Friday, April 28, 2006

Creepy Doll Based Robot

I've been following with much interest these robo-one style robots. The servo powered little humanoids with amazing capabilities. I saw a few video clips of the KHR-1 humanoid and decided I wanted it.

Then I saw the price. Around $1,200. Then i decided i could build one myself.

Thinking about it, I had 4 servos that came with a RC Aircraft radio set. Did some searches online and found what has to be the ultimate site for custom servo robotics. Lynxmotion has what they call the servo eroector set. Custom brackets to connect servos together, servo controllers, software to control your creations and all kinds of stuff. Very cool site. So after looking around and deciding that buying everything to build a robot was prohibitively expensive, I decided to do it piecemeal. Buy a few components and go from there.

I orders the SSC32 serial servo controller, the SSC32 Seqencer software, and a couple of servos that were modified for continuous rotation.

So after searching and being unable to find a serial cable the parts went on the shelf for a while. After going to a show last weekend and getting a cable i decided it was time to start my robot.

I did some thinking, and since the KHR-1 robot only looks humanoid because it has a ton of servos in the right shape and i had only a few, what i built wouldn't look like a robot. Just a few servos attatched to each other. That was boring and thus out of the question. So the question was how do i anthropomorphise a coupla boxes.

The i had a idea. Use cheap doll parts. I ended up going to a small craft store nearby called "The Rag Shop". After nosing around a bit I found a doll intended to be used as a base for building a doll. It was very no frills, just a vinyl doll, for 3.99 it was worth sacrificing. It was a larger scale than a barbie and had a cute enough face. Weird thing is the face is very young looking but the proportions are downright womanly. I had to explain myself to the checkout girl as to what a 30 year old guy was doing buying a nekd childrens doll. I told her it was to build a robot and i could tell she just thought i was a weirdo. Thats fine.

So it was off to the shop. First thing to do was to start assembling the servos in their proper configuration for the doll parts. some threaded rods, nuts, and some doublesided tape later i had the motors assembled. It only has articulation for the shoulders (arms up and down) and neck (left and right). Then I opened the doll. I popped the head off the neck, and the arms out of the sockets and set them aside. Then I broke out the utility knife.

The vinyl cut easy because the knife was sharp. I cut the from of the torso off and removed the stump of the neck. Then I started fashioning the front I had removed into a sorta chest plate to cover the servos during reassembly.

I then had to cut the back of the doll so the servos would lay flat (the neck servo is mounted off center so it didn't fit flush in the back). By now i had little bits of flesh colored vinyl laying about and feeling like a serial killer. I decided to try to use double sided tape to fix the arms in place and the same with the head (since it was all lightweight vinyl I didn't think there would be an issue.).

I decided to use a non permanent mounting solution to reassemble the doll. Nylon zip ties rule. You can never have enough of those things.

I ran power into the SSC32 board, connected it to my laptop, installed the software and had her/it moving in no time flat.

After playing with it for a bit, I noticed the tape was giving way. Time to disassemble the doll and do it right. I put a few screws through the servo wheel so i could pop the head on. Screwed into the arms from the bottom of the servo wheels and sank a long screw right through the shoulders to fix the wheel back to the servo. It had a much stronger bond and the doll/robot was much more solid after reassembly.

Here are the pics.

Assembled doll robot.

From the side.

Standing near the control hardware.

A screen shot of the software on my laptop.

A close up of the SSC32 and batteries.

Final thoughts. Well, everything worked as planned. The head turned and the arms moved. Giving the servos a body helped in the visualization of how things went together, and aided in the learning of the software.

However, I had not expected the final product to be as creepy as it is. The eyes are the type that close when it lays down, lending to a very Frankenstein feel. Like it's sleeping when its laying there, and open and alert when its upright and moving. The zip ties end up looking like some kind of bondage wear and since the face is very young looking where as the body isn't it is a little disconcerting.

Next time I think I'll use a toy robot instead to give it a body.

Monday, April 17, 2006

NJ Smoking Ban RANT

Non smokers forgive me.

Everytime I go on travel I have a freedom I don't have otherwise. I can smoke when I'm in a bar, or after dinner in a restaurant. I don't have to go freeze my bits off, or get rained on. I can just light up as long as I'm in the right section.

Once I get home however I have to stay in if I want a cig with my beer. Or deal with whatever mother nature decides to throm my way, be it wind, sunny, rain or hail. I'm not alone in this, I'm always with 2-3 other people having a cig. Perfect strangers who are as annoyed as I am. Trouble is the law that went into effect is flawed. It's also unwanted.

The NJ smoking ban is a bad idea. The idea is to protect patrons and employees from the effects of second hand smoke. Interesting statistic, 58% of new jersey smokes or have smoked. That includes the employees. The very same employees that tried to sue the state to stop this bill from becoming law. Funny, if the people this was "designed to protect" doesn't want it, why should the government have any say. This is a democrasy, or at least it pretends to be, if the people want something, shouldn't it be in our power to change it?

Think of this, cigarette smoking can cause lung cancer, emphysema, mouth cancer and a host of other problems. We as smokers know and don't care. The positive effects are it's soothing, relaxing and helps with the feelings of depression and anxiety. If they want to demonize something, try alcohol. Alcohol, changes, the way your mind works by intoxicating you and repressing your inhibitions.

Have you ever heard of a guy having a couple of cigarettes and in a tobacco induced haze gets into a fight or beat up his girlfriend or wife? I'll bet you heard of it when it was alcohol though. Not that i propose that, it's just something to mull over.

Now casinos are exempt from this ban. Why? Money. To much money is generated by the casinos to dare mess with their smokers. This makes the ban unconstitutional by violating the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution by singling out casinos.

This sixteen year old has a better grasp than most adults as to why the smoking ban is wrong.

More pricks messing with us, A proposed bill to make smoking while driving a crime. Thankfully it got stopped. Whats next? Are they going to try to ban what we do in our homes next? Do you realize more accidents and deaths, come from people adjusting the radio or climate controls than cigarette related accidents? Think about this, do you really want a jittery person who can't have a cigarette and desperately wants one behind the wheel of a car? Thats a major distraction.

And here's an articles about raisng the age to purchase tobacco to 19, they can die for their country but can't buy smokes?!?!?

But wait it gets worse... there's the Proposed "25 foot rule". It intends to screw us even further by not allowinig smoking within 25 feet of the building.

I hate it when government tries to legislate my life, it is my choice to smoke. I know the risks. IF I dont care, why should you? Who give these people the right to screw with my personal choices and my health. My health shouldn't be legislated. Sure they have the right to clean air, but they don't have the right to cause me vexation and shouldn't cause me to have to sacrifice something I very much enjoy. They have the right to use a different venue that does not have a smoking section.

Even if you don't smoke, this should concern you. My small group of smokers are having our civil liberties violated and legislated. You could be next easily. Next it could be drinking. Or using your cell phone in public. Or any one of the hundred things you do that are fine, but may annoy someone. Imagine if they outlaw obscene handgestures from cars. Or legislate that you can not bring your child in public because his crying is a nuisance to those around you?

We gotta find a way to stop this guys. This kind of govenment interference is the worse kind.