Thursday, July 16, 2009, 10:08 PM - Flying ContraptionsAeroVironment has developed a flapping wing micro-UAV under a DARPA-funded project. The prototype made a 20 second radio-controlled flight. There is a video on YouTube, and a short description of the recent milestone.
This is probably the work of micro-RC pioneer Matt Keenon, who works at AeroVironment.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009, 12:10 AM - ElectronicsThe new Stickduino Arduino clone as been upgraded with the new Atmega328, so as to match the latest version of the "official" Arduino. The price is still below $20.
Strangely enough, the stickduino website makes no mention of the change!
How do I learned about it then?
Well, I just received a new batch of Stickduinos and tried to program one, but the program wouldn't upload (I kept getting "stk500_recv() programmer is not responding" from avrdude). I started looking on the web for answers, but couldn't find anything. After fiddling for a while, I looked closely at the board, and realized it had an Atmega328. I configured the Arduino IDE for the new Duemilanove Arduino, and everything worked perfectly.
Still, I'm surprised the stickduino people don't mention this anywhere.
Thursday, June 11, 2009, 05:32 PM - JazzTenor sax virtuoso Joel Frahm was playing his regular Tuesday-night gig at La Lanterna in NYC this week, accompanied by Bill Campbell at the drums (as usual), and Johannes Weidenmuller at the bass (replacing Joe Martin). Joel is something of a "quotemaster": his solos are often peppered with snippets from all kinds of things from other jazz pieces, classical music, pop music, and just about anything under the sun.
This Tuesday, Joel was in a particularly playful mood, and his high-flying solos brought an unusally rich harvest of detectable/delectable quotes including such things as Peter and the Wolf, Michel Legrand's "Les moulins de mon cœur" (Windmills of my mind), and (that's got to be a first) a theme from Star Wars!
Over the last 3 months, photographer Jimmy Katz has come to 8 or 10 of Joel's trio sessions at La Lanterna, equipped with a compact digital multi-track recorder. Each session he recorded has about 3 hours of music. Hopefully, these will soom be distilled and made available.
By ze way, the complete collection of Joel's sessions at Small's are available for on-line listening here.
Saturday, June 6, 2009, 04:09 PM - Flying ContraptionsBertrand pointed me to this positively gigantic collection of airplane 3 views at rcgroups.
They even have one of my favorites: the obscure the coleoptere.
Thursday, May 14, 2009, 07:06 PM - Flying ContraptionsThere seems to be a renewal of interest in the heretofore abandoned concept of the cyclogyro
The cyclogyro has two rotating sets of "paddles" whose angle of attack is cyclically modified to create lift in the desired direction. The principle is well described by the animation in this Wikipedia article.
There is a YouTube video of a thethered micro-size cyclogyro, which was designed at the National University of Singapore. A detailed description of the design is available here.
A team of Japanese roboticists has apparently revived the concept, using a "pantograph" mechanism to vary the angle of attack (link to IEEE Tans. Mechatronics article),
and a short description with pictures on PhysOrg.
I'm somewhat doubtful of the efficiency of the design, but it looks like a fun thing to build.
There is a number of article on the web that describe 1930's designs for cyclogyros. I am somewhat surprised that none of these designs seem to include an anti-torque system. These paddles are bound to generate a high torque that would make the vehicle pitch up (which is why the cyclogyro on the YouTube video has a propeller in the back).
Thursday, May 7, 2009, 11:39 PM - RoboticsThis past semester, I have been teaching an undergraduate course Introduction to Robotics. The first series of assignments included programming Arduinos to read sensors and actuate servos and DC motors. The second series included programming a Pololu 3Pi robot to follow a line (using a PID controller), and perform dead reckoning (coming home after following a line to its end).
The last series of homework consisted in getting Rovio robots to play soccer. I feel I should mention this here because the class page showing videos and pictures of the students' soccer-playing Rovios had been mentioned by a number of blogs, including Slashgear and RoboCommunity.
The Rovio robots can be seen as "Wifi webcams on wheels". The goal of the project was to push a tennis ball into a goal. The tennis ball is bright yellow, and the goal posts are red. The rovios are controlled by software running on a laptop which performs the vision and control algorithms. The software is written in our very own Lush language, which is a dialect of Lisp.
Wednesday, April 1, 2009, 12:57 AM - JazzTonight at La Lanterna in NYC tenor sax Bill McHenry was sitting in for Joel Frahm, with bassist Joe Martin and drummer Bill Campbell. They played two of Bill McHenry's new compositions "Violetta" and "Lines" which I thought were particularly interesting.
Thursday, March 26, 2009, 03:00 AM - Misc TechnoToysLumenlab proposes the micRo CNC kit for $500 for a partial kit and $1000 for a complete kit. You can also get a low-end Dell PC to control the CNC machine for $330, pre-configured with Ubuntu.
The total travel dimensions are 34cm x 25cm x 8.9 cm.
[via Makezine blog]
Thursday, March 26, 2009, 02:50 AM - ElectronicsThe Makershed has a new XBee adapter for $10 with 10 pins, some which directly fit in an FTDI serial USB adapter cable. It includes level shifters and a 3.3v regulator and can be plugged into a proto board.
Newmicros also has an XBee USB dongle, for $40.
Saturday, March 14, 2009, 09:09 PM - ElectronicsIntelspy sells a surveillance system with two wireless cameras and a 2-channel receiver for $130. The interesting thing is that the claimed range is over 500m.
Saturday, March 14, 2009, 09:00 PM - ElectronicsA cool little hack in which an Arduino is used to levitate a magnetic object and regulate its distance from the levitating electromagnet.
Monday, March 9, 2009, 10:04 PM - ElectronicsThis page has a bunch of interesting prototyping shields for the Arduino, including relays, power FETs, motor drivers and such (via Makezine blog).
Thursday, March 5, 2009, 07:47 PM - Flying ContraptionsMicro RC manufacturer Plantraco has a Ready-to-Fly 1/72 scale RC Spitfire, with a wingspan of 15cm, and incredible weight of 2.7 grams. The plane is available for $99 including the radio. It uses a 4mm coreless motor with a 32mm prop, a 0.38g 2channel receiver (rudder and throttle), a 0.07g rudder actuator, and a 0.95g 20mAh lipo battery.
Sunday, March 1, 2009, 01:52 AM - Misc MusicI just noticed this nice Akai EWI 4000s patch editor/librarian app called EWItool. The best part is that it runs on Linux (as well as on Windoze). There is a pre-compiled debian package too.
It can automagically fetch patches from EWIpatchExchange.
Monday, February 23, 2009, 01:28 PM - Misc TechnoToysThe WRAM show is an R/C modeling trade show that takes place every February at the Westchester county center in White Plains, north of the New York City. The show usually occupies two floor and the booths are filled with manufacturers, importers/distributors, and retailers showing their exotic gear. This year however, the show was rather disappointing and occupied only one floor. Many of the manufacturers that usually have a booth were absent, and many of the big on-line retailers like Hobby Lobby and BP Hobbies were absent. It looks like the economic crisis is having an impact.
- Trace En Poche (which could be translated as "pocket plotter") is an amazing on-line tool geometry, kinematics, and plotting tool. It allows you to enter descriptions of geometric figures using a GUI or a simple description language, and to plot and animate the result. The tool is available in a number of languages (French, English, Spanish, German, and Arabic). Thanks to Bertrand for the pointer.
- Command-line-fu: a bunch of random semi-non-obvious Unix/Linux command-line idioms to do various useful tasks. These simple tricks will occasionally aleviate the need to plow through the man pages of find, awk, egrep, sort, and such.
- Diamonds in the Sky: a collection of scientifically correct astronomy-related science fiction stories (sponsored by NSF).
- GPS homing device: Hammacher-Schlemmer has a simple GPS homing device for $80. Press a button when you are at a particular location, and the device will keep track of the distance and bearing to that location. It's small and simple to use. It integrated a self-calibrating digital compass in addition to a GPS.