Homemade Robots For DIY Geeks: But what if you didn’t have the mechanical engineering know-how to assemble a robot army in your backyard? Remember that a middle-aged software engineer made everything from an automated couch to a walking webcam—and a Wii-mote to operate them all—out of PVC tubing and geeky know-how.
Hand-building robots are the ideal pastime for Steve Norris. Homemade robots combine his skills in hardware, electronics, and artificial intelligence (AI) programming in an attractive and practical package. With almost two dozen unique and functional robots, his residence seems like a techno-wonderland full of robotic wonders, similar to that of futurist Daniel H. Wilson. There is some truth to that. The wife and cat are both tolerant of their mechanized housemates.
It’s not just a matter of putting together whatever random parts are sitting around for Norris when it comes to bot creation. The objective of a robot, Norris told PM, “must be clear before I start building it.” Norris uses this design philosophy to establish how the robot should move, what sensors it needs to interact with the surroundings, and what behavioral norms the bot should adhere to. The sections he selects reflect this systematic approach. All of his robots are equipped with 912-MHz transceivers so that he can easily control them all. There are no kits or pre-constructed, built by instructions robots in his work because he employs a cunning blend of parts from high-end hobbyist vendors.
Robot Magazine, a bimonthly periodical that has published numerous of Norris’ robots, is one of his favorite places to contribute. In addition to his own inventions, he enjoys the iRobot home-care range, which includes various new Roomba vacuums and a Scooba mop.
HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey is the 51-year-old artist’s favorite robot, he claims. Steve Norris’s handcrafted inventions may not be nearly as terrifying, but they’re genuine functioning, and a lot of fun to play with. You’ll love these five picks:
Robotic Digital Clock Stonehenge(Homemade Robots )
With a robotic arm that moves standing cards, the Stonehenge clock displays the time. Stonehenge turned out to be nearly as impressive as its namesake, the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt. An electrical distributor asked Norris to create a larger Stonehenge as an exhibit in the foyer of its offices after seeing the bot’s wacky appeal in the video below.
Norris describes the Stonehenge clock as “a really easy one to make by yourself” out of all of his designs. Crust Crawler Smart Arm and numbered cards are all you need. The Parallax Propeller chip, which powers the Crust Crawler, is a flexible microcontroller with eight processors. When it comes to robotics, “you always need to be doing a number of things at once,” says Norris, “ranging from operating the motors and sensors and programming a CPU to serving as a function coordinator.” There’s no need to fret if that seems hard; Norris makes the code that controls his arm available for free.
The performance of Stonehenge is still being tweaked. As a result, Norris realized that he had to artificially advance the clock in order to maintain the right time on the device. Stonehenge will be stronger, quicker, and more timely in the coming several months.
Robotic Camera Platform Robo Cam
With his webcam-on-a-stick telepresence robot, Norris can still be at home whenever he wants. Three feet above the ground, the camera is installed on a two-foot-long PVC pipe. Norris can use his laptop while on vacation to access a Web server that allows him to monitor the house’s doors and windows, as well as make sure his cat, Mona, is behaving appropriately.
Having an iRobot Create as its basis also helps the RoboCam. The majority of the sensors that Norris requested are pre-installed on the Create, as is the ability to park itself at the vehicle’s charging station. Norris only needs to direct RoboCam back to the charging port when he’s finished monitoring his house to ensure that everything is in order.
Aside from its ability to dock, the RoboCam does not have any genuine independent functions. However, sensors abound, and Norris describes the car’s handling as “protective.” A cliff sensor prevents the robot from tumbling down a set of steps, and it won’t let him come too near to items to bump against them. It’s not always possible to handle RoboCam from across the nation. When anything goes wrong, “much like with the NASA rover,” Norris informs us. Norris added a laser pointer that shines a red dot around three feet in front of the bot to aid with his depth awareness.
Norris believes that telepresence technology will find a range of applications in the near future, especially when combined with robotics. One may even link individuals on the other side of the planet for more philanthropic reasons, like elder care.
On-Demand Furniture from RoboStool
A question Norris asked himself when out shopping for a new stool: “Why not make a stool a robot?” In the blink of an eye, he found himself searching for precisely the right seat, one that “could handle the electronics,” and one that had a “lid that was light enough to put on top of the chassis.” How did he wind up with a slab of brown vinyl from Bed Bath & Beyond that also became his favorite robot?
Is there any reason not to? It’s hard not to fall in love with RoboStool. It will follow you everywhere you go and then sit down for you when you’re done so you can rest your legs. Three separate control methods are available: remote control, infrared beacon navigation, and a “Follow Me” mode that uses a thermal sensor to track where the user is pointing at the robot.
Of course, the RoboStool’s large cover is essential. Using two pistons, Norris elevated the robot to reveal a hermit crab-like visage that houses the bot’s primarily acoustic and thermal sensors. As for Norris, thermal tracking is “the most fun,” as he put it while discussing the RoboStool. He and his crew like having the RoboStool accompany them everywhere they go. A Wall-E-like cuteness comes to mind as the lid is popped up.
Sensors in the RoboStool’s base prevent it from colliding with objects. For safety reasons, the RoboStool has two infrared sensors that prevent it from running into walls or people, as well as an extra acoustic sensor. The RoboCam’s cliff sensor is all that’s lacking from the RoboStool, which Norris uses to keep an eye out for tired legs on the second level. No one was hurt, and he was amazed by that.
Visitors to his website often mistake it for a professionally created product since it’s so well-developed. Norris claims that “people get the most kick out of it.” Due to its amusement value, “[it] will probably stay with me for the rest of my life.”
Huey Color’s Robot Chase
Norris claims that Huey is his “most advanced machine even though he is smaller than most of the other ones,” despite the fact that the bot is just a thermal sensor put on wheels. Following three rules of robotics, not Isaac Asimov’s, but he’d be pleased nonetheless: One should always keep an eye on what they’re monitoring, two should always advance toward what they’re following, and three should always retreat away from what they’re tracking.
There’s a microcontroller-and-camera combination at the core of Huey’s complication, the CMUcam2+. He can run away from someone wearing a blue shirt or pursue after someone holding a bright pink square of paper because of Huey’s ability to monitor color variations. Huey, on the other hand, follows his three instructions to the letter and chases after whatever he’s tracking like a puppy with zeal. Norris’ future bots will undoubtedly make use of the technology used to create and program Huey.
Norris tells PM that the idea of a robot following you has always attracted him. Huey’s 3 guiding principles, allow him to act in unexpected ways, such as gracefully doing 3 point turns. Huey “was never planned to execute a three-point turn, yet it accomplishes them because of these three characteristics,” Norris adds. This is an indication of emergent behavior: a robot acting in a way that isn’t explicitly prescribed by its code. Huey, on the other hand, is a graceful little boy who never loses his footing. Norris is pleased with the outcome. A robot like Huey, he says, doesn’t have actual intelligence, but may be developed such that it “appear[s] highly clever.”
RoboWand Gesture-Based Remote Control & Beyond
The RoboWand, Norris’s current creation, looks a lot like a Wii-mote at first glance. In spite of the fact that he did not design gesture-based control systems, the technology is quite comparable to what you’d find in a Nintendo Wii-mote or the iPhone. Norris will be able to manage most of his bots, including the RoboCam and RoboStool, with the RoboWand’s 912 MHz transmitter. With a wave of his hand, he’ll be able to change both direction and speed.
The Robowand, on the other hand, isn’t very complicated. An on/off switch, a transceiver, an accelerometer, and a single-board computer are all contained within a PVC pipe. If you’re looking for the perfect rest, the RoboStool’s level of control should make it easier for Norris to get it just where he wants.
How about the robot-next wizard’s project? As a teaser, Norris provided us a glimpse: He hopes to provide a solution to the most often requested robotics issue. “Yeah, but can it bring me a beer?” is usually the first question a person asks a robot no matter what it does.
When it comes to his plan, he’s working with two robots: In the first, we have a refrigerator; in the second, a butler. A butler will be able to get two different beverages from the fridge, which is currently in development. When the butler gets a request for a drink, it will instruct the RoboFridge to open the door. So, it would “align itself” with the fridge door and dock with it to get the beer back to the person who ordered it.