SunFounder DIY 4-DOF Sloth Robot Kit

Today we will have a look at a robot kit created by SunFounder. The Sloth is a bi-pedal robot based on the Arduino Nano. It utilises an ultrasonic module for obstacle detection and four servos for movement.

I found the kit to be an easy and fun build that took approximately an hour to complete. SunFounder have uploaded a YouTube video that serves as detailed introductions and assembly tutorial for the robot. It covers the entire assembly process, including the process to test the ultrasonic module as well as all the servos (before assembly), which is a good thing as one of the servos included with my kit turned out to be broken, but luckily I had a replacement servo on hand.

One thing to note is that the robot utilises two 18650 batteries, which after some research turned out to be commonly used in high-end flashlights and e-cigarettes, and are relatively pricey.

The robot can also be powered through the mini USB port on the Arduino (which I did while I waited for the batteries I had ordered to be delivered).

The code for the robot can be downloaded from here on the SunFounder website. Just note that the default code did not work for me as the ultrasound module did not detect obstacles. I rectified this by replacing the following code:

void loop()
{
 	int <span class="mceItemHidden" data-mce-bogus="1"><span class="hiddenSpellError" pre="int " data-mce-bogus="1">tooclose</span></span> = 0; // Define the test times, the initial value is 0
 	for(int a=0; a&lt;5; a++)  //for is a cyclical function and its cyclic times are determined by the second condition in the bracket. Here a&lt;5, a’s initial value is 0. When a&lt;5, run the program in the bracket. After running, a becomes a++ and it means adding 1 to a’s value.
	{
		delay(50); // Delay 50ms
		int din = sonar.ping_in(); // Call the ultrasonic transducer to read the distance that ultrasonic detected.
		if (din &lt; 7 &amp;&amp; din &gt; 0) tooclose++; // The smoothing. The times add 1 when the detect distance less than 7cm and greater than 0cm.
	}

With this:

void loop()
{
	int <span class="mceItemHidden" data-mce-bogus="1"><span class="hiddenSpellError" pre="int " data-mce-bogus="1">tooclose</span></span> = 0; // Define the test times, the initial value is 0
	for(int a=0; a&lt;5; a++)  //for is a cyclical function and its cyclic times are determined by the second condition in the bracket. Here a&lt;5, a’s initial value is 0. When a&lt;5, run the program in the bracket. After running, a becomes a++ and it means adding 1 to a’s value.
	{
		delay(50); // Delay 50ms
		int din = sonar.ping(); // Call the ultrasonic transducer to read the distance that ultrasonic detected.
		if (din &lt; 750 &amp;&amp; din &gt; 0) tooclose++;
	}

I really enjoyed assembling and playing with this little robot and would definitely recommend it to anyone interested in getting started in basic robotics.

SunFounder DIY 4-DOF Sloth Robot Kit

The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild


abloggersjourney

This post forms part of a series covering the entire Legend of Zelda franchise hosted by NekoJonez , so if you love the Legend of Zelda as much as I do, browse over to this hub article on his blog, which contains links to article (like this one) on each Legend of Zelda game in the series created by a variety of different bloggers.

The legend of Zelda series is one of my favorite gaming series, as can be seen by the numerous Legend of Zelda items in my gaming collection.

So to say that I was eagerly awaiting the release of Breath of the Wild earlier this year is an understatement of note, so was it worth the wait? Did it live up to the hype? Lets find out.

BOTW_WiiU

The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild is the latest, and in my opinion greatest, adventure in the Legend of Zelda series. It released in March 2017 (Nearly 6 years after Skyward Sword, the last major console Legend of Zelda game released) on the WiiU and Nintendo Switch and received almost unanimous perfect review scores (With a current Metacritic score of 97%).

The Legend of Zelda games have always been open world to some extent, but Breath of the Wild not only truly introduced the Zelda series to a fully realized open world, but also changed the way that we will look at all other open world games going forward, revitalizing the open world genre as a whole. Unlike many other open world games, where the world seems lifeless and repetitive, Breath of the Wild managed to create a representation of Hyrule that seems alive, dynamic and real.

The amount of freedom the game allows is also truly amazing, and any situation the game presents can be approached from various different ways. This combined with an amazing physics engine fully releases the player’s imagination in a sandbox of almost endless possibilities. Some examples of this is how bombs can be used to kill fish in ponds which can then be easily collected, or how the player can “cheat” in the motion controlled ball and maze puzzle shrines by simply flipping the control pad upside down and using the flat back of the maze to easily guide the ball to the target, or realizing that any metal item can conduct electricity and then using spare weapons and armor to solve electricity puzzles, or how an enemy encampment can be destroyed by using the wind and a patch of dry grass to start a wild-fire to burn it to a crisp, or how a wooden shield can be used to catch and collect enemy arrows fired at you . These are but a few of many examples.

Breath of the Wild is not an easy game, but you never feel that it is unfair. Breath of the Wild harks back to a time in gaming when games actually presented a genuine challenge. This is very apparent in Breath of the Wild in how even from very early in the game you are free to go to areas where very high level and dangerous enemies reside, which in the beginning you are very unlikely to defeat. But as you gain more health and stamina, get better weapons and armor and also get better at the game you will later be able to defeat those same enemies much more easily. For example, the first time I encountered a Stone Talus it was a long and grueling fight, which I only beat after numerous attempts, but after I upgraded my armor and weapons and also learned to better utilize my ranged attacks and dodging, I can now take down a Stone Talus without much effort.

The different regions in the game world vary greatly in look and feel, from the grassy plains of the Great Plateau, to the fiery Death Mountain, to the water rich Zora’s Domain, to the sandy desert of the Gerudo Wasteland. All the regions are beautifully bought to life, each with its own inhabitants, sub-quests and story arcs. All of these regions also contain villages, all unique and wonderful to explore.

Another great feature in the game is that you can buy a house, and make various upgrades to it. This provides a handy place to store items you have collected, freeing up some valuable inventory space.

One of my favorite things to do in Breath of the Wild is to go out in the world and scavenge for useful items, chopping down trees for wood, mining minerals with my hammer, hunting a variety of animals for meat or simply picking fruits, vegetables and mushrooms to use in recipes.

Crafting is done in Breath of the Wild through its cooking system. Various recipes can be discovered, through experimentation, to create a variety of potions and food items offering not only health restoration but also a wide range of temporary upgrades to attributes like stamina and sneaking.

After everything we have covered and we haven’t even touched on a major element of the game, the dungeons. Dungeons come in two varieties, firstly shrines, which are mini dungeons in which you unlock abilities and spirit orbs (which are used to upgrade health and stamina) and then the five main dungeons. The five main dungeons consist of the four Divine Beats and finally Hyrule Castle. All five main dungeons end with a boss encounter with an embodiment of Ganon. These dungeons offer a wide variety of challenges, from truly impressive puzzles to powerful enemies, and finishing one gives you a real sense of achievement.

If you haven’t realized this yet, I truly love this game and it is easily in my top three favorite games of all time, and is definitely my favorite Legend of Zelda game.

I enjoyed every second of this game and even after spending far over a hundred hours playing, I still feel that there are things left to discover.

Quite often when a game gets huge amounts of hype and amazing reviews it ends up being a disappointment as expectations are built too high and it fails to live up to them, but this is not the case with Breath of the Wild. This game not only lives up to the hype but also exceeds it.

The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild

Book Review – The Maker Movement Manifesto by Mark Hatch

makerM.png

The Maker Movement Manifesto is an interesting look into the Maker Movement by Mark Hatch, the CEO and cofounder of TechShop a popular maker space.

It starts out by defining the Maker Movement Manifesto which is broken down into 9 points:

  • Make
  • Share
  • Give
  • Learn
  • Tool up
  • Play
  • Participate
  • Support
  • Change

This is interesting and explains everything from the values underlying the movement to how to set up a maker space in your own community, however what was of more interest to myself was the following sections where numerous stories were relaid about success stories of makers developing their passions into successful businesses from within TechShop.

The book covers not only the Maker Movement from an internal perspective, but also the far wider reaching socio-economic impacts of giving anyone access to the tools, knowledge and abilities to make things for themselves, be that anything from a proof of concept to a product to art. It looks at how this wider access to these facilities accelerates innovation, democratizes tools/equipment and information and creates a new breed of person, what is referred to as a pro-am, a professional amateur. And how this mindset change might be better suited to addressing the challenges the world is experiencing today.

I really enjoyed The Maker Movement Manifesto, and found it to be inspiring, it really got my Maker juices flowing. So if you are a Maker or interested in the Movement give this book a try.

Book Review – The Maker Movement Manifesto by Mark Hatch

A Story About A Game

15 Years ago I wrote a small game called Hellspawn and I rediscovered it again when I was going through some old backup discs. It is a top down shooter and was developed in Borland C++ Builder (I think version 6). It was a very basic game (especially looking back now) from when I was still a very inexperienced developer, still studying to get a degree.

So if anyone is interested here it is: HellSpawn

To get it working on windows 10:

Use Hellspawn.exe to start the game, but first in file properties:

  • Set executable to run in compatibility mode  – Windows 98 / Windows ME
  • Reduced Color mode – 16-bit
  • Override DPI Scaling Behavior, Scaling performed by – Application
  • Can also set to run in 640 x 480, however is best to change screen resolution in windows to 1024 x 768 for best experience.

compatibility

The controls are as follows:

  • Arrow keys to move
  • Left ctrl keys to fire weapon

Simply kill all the enemies to proceed to the next level.

On another note I have some Steam game keys to give away!

For a chance to win one simply email killerrobotics.me@gmail.com with the subject line ‘Killer Robotics Steam Giveaway’ and for the message content just be creative.

Winners will be randomly selected and announced via twitter.

A Story About A Game

Another VR post and some updates

VR3

In a previous post, DIY VR Part 1, we took a look at apps that allowed a user to stream PC games to a smartphone in stereoscopic 3D, which could then be used with a Google Cardboard compatible headset to experience VR.

This worked well, however the apps examined in the previous post did not support or were not optimized for games specifically designed for SteamVR. For SteamVR to start up a compatible HMD (Head Mounted Display, like Oculus Rift or HTC Vive) needs to be detected, something the apps covered previously did not support, with the exception of TrinusVR which does support this, however it does not support USB tethering with iOS which has a significant negative effect on the experience.

Today we will look at an app that does fully supports this functionality, iVRy.

iVRy is an iOS app that allows SteamVR games to be streamed to an iPhone, and as with the previously mentioned apps, utilizes the phone’s gyroscope and accelerometers for head tracking and movement.

iVRy comprises of a app that is installed on your iPhone and a SteamVR HMD driver to be installed alongside SteamVR on your PC.

The iPhone is then connected to the PC either via Wi-Fi or USB (preferably USB as the results are greatly improved). The next step is to start the iVRy app on the phone and then lastly launch

SteamVR (which will detect the phone as a compatible HMD) and you are up and running.

The app has various settings to optimally configure your VR experience, such as lens distortion correction and field of view settings, with a large list of Google Cardboard Compatible Headsets preconfigured for ease of use.

Another feature of the app is that it auto adjusts image quality to ensure a high frame rates, reducing VR sickness.

iVRy supports a lot of SteamVR titles, working with any game that does not require motion controls, so any game that supports a traditional controller should work. Saying this a controller is pretty much required and any Steam compatible controller will work.

iVRy has a free trial version that does not limit play time, but reduces color saturation after 5 minutes of play time, making the image appear in shades of grey. To unlock the full premium version of iVRy costs $6.99, which removes the 5 minute limitation.

If you are an Android user a similar app is available called VRidge by RiftCat, which costs $14.99. It does however offer a great deal more functionality, thus the higher price.

Now on a related topic, I recently had the opportunity to play around with a HTC Vive at the Microsoft Store at NorthPark Center in Dallas Texas, and it was an amazing experience. I played through a series of experiences, starting with a tutorial based on the game Portal and then flowing into The Blu, AudioShield and finally Space Pirate Trainer. The experience was extremely immersive and I got goose bumps, it was truly mind blowing. The motion controls and room tracking of the Vive work extremely well and helps greatly with the immersion. If you ever have an opportunity to use a HTC Vive I would highly recommend it.

While I was in Dallas I also went to see some interesting sights, like the Oculus VR Dallas offices, where John Carmack is based.

Now for a quick update on the DIY VR Headset Version 2. I have acquired the parts for the new headset, including two 1920×1280 (60 Hz) 3.5inch (89mm) displays (one for each eye) and a Leap Motion, which I will use to implement motion controls. I have decided for the version 2 to use two smaller independent displays mounted in portrait mode (similar to what is done in the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, post Development Kit 1 which used one screen).

I will also look at using iVRy with the Leap Motion to get motion controls working in Steam VR. So watch this space, some exciting things are coming.

Another VR post and some updates

Book Review – Dancing Barefoot by Wil Wheaton

IMG_2498

Dancing Barefoot is a collection of memoirs by Wil Wheaton in the form of five short stories. The stories are all quick and enjoyable reads covering topics of joy, sadness and self discovery, Wil experienced throughout his life. I really like Wil’s writing style and I am a regular reader of his blog WilWheaton.net. If you’re familiar with Wil’s blog you would pretty much know what to expect from Dancing Barefoot.

The book is a very pleasant, light and quick read and can easily be finished in a single sitting, ideal for a long flight. I really enjoy short stories in general and Dancing Barefoot is no exception, I would highly recommend it if you are looking for some light hearted-feel good entertainment.

If you enjoyed this book also give Wil’s other book Just a Geek, which I covered in another blog post, a try.

 

Book Review – Dancing Barefoot by Wil Wheaton