Robot Army : Our First Rush

fundingJump

There were some experiences involved with launching a Kickstarter that I had been heavily anticipating. The most obvious of which being the excitement that follows your first big rush of backers. – Sort of like Christmas, but in the form of a global affirmation that your ideas are liked, understood, and that there is a place in the world for people who dare to seize their dreams.

Though Mark and I were off to a respectable start… our momentum pittered out rather quickly and for a good day and a half we crawled through six or seven percent. It was agonizing. Maybe we were expecting too much. Since we haven’t yet been picked up by any major feeds, its been a matter of sitting in front of the laptop every morning and kindly reminding/begging people to post about our project and help us get the word out.

After blasting yet another batch of such emails to a whole bucket of contacts, I sprawled out on the couch and dozed off. It was a nap of acceptance and release. At some point, Mark walked into the living room and yelled at me for sleeping. He sat down next to me quietly and gave me a hug, feeling something similar- which I can’t really define. A moment later I picked up my phone and checked to see how long I had been out, to find that I had an endless list of push notifications informing us that we had new backers.

Long story short… I suppose Kickstarter featured our project, and once this happened we started getting traffic in a big way. We went from 37% to 76% by the end of the day… which is huge! It’s still sort of funny that this wasn’t the result of any PR we have done. Never the less… it’s good to see your hard work pay off.

Today, I am answering questions about international shipping costs. It eludes me how I can only seem to get astronomical quotes outside of the US. =/ It’s like I’m missing something. Angry customers is bad- so I’m doing everything I can to fix this. We are almost to 90% now. I feel lite and giddy. I may have a piece of cheesecake in celebration. As soon as we are funded however, Mark and I are both getting mega steak.

Robot Army : LAUNCH!

In spite of all of the things that looked like they were going to delay us, we got approved in time for our February 1st deadline and launch at midnight! ON TIME! (WOOOO!!!!)

CHECK IT OUT! : ROBOT ARMY STARTER KIT

Today has been exhausting. We’ve been blasting all of the social channels and so far things are off to a pretty promising start… although Mark and I are both running on empty. We were up until close to 3am last night because we were too excited to sleep. It’s taken everything we’ve got not to just sit and hit the refresh button on our KS page all day long… so we’re getting stuff done at the shop… like set up a nice display in the window.

deltaPet

We plan to make it look like a pet shop window, with graph paper shaving and food bowls filled with scrap electronics… so the little deltas can run their chicken code and charm tourists on Fremont Street. We hung these chintzy xeroxed adoption flyers all over and gave them to our friends to hang up at work.

As I write this we are hanging at 15%…which isn’t a bad start. Hopefully once the weekend is over, we get a mention or two on some tech blogs and things will take off. We’ll see. I really, really hope all my PR pays off. Wish us luck! Better yet… don’t wish us luck- buy a shirt :

raShirt

We are in the process of getting a bunch of these made; jersey knit with soft ink… vintage style. They’re going to be sharp!

Robot Army : Kinect and Kinematics

All day Tuesday Mark messed with the delta math trying to map the motors to the Kinect input. It seemed like no progress was to be made until the 11th hour when he ran his code and everything suddenly went from fail to working perfectly. So that spooky kinematics hurdle has now been cleared.

Today is turning out to be a bit stressful. I’m preparing to leave for a ten-day winter pilgrimage back east to visit family, and as such am going over a list of things that Mark and I must both take care of over the duration that we are not conjoined at the hip. He’ll be handling all the tangible stuff – while I crunch numbers and go into deep marketing mode.

In other news, we were able to do some actual “light playing” this weekend. As a member of our hackerspace suggested, it would be really neat to see the delta robots paint with their LEDs in some long exposure shots. After another round of promotional pics, we took a robot in the bedroom, set the tripod up and turned out the lights…heh. The result was magical :

lip_1

spetku_2

maehem_1

I can’t forget to mention that Rev B came in from OSH Park. WOO! If these work, I’ll be ordering another handful this week so that we have enough brains in time for January. With luck, our demo size just doubled from three to six- if not, I have new fancy pasties =]

photo_2

Interested in making a delta robot? For the full scoop on Light Play, visit : lightplay.zoness.com

Robot Army : Kinect Success!

deltaDo

Today was cold. I drove to Mark’s with frost caked on my car from the morning dew. BRR. Once I arrived, I drank a million cups of coffee and attempted to get some work done on my spread sheet… but let’s be honest, everything I did today was boring (prices and PR), and everything Mark did was amazing. So lets focus on his achievements.

Ever since Saturday Mark and I have both been trying to figure out how to get the Kinect communicating with some servo motors. It seems that all the example code on the internet no longer compiles because of some issue between the new processing, java, and Arduino. In short, Mark began from scratch and at last today, typed in the magic numbers that made everything work.

The Kinect isn’t controlling actual delta robot kinematics however. For today, the triumph is in having mapped a motor to each of the x, y and z-axis of your hand. That’s right, if you wave your hand around… the delta robot will move according to where it is in 3D space. It isn’t very intuitive looking yet, but by golly it’s a damn good start. As soon as Mark figured this out we cracked open some beers and filmed this video, calling it a day. We’ll start on the more complex stuff Friday. Good job Mark. You’re a wizard. =]

 

 

Robot Army : Delta Goes to Florida

Suz and Pawel are going to a robotics conference in Florida on Wednesday with one of my children in tow. In preparation, Mark came up with some demo code to run various routines at random which were inspired by the movements of my parrot, Mango. The little-one will bob and wiggle, attracting attention for a full weekend (while simultaneously being stress tested for endurance). Suz promises to send me some footage of the delta doing its thing, as well as get feedback from the crowd.

It is World Domination night at SYN Shop right now, my time to hold the fort. There’s a pretty good turn out and the room is buzzing with people working on projects, which makes me really happy to see. My promo cards came in the mail, and I’ve already handed out half the box in stacks for everyone I know to spread the word.

Tomorrow I head back over to Mark’s for more development, this time with the Kinect. He’s working on mapping the movement of the deltas to hand position (COOL) so hopefully by the end of the day we’ll have some progress footage to show that is a little more interesting. We’ll also do less fun stuff, like BOM noodling, and calling around for price quotes. =[ I also plan to have a go at designing some of the part variants that have been suggested in the comments in the past couple weeks. If I’m successful, I’ll post the results! Happy hackie-doing!

I’m Pretty Darn Thankful

photo-2 copy

So it’s that special time of year when my Polish family (and friends) jam into my grandmother’s living room for an evening of decadent eating and potential drunken arguments to the tune of Il Volo (the teenage Italian opera singing trio my mom is currently obsessed with).

New additions to this years feast are my cousin’s husband Andy (welcome to the family bro!) and Mark, who we baptized in sour cream two weeks ago… so he’s technically a Pollock now and I think my mom officially claimed him as her own- but anyhow. They’ll get whats coming to them soon enough.

As I sit here, basking in the aroma of Jeff’s homemade apple pie cooking in the oven, I reflect on the past year and all that I am truly thankful for (I’m going to get emo for a second now). It was just last November that I was preparing for major surgery and was suffering the height of my brain’s uncomfortable compression into the walls of my skull. I am sitting here one year later, alive, healthy, and living my dreams as such with an amazing group of friends to support me as I climb to the top of my own shit mountain. Life’s great =]

This past year rocked. Last November in Mark’s chilly compact workroom, I soldered my first SMT part to the first PC board I ever designed in Eagle… which was the first thing I ever etched in Jeff’s kitchen. I attended my first Maker Faire, and helped with two contests at Defcon 21. I even started my own podcast with the man who’d become my best friend and by doing so liberated this loud, neurotic, semi-perverted side of myself. I’ve hosted several themed shindigs, helped teach soldering classes at our hackerspace, worked a ShopBot without killing anyone in the process, and watched the people who I’ve gone on this journey with also grow as a result of having me in their lives.

My dreams are no longer somewhere out there beyond my reach as a direct result of those who have brought out the best in me. You all make living feel truly alive. –  I hope everyone I know gets to be someplace special tonight eating themselves into a satiated food coma. ❤

Ok, I’m done being soggy. The picture at the top is of my first robot, Flower, which I retrieved and brought over to Jeff’s last night. It’s now united with its progeny for the first time. ^.^

Robot Army : Ditching the EEG

Print

After a jolly romp to Quick Care to get antibiotics for my fluffy sinus, I ‘m in bed again writing emails. This PR stuff so far is feeling a lot like standing on my tip toes while shouting through a cardboard tube. >.<

I did head down to SYN Shop yesterday for my first late night hang out since this spring. One of Mark’s old friends from Sun, Tsutomu, was in town for LDI (the lighting trade show) and I got to pick his brain while I was there. He was a great wealth of knowledge and gave some good feedback about me and Mark’s collaborative work as well as my light installation. Long story short, he persuaded me from using an EEG to control the robots like I was planning to. He voiced everything I had already assumed about the reality of using neural input to control anything electronic. Brain noise is noisy.

I thought for the past couple years that I could use something on the market like the Emotiv Epoch to easily decode the mess of signals coming from my brain and implement them as data inputs. In spite of my excitement about using brainwaves in my art, I held off from buying their device for a couple of reasons. One of them being that in the whole world of hacking, I hadn’t found one other example of someone successfully using an emotiv or anything else like it to do something substantial. The few hacks I did run across seemed more or less like slop turning an LED on and off by chance. There was nothing to convince me that the data people were using was reliable or consistent.

Turns out I was right. EEGs aren’t reliable or consistent. Any sensor used outside the brain is susceptible to picking up huge amounts of chatter from who knows where. Devices like the Epoch give you a tool- but it is more or less up to you as a developer to figure out how to read the input and then decide what (if) you can do anything useful with it. ::sigh::

The solution? Who knows. I have to refocus on the more important matters at hand… like raising funds to build the army! Back to that.

So in other news, I sent Mark’s second revision of the Delta brain off to OSH Park last night – and I was pleased to receive an email this morning already informing me that the panel I was assigned to went to fabrication (cheers). Yesterday,  I also ordered some cards for Pawel and Suz to hand out at their robotics conference in Florida next month. They’ll be taking Santo along with them as a demo…. which means very soon Mark will load him up with code to make him charming and winsome as ever.

Tomorrow morning, more progress and another video.

Disco Bug Goggles

bug3

bug2

[JUST TO MAKE THIS CLEAR: I do not use any of adafruit’s LED products in my goggles. These and all others on Robotic Arts are original pieces of work… and their editors should learn to cite things better.]

It’s been a little while since I’ve pushed out a pair of goggles. It seemed like a good time to do so with October being the anniversary of when I created my first set, the 3D light goggles.

I didn’t do anything new and unusual with this set. In fact, my goal was to see how interesting I could get these to look without the use of a micro controller. I keep getting asked if I sell these things, and I am too stubborn and sentimental to part with any of the others I’ve made in the past. This is a low-cost, ‘all that glitters’ pair that simply blinks and has the cool leather trim that is my signature icing on the cake. They’re neat, but are the sort of model I’d be comfortable letting go of, as they didn’t take me a stupid long amount of time to make or troubleshoot. That being said, I think they’re a nice addition to the family.

I’ll talk a little bit about them now…

The lenses might look familiar to those of you who have used a 3D printer once or twice. Jeff and I got our Flash Forge in the mail a couple of weeks ago. A scrap piece of rafting from a failed print was floating around on my desk and I though it was a neat shape, so I clipped it into a circle and printed out a second one for the other eye  (Jeff and Mark keep saying they look like fly eyes, thus the name) :

IMG_4226

To make this lime green “eye grill” stand out, I chose to paint the base set of goggles a nice shiny red.

I used a mixture of black and light brown leather for the trim with red stitching to complement the red eye pieces :

IMG_4254

I soldered some basic color-change LEDs to these small square boards from SparkFun and plugged a couple inside of the goggles through some holes I drilled on the inside wall of the eyepieces :

IMG_4244

IMG_4249

The fancy thing I ended up doing was in recycling one of Jeff’s old surface mount boards he had made for a set of his own goggles last year. They are white and crescent-shaped… with pads for LEDs. I managed to solder some resistors and SMT LEDs onto it and bridge the things I needed with thin wire. It was like performing surgery, but the outcome worked and was well worth the trouble :

IMG_4257

Jeff also designed a nice battery box for me with a switch mounted inside! This is very helpful. Thanks hun! :

All and all, when you turn these guys on… they’re just as cool to look at and attract the same attention as my other more interactive sets. Plus if anyone wants to buy them off my forehead, I’ll be more than happy to send my baby out into the world. =]

IMG_4259

Here’s me with a lush cornucopia of light bursting from my hair jungle :

IMG_4287