: pneumatically-powered, fully-untethered mobile soft robot. In other words, a quadruped that can stand up and walk away from its designers.

(Source: Harvard)

(Source: Harvard)

In the original design, a tethered air compressor created this robot’s mass; while, the newest iteration of the crawler possesses an internal compressor that inflates the silicone skin. With more parts being incorporated inside the design’s silicone shell, there is little that can slow down this amorphous android.

The prototype’s design encompassed a complete set of functional elements — including body, power source, control system, and sensors.

“The body of our soft robot consists of four legs connected to a central body, each of which is actuated by a Pneu-Net, in a configuration identical to our previous, tethered quadrupedal soft robot design. In order to increase the rate of actuation of the larger untethered robot, we used a Pneu-Net design that allows for actuation at lower pressures, and with less volumetric flow of gas into the Pneu-Nets, than our prior design,” the researchers note. “The spine of the robot is actuated by two parallel Pnet-Nets with space between them to accommodate the power supply, control board, and two air compressors.”

(Source: Harvard)

(Source: Harvard)

The soft robot measures in at 25.6-inches, significantly larger than its predecessor. The silicone shell housing the unit has been tested at sub-zero temperatures, 40 km/h winds and 3,000 degree kelvin flames for up to 50 seconds. That’s almost 5,000° F! Researchers have even the robot in snow, submerged it in water, walked it through flames, and ran it over with a car. Oh, and this little fellow is resistant to acid, in case you thought you had a bright idea on how to discourage him. After every single experiment, it emerged unscathed.

According to the report, a custom, lightweight board was designed to control the mini air compressors and solenoid valves that actuate the soft robot. An ATmega168 MCU on the controller board with an Arduino bootloader was used for uploading, storing, and executing programs to control the soft robot. Control programs were stored in the onboard memory of the controller.

“These programs, written and uploaded using the Arduino interface, consisted of sequences of commands to the control valves and air compressors. The extent of actuation of a Pneu-Net was controlled by the duration that the valve connecting it to the source of pressurized gas was opened,” the report states.

What does this device mean for the technology community as a whole? This innovation by the team at Harvard is ushering in a new era of autonomous robots. Could you imagine strapping a GPS locater and camera to this crawling unit and exploring areas that are uninhabitable by humans? As with all Atmel powered gadgets, the possibilities are truly endless. As the materials become stronger and the production becomes further internalized and streamlined, an army of these soft robots could be in the field in the coming years.

“Earlier versions of soft robots were all tethered, which works fine in some applications, but what we wanted to do was challenge people’s concept of what a robot has to look like,” said Michael Tolley, co-author of the report and a Research Associate at Wyss Institute. “We think the reason people have settled on using metal and rigid materials for robots is because they’re easier to model and control. This work is very inspired by nature, and we wanted to demonstrate that soft materials can also be the basis for robots.”

Read the Harvard team’s entire publication here.

Rubber Duckymeter, you’re the one

This project just quacks us up! Earlier this year at Maker Faire North Carolina, we had the chance to see Maker Raptor_Demon’s Arduino-compatible bathtub unit billed as the “Duckymeter.”

In what appears to be just your average rubber ducky, this contraption actually eases a parent’s stress when it comes to temperature, overflow or bubbles when drawing a bath for a child. The automated Duckymeter handles each of these tasks in a much more fun, safer manner while providing a happy bath for your little one!

The main controller box — which is built around an ATmega328P MCU — monitors incoming water temperature, tub temperature and the amount of time the faucet has been running. As long as pressure on the faucet is constant, the device automatically shuts off when it has been activated for selected period of time.

Also powered by ATmega328P MCU and Arduino bootloader, the charming Duckymeter serves as a remote sensor for inside the bathtub by transmitting the temperature each second back to the main unit, which is then displayed on an easy-to-read LCD. Essentially, the little duck patrols the bathtub to assure the bath experience is as relaxing (or enjoyable) as can be!


Included in this build is a hacked soap dispenser, which releases bubble bath into the water. Using an IR sensor and a photoresistor, the Maker created a system that when a beam is broken by a hand wave, bubble bath is poured directly into the water.

To follow along with the full build tutorial and track future additions to the device, you can visit the Maker’s original Instructables post.

SmartWood goes old school on Kickstarter

SmartWood – which recently hit Kickstarter – is a lineup of smartphone controlled models powered by Atmel’s ATmega8 microcontroller (MCU).

“No technical skills are necessary to assemble and use a Smartwood model, even if you’ve never built a robot before,” a SmartWood rep explained. “It’s affordable, readily expandable and the perfect hobby to do with your kids or even on your own.”

Aside from Atmel’s ATmega8 microcontroller, key technical specs and features include:

  • Onboard 5V regulator
  • Power supply voltage: 5-9V
  • DC Motor Driver up to 2A per channel
  • Supports up to 8 Servos
  • Built in LED connected to D13
  • Battery level monitoring
  • Master on and off switch
  • Compatible with the Bluetooth Module supplied with the controller

Currently, the following five SmartWood models are available on the crowd funding website: MiniBot, Crawler, Dragster, Truck and a Kickstarter special edition vehicle.

Interested in learning more about the Atmel-powered SmartWood? You can check out the project’s official Kickstarter page here.

Video: This giant LED Tamagotchi hearts Atmel

The Tamagotchi (たまごっち?) is a handheld digital pet, originally designed in Japan by Akihiro Yokoi of WiZ and Aki Maita of Bandai way back in 1996. According to Wikipedia, well over 76 million Tamagotchis have been sold world-wide.

Image Credit: Wikipedia

The majority of Tamagotchis are housed in a small egg-shaped computer with an interface (typically) consisting of three buttons, although the number of buttons may vary.

However, a Maker by the name of Vadim recently decided to create a unique, desktop-sized Tamagotchi using a spare LED matrix and an Atmel ATmega328P microcontroller (MCU) with an Arduino bootloader.

As HackADay’s James Hobson reports, the LED matrix comprises four 8×8 LED modules with four shift registers (74HC595) and two Darlington transistor arrays to take the current.

“This is because the 256 LEDs need to be multiplexed down to 32 IO’s (16 rows + 16 columns),” he explained.

After the hardware was deemed operational, Vadim started work on the coding side of things, writing the entire game from scratch.

“While it’s not that complex it’s still an impressive amount of effort that went into this desktop- sized Tamagotchi!” Hobson added.

Interested in learning more? You can check out the project’s official Instructables page here.

Playing laser tag with an ATmega328P

Skirmos is an open source, versatile laser tag system that features an ATmega328P microcontroller (MCU), Arduino bootloader, color LCD screen (acts as a realtime HUD) and an infrared LED.

Additional key specs include:

  • RF module
  • SD card slot
Sound card (accepts .mp3 and .wav)
  • Speakers
RGB LED grids (stretch goal)
Internal LEDs
  • Infrared receivers (38khz)
16mhz clock
  • Plastic transparent custom shell
  • USB port (data from computer to system)

“The hardware will make Skirmos better than airsoft and lasertag combined. It maintains the realism, range and ruggedness to play outdoors like airsoft, while having the accuracy, feedback, and dynamic cheat-proof gametypes of lasertag,” Skirmos rep Allan Ivanov wrote in a recent Kickstarter post.

“This means the final design of the systems will include accurate iron sights and a rail system for attachments for ranges over 500 feet.”

According to Ivanov, Skirmos rifles communicate with one another via radio, with infrared optics facilitating “extreme ranges” for sniping.

On the software side, Skirmos allows players to easily alter fire modes (semi-automatic, three-round burst, automatic, etc), as well as the rate of fire. Plus, each player is assigned a specific ID to avoid friendly fire incidents.

In addition, Skirmos offers a trio of preset gametypes: basic, free-for-all and team slayer. However, the platform is ultimately expected to boast an almost unlimited number of gametypes.

“Because of the open source aspect, you will be able to create your own gametypes. This might be tweaking with the respawn time on Capture the Flag, to creating your own objectives and modes,”
 Ivanov explained.

“So imagine playing custom gametypes that other users have made like Search and Destroy. Rest assured, you won’t need to be a programming master to design your own games. If Skirmos is successful, we will create an auto-builder, a drag-and-drop program to quickly and easily create new gametypes (stretch goal).”

Interested in learning more about Skirmos? You can check out the project’s official Kickstarter page here.