Building a hackable robotic arm

BannerThis post is coming to you live from the Elephant & Castle Mini Maker Faire being held today at the London College of Communication.

The #meArm—a pocket sized robot arm.

The #meArm—a pocket sized robot arm.

The MeArm is a small hackable robot arm by Ben Gray and Jack Howard. The arm was designed from the ground up to be low cost and easy to put together—with only a small number of relatively cheap parts. Built with just four hobby servos and out of no more than an A4 piece of acrylic (just over the size of a sheet of US Letter).

The #meArm in action

I talked to Ben Gray about his robotic arm and why he brought it along to maker faire today.

An interview with Ben Gray

All of the instructionspart templates, and source code for the arm are available online if you want to build your own.

The Elephant & Castle Mini Maker Faire is being held at the London College of Communication from 10am till 6pm. Entry is free to children (under 16) and students, tickets are £5 otherwise and available on the door.

3D Printed Line Following Robots

BannerThis post is coming to you live from the Elephant & Castle Mini Maker Faire being held today at the London College of Communication.

Racing the Cannybots—3d printed and Arduino-based—around the race track.

Racing the Cannybots—3d printed and Arduino-based—around the race track.

Launching today at the Elephant & Castle faire are the Cannybots. These 3d printed, and Arduino compatible, robots can be controlled from a joypad or your smartphone using Bluetooth LE.

I talked to Anish Mampetta and Wayne Keenan—the founders of Cannybot—about their robots, and why they brought them to Maker Faire.

Both the robots themselves which have been built around an RFduino, and the joypad they’re controlled from, are entirely hackable—both the hardware and software is open source—and can be programmed directly from the Arduino IDE.

The Elephant & Castle Mini Maker Faire is being held at the London College of Communication from 10am till 6pm. Entry is free to children (under 16) and students, tickets are £5 otherwise and available on the door.

Engadget Expand: Beam Robotic Telepresence

The Beam robotic telepresence system allows you to be in two places at once. Running on wifi or 4G, you can see the robot allows for moving around, talking easily, and possibly even dancing!

Engadget Expand: Poursteady, A Robotic Pour-Over Coffee Machine

This machine makes coffee. It isn’t just your typical coffee machine though. The pour steady replicates the process of pour-over coffee, a method that yields incredibly tasty results. Baristas can control many aspects of how each batch is made, allowing for fine tuning the results for your customers. Made in Brooklyn the Poursteady coffee machine has been a big hit at Maker Faire New York for a couple years now.

Robotic Sea Creatures that Respond to Invisible Waves

Designed to engage and empower the maker community, Intel’s “Inside the Blue” project, developed in tandem with digital media agency Noise, encourages makers to create robotic creatures using their Galileo board. These creatures are meant respond to invisible waves all around us. To help makers get inspired, they recruited beta teams to make a few of these creatures and develop tutorials so that you can make them yourself. Make: got the first look at these creatures at World Maker Faire New York.

The Brain Coral can take any kind of sensor input and displays activity on the RGB LEDs inside. It also acts as a base station for wireless sensors. Powered by Node.js, its web-based interface allows you to access the sensor data in real-time on your tablet, laptop, or mobile device. A full how-to is available on the Intel community.

The Brain Coral can be used to control the Signal Fish, a flying robotic sensor platform. It can explore an area with a sonar based object avoidance system and a random walk algorithm. When it finds a sufficiently strong wi-fi signal, its on-board LEDs respond with dazzling patterns. Of course, you could also switch the Signal Fish into manual mode and control its flight from your phone or tablet. Intel’s step-by-step instructions show you how to establish wireless communication, construct the rig, and build out the circuit.

Both creatures can be replicated, expanded, and modified. Or if you’re inspired to create your own creature, the resources behind these projects provide a fantastic jumping off point.

Dronecode: Linux Foundation, 3D Robotics Create Open-Source UAV Software Platform


Open-source software powers many consumer drones and UAVs today, and now a new initiative will put those applications under one unified platform managed by the Linux Foundation.

The program, called Dronecode, aims to help accelerate and broaden drone software through the deep Linux community. Announced today by 3D Robotic’s CEO Chris Anderson at the Embedded Linux Conference in Dusseldorf, Germany, it will focus on the major drone applications, including 3DR-sponsored APM (autonomous autopilot software for embedded copter, plane, and wheeled controllers), MissionPlanner and DroidPlanner (laptop/Android-based flight-path management), and MavLink (aircraft flight information communiications). It will also take oversight of the PX4 project, a cutting-edge autonomous flight endeavor that is being utilized in the 3D Robotics “Pixhawk” flight controllers.

“…we are entering the consumer and commercial drone age and I’m delighted that an open source platform is helping lead the way,” Anderson writes on “Now that we have reached this level of adoption and maturity, it’s time to adopt the best practices of other highly successful open source projects, including professional management and governance structures, to ensure the continued growth and independence of these efforts. There is no better organization to lead this than the Linux Foundation.”

Along with 3D Robotic’s inclusion, the program comes with the support of major players in the drone community, including DroneDeploy, jDrones, Walkera, and Yuneec. Anderson also notes the support of Intel, Box, and Baidu for the project.

“By becoming a Linux Foundation Collaborative Project, the Dronecode community will receive the support required of a massive project right at its moment of breakthrough,” says Jim Zemlin, executive director at The Linux Foundation, in a press release. “The result will be even greater innovation and a common platform for drone and robotics open source projects.”

Beyond the Dronecode announcement, it’s been a busy past couple months for 3D Robotics.

Last month, the company announced Richard Branson as their latest investor, bringing considerable business acumen and flight experience to the company through his experience with Virgin Atlantic and America airlines and the space tourism endeavor Virgin Galactic.

In his official welcome, 3DR and Virgin posted a video of the company’s visit to Branson’s private getaway in the British Virgin Islands that demonstrated new flight functions for its aircraft, including their new GPS-powered follow-me mode. The video also includes 3D-rendered shots of the island made from quadcopter-shot footage.

3D Robotics also recently announced the next iteration of their Iris quadcopter, the Iris+, which incorporates many of these new flight functions along with double the flight time of its predecessor, improved landing apparatus, easier spin-on propellers, and direction-indicating lights.

And at the Intel Developer Forum, 3DR disclosed partnership plans to use the diminutive Edison microcontroller in their next-generation autopilot as a computing companion — allowing for more advanced functions like an optical-based follow-me mode (instead of tracking your phone’s GPS). “Our next-generation autopilot will be built around the notion of carrier boards,” Anderson says, explaining that different boards will be used for different functions.

Klapthor's Robots and the Atlanta Maker Faire

If you live in or around Atlanta, Georgia, or will be there on the weekend of October 4th and 5th, you should consider attending Maker Faire Atlanta. It will take place in downtown Decatur, and parking and other information on attending the event can be found here.

Here it is! Hopefully ample parking, and easy access to MARTA and fast food!

Here it is! (Hopefully) ample parking, and easy access to the MARTA system!

If you’re wondering what will be there, an enormous list of organizations and people displaying their projects can be found here. Additionally, I’ll be there on Saturday, taking photographs, and hopefully meeting as many people as possible. Or you can come on the fifth if you’d rather avoid me!

As for a tiny sampling of what will be displayed there (seriously, check out the “Maker’s” page above), “Klapthor’s Universal Robots” really caught my eye with the cool “retrofuturistic-styled” robot pottery that the artist makes. As he puts it, these robots are made as “a rusty but sturdy reminder of what it was like to be excited about limitless possibilities.”

tunneling bot

Tunneling robot found here

This seems especially appropriate for an event like this, as I would be surprised if most of the adults that will attend weren’t inspired by fictional robots like this. Hopefully we will continue to reach for technology so far beyond the cutting edge that it inspires the next generation to continue pushing the edge! I’d like to think that Maker Faires like this one help with that ideal.

I’ll be looking forward to seeing these clay ‘bots and the other excellent projects displayed. If you happen to see me wandering around with a camera, be sure to say “hi!”

7 Fire Sculptures – Art, Flame, and Robotics Collide

flamesSculptures have been a significant component of the art scene for thousands of years, but would you consider a robot ‘art?’ Like it or not, some artists are incorporating robotics and fire into their sculptures to make some of the most innovative (and terrifying) art installations we’ve ever seen. Buckle up, play that Nelly song, and bring some water as we share 7 of our favorite fire sculptures.

You can click the numbers below to browse through them or jump directly to the one you want to see:

Artisan Wooden Robotic Arms

Kinohaguruma’s wooden robotic arm functions using a series of gears and levers

Kinohaguruma’s wooden robotic arm functions using a series of gears and levers

Nothings better than getting toys for your birthday when you’re a kid or even for adults too. Usually it’s a videogame, a new bike or new clothes that are given as gifts, however if you’re lucky enough to have Kinohaguruma as your father, you get works of art like the Wooden Robotic Arm he crafted for his son’s seventh birthday.

The artist designed the arm using an intricate series of gears and levers painstakingly created using a drilling machine and a jigsaw. The gears were designed using a compass and protractor and after the rough cuts were made, he shaped them to perfectly fit together using a knife and sandpaper. Two levers are used to manipulate the arm in four degrees of freedom by engaging wooden pistons to move left, right, up and down. The left lever is used in tandem with the right for both movement and to actuate the claw to pick up various objects. Kinohaguruma even made an adjustable base to provide stability on various surfaces. Unfortunately for us, he isn’t selling the robotic arm so we’ll just have to stick with the plastic versions sold at Walmart. See more with the video…

Yes, There is a Robotic Penis Wall at Maker Faire This Year

Artist and her creation

Artist Peiqi Su building her creation.

Maker Faire has always straddled a line of edgy and educational, a blend that makes it a magical, must-see event year after year. There’s no where else, for instance, where you can learn how solder while being sandwiched next to super-sized, fire-belching metal statues. And while this year’s World Maker Faire New York, opening Saturday at the New York Hall of Science, is no different, one particular exhibit has everyone talking.

It’s a wall of robotic penises.

The creation, made by Peiqi Su as part of her thesis project for NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program, consists of 81 articulating penises that can move in response to realtime changes in the stock market, to the viewers movement, or to any other input set by the creator. The piece is an immediate attention-getter and a fascinating piece of art.

There were several internal conversations at Make: about including it in this year’s event, but in the end, the art of the piece spoke loudest. “It’s a form of expression based on human anatomy, and it’s done by an artist who is interested in how you respond to it,” explains Make: founder and CEO Dale Dougherty.

We would love attendees to the Faire to see the piece and determine their feelings about it. The display is located inside a closed tent that is clearly labelled, so there won’t be any surprises and it can be avoided if the subject matter makes you uncomfortable. Its artistic expression will hopefully resonate with everyone, but if not, there are hundreds of other enjoyable things to see and do at the event.