Tag Archives: Robot

Baking your own robot

New algorithms and electronic components developed by MIT researchers could one day enable printable robots that self-assemble when heated.

As MIT’s Larry Hardesty reports, 3D printed robots have long been a topic of research in the lab of Daniela Rus, the Andrew and Erna Viterbi Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT. 

At this year’s IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, her group introduced a new wrinkle on the idea: bakable robots.

More specifically, the researchers demonstrated the promise of printable robotic components that, when heated, automatically fold into prescribed three-dimensional configurations.

 One method developed by the MIT team takes a digital specification of a 3D shape — such as a computer-aided design, or CAD, file — and generates the 2D patterns that would enable a piece of plastic to reproduce it through self-folding. The other method explores building electrical components from self-folding laser-cut materials.

“We have this big dream of the hardware compiler, where you can specify, ‘I want a robot that will play with my cat,’ or ‘I want a robot that will clean the floor,’ and from this high-level specification, you actually generate a working device,” Rus explained.

“So far, we have tackled some subproblems in the space, and one of the subproblems is this end-to-end system where you have a picture and at the other end, you have an object that realizes that picture. And the same mathematical models and principles that we use in this pipeline we also use to create these folded electronics.”



Interested in learning more about baking your own robot? You can check out Larry Hardesty’s full report here.

Glossy Arduino Project Handbook details 45 projects

Mark Geddes has put together an Arduino Project Handbook about the Atmel-powered boards that boasts over 45 detailed projects illustrated in full color.

Examples include a lie detector, programmable rocket launcher, motion sensor alarm, reaction timer, electronic dice, keypad entry system, laser trip wire alarm, robot, wireless ID card system and range finder.

“Back in the late 80’s I was tinkering with electronics, programming and creating gadgets. Wind forward a few years (quite a few!) with an honors degree in design, two kids and a career in economic development, I’ve rediscovered my passion for creating. I’ve discovered the Arduino and can now recreate those gadgets from long ago but this time using a ‘brain’ to control them,” Geddes explained in a recent Indiegogo post.

“I like books. I like visual books. I like practical books. I like books that are all of these things! [So] I decided to experiment with the Arduino and create a record of my achievements that I could refer back to and share with my 10 year old son – this book is a result of that. This is the type of book I was looking for but didn’t exist, I hope that now it does, you might want it too.”

According to Geddes, the Arduino Project Handbook is ideal for schools, MakerSpaces, DIY novices and even veteran Makers.

The book – which features 192 full color pages – will be professionally printed, bound and sealed with a gloss finish on each page. The 45 projects are accompanied by images, schematics, code and ideas for how to use the detailed circuit in other projects.

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

Video: This LEGO robot plays iPad games

Uli Kilian has designed a Lego Technics robot to play freemium games. More specifically, the Arduino Uno-powered (Atmel ATmega328 MCU) ‘bot plays Jurassic Park Builder, a title that requires the user to remain active (or tap) every few minutes. In addition to the Atmel-based Uno, key project specs include an old iPad mounted on top of Technics wheels.

“It’s a really nice game with nice graphics. But I thought you could easily automate the tapping,” Kilian, a senior art director at UK-based medical animation studio Random 42 told Wired UK’s Nate Lanxon.

“The last time I did anything with Lego was when I was eight, and I’ve never done anything with Technic. I heard about the [Arduino] boards two weeks before and I knew I was going on holiday. I’m a 3D artist so all the stuff I do is virtual and I really wanted to do something in the real world, and I’d never done anything with micro-controllers before.”

In Jurassic Park Builder, dinosaurs have different time periods during which they offer money. Simply put, the more regularly you load the game up and tap the dinosaur, the more you earn.

“One [dino kicks in] after five minutes – you tap him and get points. Another is every ten minutes; another every 15 minutes and so on. But you might want to sleep. At that time, that’s when the automation kicks in,” Kilian explained.

“I put all the dinosaurs in one line [in the game’s virtual park landscape] and then set the distance between them equally so the arm can move between them easily.”

Interested in learning more? You can read Wired’s full write up here.

ATmega32U4 drives open source LEO ‘bot

The Creative Robotics crew has debuted LEO, an open source robotic kit powered by Atmel’s versatile ATMega32U4 microcontroller (MCU).


Additional key specs include an Arduino bootloader, 12 digital I/O pins via an I2C port expander, configurable pull up/down and interrupt capable, 6 digital I/O directly connected to the ATMega32U4 MCU, two PWM capable pins, four external interrupt capable pins, USART and I2C Serial ports, 12 analog inputs, user programmable button, as well as a ‘COMM Hood’ and ‘IO Hood’ comms expansion system.

Leo also features (dual) four wheel and tracked configurations, front and rear tactile bumpers, dual HUB-ee motor plus slave motor connections, dual wheel quadrature encoder reading (128 counts per revolution), dual motor current feedback, automatic motor disable when powered by USB, Arduino robot compatible connector/mounting holes, as well as comprehensive firmware supporting encoders, external IO, PID Speed control and a serial command set.

“LEO is the product of over a decade of design experience in building autonomous robots, experience that also inspired the creation of our HUB-ee wheels,” a Creative Robots rep explained in a recent Kickstarter post.

“Unlike most small robotic platforms on the market LEO can be reconfigured from simple symmetrical two wheel drive to four wheel drive in a matter of minutes – and [is packaged] with a pair of modular tactile bumpers at each end for basic obstacle detection.”

LEO is also quite moddable, as Makers can easily add expansion boards using a dual ‘Hood’ stacking system.

“Hoods are a bit like shields, you can use them to add functionality like extra processors, manual controls, sensors and wireless radios. We call them hoods because LEO is a vehicle (and cars have hoods) and also to differentiate them from the shield system,” said the rep.

“LEO can have two different types of hood at the same time, one for general analog and digital I/O and a second just for serial and I2C communications. This allows you to fit LEO with a Bluetooth, ZigBee or Wifi module without interfering with the general purpose I/O.”

As noted above, Leo is an open source robot project, with all the PCB schematic design files, CAD files for the bumper and caster wheel available for download under the creative commons attribution sharealike license. Software libraries will also be accessible on GitHub.

Interested in learning more? You can check out LEO’s official Kickstarter page here.

This robot was once an antique vacuum cleaner

Successfully maintaining a public FabLab, MakerSpace or HackSpace can be an expensive endeavor, so donations are almost always appreciated.

The GarageLab, a small FabLab in the German city of Düsseldorf, decided to encourage donations from its patrons by replacing a small plastic frog with the aptly named “Donation Robot,” which the team meticulously fashioned out of an antique Miele vacuum cleaner.

Key project components include:

  • 

Atmel-based Arduino Uno (ATmega328
  • Standard Processing and standard libraries
  • VLSI VS1000 audio module (+ custom firmware)
  • HC-SR04 distance sensor
  • Four LED stripes (two RGB on the backside)
  • 6 power-LEDs for the top
  • Servo for moving the top, servo for moving the bill-mouth
  • Three distance sensors for bill and coin detection
  • Switch for muting audio module
  • Reset button

“The work took about one year to construct, print and integrate all 3D-printed parts, wiring and software development with the Arduino Uno,” Holgar Prang told the official Arduino blog.

“Software development was the minor part, although parallel processing on the Arduino in order to run every component simultaneously required a small trick.”

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

Challenge: Hacking the Atmel-based Arduino Robot

RobotChallenge – in conjunction with Arduino and RS Components – has kicked off a new open source competition.

Dubbed “Hack the Arduino Robot,” the contest challenges participants to answer the following questions:

  • What would you do with an Atmel-based Arduino Robot?
  • What makes your idea special?
  • What real life problem does your robot solve?

An international jury is slated to select the 10 best project ideas based on feasibility, creativity and innovation. The teams will receive a free 
Arduino Robot to implement their respective project ideas and showcase the modded ‘bots at RobotChallenge 2014. 
Each team will also be required to document their project online and submit a short video (3 – 5 minutes) by the 23rd of February.

Interested in applying? You have until the 26th of January to submit a short project idea (up to 120 words) that answers the questions listed above (detailed rules are available here). 

Prizes donated by RS Components will be awarded in two categories: Best Project & Documentation and Community.

As we’ve previously discussed on Bits & Pieces, the Arduino Robot – the first official Arduino on wheels – boasts two processors, one on each board. The Motor Board controls the motors, while the Control Board interacts with the sensors and decides how to operate. Both Arduino microcontroller boards are powered by Atmel’s ATmega32u4 and can be programmed using Arduino IDE.

The Robot has many of its pins mapped to on-board sensors and actuators, so programming the ‘bot is similar to the process with the Arduino Leonardo. Both processors are equipped with integrated USB communication, eliminating the need for a secondary processor. This allows the Robot to appear to a connected computer as a virtual (CDC) serial / COM port.

As expected, every element of the Robot platform – hardware, software and documentation – is freely available and open-source. Meaning, users can learn exactly how the device is put together, while exploiting its design as a starting point to create and mod various configurations.

Additional key specs? The ATmega32u4 has 32 KB (with 4 KB used for the bootloader), along with 2.5 KB of SRAM and 1 KB of EEPROM (which can be read and written with the EEPROM library). Meanwhile, the Control Board is fitted with an extra 512 Kbit EEPROM that can be accessed via I2C. There is also an external SD card reader attached to the GTFT screen accessible by the Control Board’s processor for additional storage.

 The Robot can be powered via a USB connection or with 4 AA batteries and features an on-board battery charger that requires 9V external power generated by an AC-to-DC adapter (wall-wart).

The adapter can be connected by plugging a 2.1mm center-positive plug into the Motor Board’s power jack, although the charger will not operate if powered by USB (the Control Board is powered by the power supply on the Motor Board).

As noted above, the Robot is programmable with Arduino software, while the ATmega32u4 processors on the Arduino Robot arrive pre-burned with a bootloader that allows users to upload new code without an external hardware programmer via the AVR109 protocol. Of course, users can also bypass the bootloader and program the microcontroller through the ICSP (In-Circuit Serial Programming) header.

Interested in learning more about the Atmel-powered Arduino Robot? Additional details and specs can be found here on the official Arduino Robot page here.

Getting started with the Atmel-powered Arduino Robot

The recently launched Arduino Robot – the first official Arduino on wheels – boasts two processors, one on each board. The Motor Board controls the motors, while the Control Board interacts with the sensors and decides how to operate. Both Arduino microcontroller boards are powered by Atmel’s ATmega32u4 and can be programmed using the Arduino IDE.

The Robot has many of its pins mapped to on-board sensors and actuators, so programming the ‘bot is similar to the process with the Arduino Leonardo. Both processors are equipped with integrated USB communication, eliminating the need for a secondary processor. This allows the Robot to appear to a connected computer as a virtual (CDC) serial / COM port.

In honor of Maker Faire Rome 2013, RS Components has posted an exclusive video tutorial (the first in a series of five) featuring Arduino co-founder Massimo Banzi introducing the Robot and exploring various characteristics of the new open-source hardware platform on wheels.

“These videos from the makers of Arduino give a simple, step-by-step guide to using and developing projects with the Robot,” Glenn Jarrett, Global Head of Product Marketing, RS Components, told EDN. “The informative yet light-hearted content will appeal equally to existing Arduino enthusiasts and to anyone dipping their toes into the world of computer programming for the first time.”

As previously discussed on Bits & Pieces, every element of the Robot platform – hardware, software and documentation – is freely available and open-source. Meaning, users can learn exactly how the device is put together, while exploiting its design as a starting point to create and mod various configurations.

Additional key specs? The ATmega32u4 has 32 KB (with 4 KB used for the bootloader), along with 2.5 KB of SRAM and 1 KB of EEPROM (which can be read and written with the EEPROM library). Meanwhile, the Control Board is fitted with an extra 512 Kbit EEPROM that can be accessed via I2C. There is also an external SD card reader attached to the GTFT screen accessible by the Control Board’s processor for additional storage.

The Robot can be powered via a USB connection or with 4 AA batteries and features an on-board battery charger that requires 9V external power generated by an AC-to-DC adapter (wall-wart). The adapter can be connected by plugging a 2.1mm center-positive plug into the Motor Board’s power jack, although the charger will not operate if powered by USB (the Control Board is powered by the power supply on the Motor Board).

As noted above, the Robot can be programmed with Arduino software, while the ATmega32U4 processors on the Arduino Robot arrive pre-burned with a bootloader that allows users to upload new code without an external hardware programmer via the AVR109 protocol. Of course, users can also bypass the bootloader and program the microcontroller through the ICSP (In-Circuit Serial Programming) header.

Interested? Additional details can be found on Arduino’s official Robot page.

Kilobots, small vibrating robots use the ATmega328

Thanks to pals at Evil Mad Scientist, I learned about these small self-powered autonomous robots called Kilobits. Brought to you by Harvard University, the little gizmos are run by an Atmel ATmega328.

kilobots-stacked

The little robots move on the little wire pins. There are two vibrating motors, like in a pager. They are arranged in “quadrature” so to speak. One will rotate the robot clockwise, and the other will rotate the robot counterclockwise. If you run both motors, the robot will move forward.

kilobot_callouts

The robots can communicate with an IR (infrared) transceiver. This allows them to exhibit swarm behavior like insects. Check out this video of the Kilobots doing their thing.

Harvard is doing this to study complex self organizing behavior. This may help psychologists and economists understand complex human behavior that just appears, like the open-source movement, the Dabbawala lunch delivery system in India, and how day workers outside of the Home Depot settle on rates and seniority.

The hi-zoot Harvard Kilobots are preceded by the Make community Vibrobot. Evil Mad Scientist did a great vamp with their BristleBot, which uses the head of a toothbrush.

BristleBot

While created for research, to their credit, Harvard made this is an open-source project that is just perfect to be picked up by the Maker Movement. NY Maker 2013 starts Saturday, the Atmel team is setting up and the Evil Mad Science people will be at our booth to show off their cool Atmel-powered kits.

Come see Atmel @ the 2013 World Maker Faire!

The long-awaited 2013 World Maker Faire kicks off September 21st in the New York Hall of Science (NYSCI). We’ll be there at the Atmel booth in the Arduino pavilion. Will you? Don’t worry if you can’t make it to out to the Big Apple, because you can still follow all the goings on via Twitter – just look for the hashtags @makerfaire, @atmel and @arduino.

For those of you attending the Faire, Atmel’s booth will be taking center stage at the show with a number of uber-cool exhibits and demos including:

  • Hexbug/hovercraft hacking: Watch Atmel employees hack traditional Hexbugs and hovercrafts using Arduino boards.
  • MakerBot: We’ll be showcasing the wildly popular AVR-powered 3D printer and providing 3D samples over the weekend.
  • Pensa: This company uses Arduino boards to make their flagship DIWire, a rapid prototyping machine that bends metal wire to produce 2D and 3D shapes.
  • Infinity Aerospace: The ArduLab – powered by Atmel’s versatile ATMega 2560 microcontroller – is a highly capable experimentation platform ready for space right out of the box. Sensor mounting is straightforward, with unique functionality addressing the technical challenges of operating in space.

Additional exhibitors at the Atmel World Maker Faire booth include Fuzzbot (robots), Evil Mad Scientist and Colorado Micro Devices. We’re looking forward to seeing you at the Atmel booth, so don’t forget to follow us at @makerfaire, @atmel and @arduino!

Atmel is also slated to host a public media/industry analyst panel on Friday, September 20th, on the maker community and education. Members of the panel include Atmel’s Reza Kazerounian, Co-founder of Arduino Massimo Banzi, Atmel maker and Hexbug guru Bob Martin, university engineer professor Annmarie Thomas, EDN’s Executive Editor Suzanne Deffree, 12-year old CEO and maker Quin (Qtechknow), and MAKE Books Senior Editor Brian Jepson. The panel will be moderated by Windell H. Oskay of Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories.

Tune into our live Twitter feed of the panel starting at 11:30 am ET on September 20th under #Atmelmakes or visit our recently launched microsite for more details. Interested in attending? Please email pr@atmel.com. Also, be sure to join us when Bob Martin presents Prototyping is as Easy as Uno, Due, Tres.

MakerFaireRibbon

The Ardruino Uno is an excellent lab tool for technicians and h/w engineers who have a specific design in mind. In this presentation, we will show how Atmel’s MCU apps lab uses the Uno to test harnesses for LED lighting stress testing, SBC reset response and power supply stress testing on a regular basis for the weather station prototype.

When: Sunday, September 22, 2013, 12:30PM – 1:00PM ET
Where: Make: Electronics Stage

Silicon Valley Maker Faire 2013 wrap up

After telling you about all the cool things at Maker Faire that were powered by Atmel chips, I thought I would balance things out showing some Maker things that don’t have chips at all.

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A Steampunk styled land-based submarine at the 2013 Maker Faire.

It does not take long hanging around Maker to see that there is this whole Steampunk esthetic. In fact I would describe Maker as a science fair crossed with Burning Man. Out in the parking lot, there were big motorized cupcakes, just big enough to hold a driver, that were scooting around to the delight of the kids. Also a huge Rube Goldberg style installation where a bowling ball rolled through all kinds of obstructions to trigger a huge weight that would fall on a car, crushing it a little further towards flat each demonstration. There was a stylized dragon that sped around, avoiding the cupcakes, and propane spewing art sculpture the size of a tree. There were also Maker projects and food booths outside. The outside part of Maker Faire is why you should bring a hat and some sunscreen.

Speaking of kids, one of the greatest things about Maker is that it is a family-friendly event.

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A cadre of young Makers gets intoxicated on LEGO® blocks.

There is a Bay Area LEGO Users’ Group for the adults doing giant projects.

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Some budding Makers getting ready to craft a stuffed octopus that doubles as a glove, a Glovetopus.

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Here a whole gaggle of Maker Fair attendees has a blast expressing their artistic side.

I think one thing fundamentally different about Maker compared to a science fair is that Maker promotes and encourages the artistic side of technologists.

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This locomotive not only looks good, it also burns real coal.

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The amazing thing about this model locomotive is that is hand-built, not made from a kit.

There seems to be a linkage between the Maker community and model train enthusiasts. There was a great outdoor display at Maker, with some fantastic model trains.

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Maker Faire had a whole hall dedicated to robot wars.

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There was some intense work going on the pit next to the robot war pen.

Robot wars. There are a lot of fun things at Maker, but sparring robots has to top my list. Designing  complex electro-mechanical systems is great instruction for these young technologists. They are the innovators and competitors that will keep America’s and the world’s economy humming along.

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“Dave X” shows off a home-made firework that you can build. No, that is not real powder in the thing.

Explosives. What could be more fun? The Western Pyrotechnic Association had a booth at Maker Faire 2013. They can make sure you are following all state and federal laws as you make home-made fireworks. For that giant unit in the picture, you have to drive out of California to set it off. The trip to Nevada or Arizona just adds to the anticipation. The Association organizes events where everyone gets together to try out their handiwork. I guess you can think of them as single-use model rockets. Too late for the 2013 Winter Blast, but there is always 2014 to look forward to.

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The Drone Dudes came up from Hollywood to Maker 2013.

Drone Dudes had an awesome octo-copter at the Faire. They hang an HD camera on the bottom of the drone and do filming for the movie industry. Now there may be Atmel chips inside it, I just forgot to ask I was so blown away by the hardware. Over the next few years you will start to see directors and cinematographers take advantage of this new technology, like when they saw how Google Earth zooms can make a great establishing shot, or how Bullet cams for the Matrix movie can do slow motion with perspective changes. I don’t think this gorgeous South Dakota night sky video uses bullet cams—but it is interesting to speculate how he did the dolly shots while time-lapsing. I suspect a really smooth robotic setup.

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The Epilog laser can cut and engrave objects as well as cut them out of thin stock.

The Epilog Laser people were at the Maker Shed. The unit they showed won’t cut a razor blade yet, but that is some crazy power you probably would not want in your garage anyway.

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The G&M Honey folks had a nice display at Maker.

G&M Honey is all about local production of food. So they can set you up to keep honey bees, and I think they can even sell the honey to local restaurants. They will even come get that bee hive out of the trunk of your car or the wall in your house.

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This camera booth can feed images to Autodesk’s 123D photo-to-3D model software.

Autodesk had this camera booth that provides images to their 123D 3-D model creation software. My ME pal Dave Ruigh tried the software a few months ago and could not get good results. He said it would be easier to just build the thing in Solidworks. I suspect he did not feed the software the kind of images it needed. This booth would be the perfect test bed to see how well the software performs. Next time I will bring a Sportster engine case and see how it does with that.

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Here were some weird 3D shapes at Maker Faire 2013.

I don’t know if this strange shape was made from a model or is just some type of Styrofoam bubbles. The wooden models are interesting too. I did not have time to get the story; it was a drive-by snap, so there you have it.

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Jeri Ellsworth was at the Faire with her new company Technical Illusions.

Occasional eFlea attendee Jeri Ellsworth was at the Maker Faire this year with a demo of her new company Technical Illusions. They project a 3-D game image out of a headset, but get this– the headset also has a camera so the 3-D is projected properly on to tables, walls and other surfaces. Too cool, no wonder Jeri has not been down to the eFlea breakfast for a while.

Maker Faire is really getting some traction all over the world. It looks like people have a real hunger to get their hands on technology and warp and weave it into whatever strikes their fancy. If you have never been to a Maker Faire, you should give it a try. The 120,000 people who came to San Mateo all had a great time. There is another big Faire in New York Sept 21&22, as well as franchised Faires in Detroit July 27&28 and Kansas City June 29&30. There is even a Faire coming to Rome Oct 3-6.