Noodle Puberty

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Sometime in April, Noodle started to change. He stopped hiding in his blankets and began spending his nights surfing through hardware catalogues alone in the darkness. He became curious about linkages, pivot joints, self lubricating thrust bearings and among other things, the prospect of being made of something harder. Noodle started dreaming of becoming metal.

As I mentioned in my previous post, just as I was about to tackle the conundrum of mechanical drooling… I went to JPL this June and met the mechanism that inspired Noodle’s gripping toes in person:

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The LEMUR probe has easily a billion toes… all agile, long and barbed. You know by looking at them, that if it reaches for you, you aren’t getting away. I returned home feeling a tad inadequate. Noodle’s current apparatus with its 8 lonely toes did in fact look pretty sparse.

In the period of a weekend I managed to tweak my current design a tad and come up with this little wonder… which has exactly 16 toe filaments (that’s twice the toes!):

IMG_8715.jpgIn order to attach that density of toe tendons to the toe-ring, I had to eliminate the use of hardware (which was kind of a relief). As improvisation, I threaded some 3mm rubber hose through the loops of the toe tendons to hold everything in place.

Of course, after I built the improved, maxed-out hyper toe apparatus… I’d have to once again install a servo motor and some gears to make sure I could in fact still drive the thing… (now that there is twice as much material making surface contact)

It took some stronger springs, but it for the most part *does* still work. The stronger springs insure that the toes retract back into the sheath quickly enough not to hook onto the rim and get stuck on their way back in.

I finally had produced a solid working assembly towards the end of June. I invested in some light gray and white filament, as well as the appropriate red for use on accent pieces and Noodle’s tiny toe-zies. The thing I had been working on was finally starting to look like what it was suppose to be, and Noodle liked this:

IMG_8805.jpgWith one complete proof-of-concept to show, I set everything down and allowed myself to become very distracted with a whole slew of things (which is good). My life exploded momentarily and when everything settled back down about a month ago, I found myself looking at an opportunity to travel to Linz, Austria to exhibit something of mine at the ARS Electronica festival [!]

I’ve been wanting to venture to Europe for this festival my entire adult life, and wasn’t going to pass up the chance to bring my spawn with me to have a part in it. Even if he is weak and unprepared as an art exhibit, his presence was what mattered. With no time to stall, I made the executive decision to begin producing another 3 prototypes in order to complete a set of 4 tasting feet. I had a week and a half to do it; print close to sixty or so parts, make any needed design changes, assemble, test, and tweak code. bLAH. Looking back, I’m shocked I even attempted such a shit-storm of preparation when there was no wiggle room for the unexpected:

BUT… in that week and a half crunch, a lot of things got pushed through to completion. Nothing like a deadline to assist progress. (and) Luckily there were no surprises…

IMG_9541.jpgI’m grateful I had Mark and Tony to help wherever I needed aide picking up the slack. One glass of wine at a time, and one task after another, the new feet took shape and were installed on Noodle (mere hours before I would need to disassemble him completely for his long flight over to Linz in my suitcase).

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The festival, ARS Electronica, was amazing. There is so very much I could say in regard to its content and scale- but to do so would fail to provide an appropriate picture. You should go yourself to experience it. If the median between science, technology, and art is your thing… you have nothing to lose. Not to mention, the city of Linz is a wonderful place to visit in itself!

For four days I left NoodleFeet alone at the mercy of families, Germanic engineers and machinists, to be poked and probed and boggled over as an oddity, robot, and art piece:

IMG_9672.jpgDuring this gauntlet he held his own, but Noodle did blow out a servo motor. Just as I was returning to my exhibit area to check in on Mark (who would periodically drop by to watch over the young one while I was away), I saw a nice white plume of smoke streaming forth from Noodle’s foot. Apparently they can’t quite handle hours of continuous use- so the toes are just that chafey.

But other than the initial matter of smokey toes, he didn’t catch fire, fall off the table, or get stolen. =] That for me was a success…

Now that it’s October… I can focus on the important matter of drooling. Drooling, leaking, salivating, moisture making… and the challenge of producing that special suck sound that has come to be synonymous with the NoodleBeast. The growing pains aren’t over Noodle. Be strong. Your day is coming ❤

 

Robot Army : Deltas in the Window

Mark and I finished up our window display at SYN Shop last night, which we set up to look kinda like a pet shop window. You know, with shredded graph paper at the bottom, little boxes stacked up to play in, and food dishes filled with misc components on the side. We have a rather busy taco joint next door with a walk up bar, so maybe…. just maybe…  the drunken shrapnel off Fremont Street will walk by, see my adorable little babies wiggling, be mystified by them, and feel compelled to rip one of our links off the adoption flyer.

Sadly by the time I woke up this morning our friend Pawel reported that two of our kids had destroyed themselves over night. Leaving them there running all night was kind of an unfair endurance test though. We switched out all their parts for the new tighter beefier versions we designed last week… all but the paddles. – You know, the part that bares all the weight. Guess which pieces failed. So, at some point today we’ll come rescue our kids and give them new little chicken wings… Then hopefully we don’t end up with a pile of sticks again… Saddest thing to see ever : http://moby.to/k4zpr1

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Yup. I can be honest and admit to you that Mark and I have been checking our phones, or updating our browsers every five minutes to see if we have new backers. Yesterday during the Super Bowl we forced ourselves only to check in between quarters and otherwise drank wine and talked about our campaign, ignoring the game. After the first two days we were at 25% and at this very moment as I type this we are hanging just above $3k. It’s a promising start… but none of my PR has paid off yet. I really hope that’s due to it being Monday and not the fact that I am either unpopular, unskilled at writing about my ideas, or too much of a tart to take seriously. Ahhh….. and this is yet another thing that’s feeding the neurosis. On that note, check out our page.

Robot Army : Video Done… sigh…

It’s done. We filmed close to 100gb of video footage and ended up using less than a percent of that. We story boarded, scripted, tried various locations, and in the end chose the most simple three-minute segment that told the bare minimum about our project. It felt the best, flowed naturally, and isn’t so long that you’d stop watching in the middle of it. So I guess we succeeded. Here it is ^

Now that we’re over that hurdle, on to the next headache. In order to launch a project, Kickstarter requires that you have an Amazon business account to transfer money into once you’re funded. This is all well and good. Mark and I got our corporation made, filed for our EIN and were about to get everything underway with Amazon- however for reasons unknown there was a discrepancy with our tax information (or something???) and we got locked out of our account. This is irritating because they wont give us any details why or what we can do to fix it. ::sigh:: So… Mark and I have been in contact with Amazon’s call center in India, which isn’t really all that helpful. We can’t proceed with setting up our business account until this issue is sorted out, so for now we’re at a stand still. I’m hoping this mess doesn’t delay our February 1st launch… but it just might.

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Other than that, the end effector got a major upgrade this week. We got our light defuser samples in the mail and they’re quite sharp! Of the two sizes, it looks like the larger, more opaque domes will work perfectly for our kit. This means we’ll be replacing those cylindrical paint containers we jammed packing foam into with these new milky nipples :

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All I need to do is tweak the end effector to have holes for the four mounting pegs… SO PLEASED with these.

The stuff that goes inside the lenses also got a makeover. Mark’s tiny PCBs for the SMT LEDs also came in from OSH Park. He couldn’t refrain from adding an easter egg to the back side of the board… which is the reason for their new name. These “F Face” boards are great and will replace the little red through hole tiles I was using for the original six deltas :

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Mark is in the kitchen right now working on a new demo with the Kinect. We now have six robots working at once (two of the six were out of commission during CES). We also have nine more motors now, which will allow us to make an additional three whenever I get around to finishing the next revision of all the parts. Like I mentioned before, everything is getting tweaked. If it’s at all humanly possible, I’ll have all that ready tomorrow so I can print the new pieces and start assembling the three rev. B deltas so they’re ready before our next demo at Work In Progress. That would put us at 9 robots working in tandem. ::wiggles::

Tuesday is the next meeting for the hardware startup group Mark and I are a part of… and we’re giving a demo as well as announcing our February launch to all the downtown people. Hopefully the skelly tracking is ready before then- and of course, nine robots is better than six, so I will work my butt off to get those made too. Wish us luck!

Oh yeah, join the mailing list if you haven’t already! Show support for world domination with robots here : Robot Army Starter Kit Mailing List

Robot Army : Kickstarter Video Do

Somehow, just as I was starting to recover from whatever it was I picked up over the holidays, I managed to contract another illness. I’ve spent the entire year so far being sick… which SUCKS because it’s slowing me down. I was worried about whether or not I had gorilla glue hanging out of my nose while making contacts throughout CES, and I had to cough in the middle of every shot while filming today. I don’t even have that sexy raspy quality to my voice to make up for it. BLAH!

Mark and I filmed my main monologue and a couple supplementary clips this weekend. We want the video to spoon feed the viewer all the important details about the project while throwing in notes of playfulness bordering on insanity. This takes some finesse. As such, while Mark was away at work today I gave my speaking parts another shot while in solitude… to nail the correct freaky to geeky ratio.

For fun we also staged one of the concept drawings I made last week :

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This shot is actually from a time-lapse video. We sat for ten uncomfortable minutes while the sun went below the horizon. The dead grass felt like broken glass underneath the tarp… but it was worth it. The sped up version will look cool as a cut away.

Aside from the video, I’m working on the press release package I’ll be sending out the week before launch. This includes some new graphics I made last week, which are propaganda-like in essence :

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If you’re interested in our project and are thinking about throwing us a couple bucks for a sticker or perhaps buying a kit, join the mailing list : Robot Army Mailing List

Robot Army : CES Week

This week was exhausting. It involved a lot of walking, chatting, setting up, tearing down, and practicing the good ‘ol elevator pitch. Myself, Mark, and his friend Gregg took off to make the most of CES- exploring for two long days on the showroom floor, and then attending events in the evening. It was a lot of fun and we made some new promising contacts (woo!).

Last night we did our first demo with the six working delta robots we have at Pololu Robotics. They held a nice shindig for those attending the convention who were involved with robotics and hackable electronics. It went over well and our kids did a fantastic job, seeing as it was their first recital. >.< Now to double our numbers… Mommy and Daddy must get busy.

Finally, with a moment to relax, Mark and I went over our BOM and caught up on emails this morning over bloody marries. We also started shooting our Kickstarter video now that I have my voice back! We plan to film discreet segments tomorrow around town, so hopefully by next week we’ll have enough content to edit into something awesome.

Robot Army : We’ll Make More

Yesterday was another full day spent with Mark working on the Robot Army. He’s taken my sub par original revision of the delta brain board and is making it more practical for my needs and for my audience who will use it in the kit I’m Kickstarting.

So far he’s made one huge adjustment : making it so VCC is not directly opposite from ground on the I2c bus. Apparently you can flip the connector around and blow things up this way (oops). He was either making a point, or practicing ritual sacrifice by blue smoking one of our three test boards >.< This is just one of the examples where he has filled in for my general lack of experience with his circuit wizardry and electronic prowess.

While he tinkered, I did PR stuff. I’ve pretty much been rewording the same write-up in a dozen voices while emphasizing different aspects of the project depending on who I’m plugging myself to. This is getting rough because I’m complete numb to whether or not I’m communicating what I need to effectively anymore. Saying it over and over again is turning the content in my head into an information slushy machine.

Other than that, I’ve been looking at the layouts of other successful Kickstarter pages and taking notes. I know I don’t have to have it all ready yet, but I’ve made some new catchy graphics this weekend as well as taken a few dozen product photos to go in them. It’s a long but fun road!

Last night, Jeff and I were also looking at the EEG I’ve been thinking about buying. It turns out the version of the device I’ll need is $750. I’d love to have it now so I can start that portion of the development but hell… I can’t fork over that amount right now (even without having to pay for my computer’s repair). Mark however found an open EEG circuit that he said was pretty basic and might be worth a try for starters. – So that is something else to consider in the next week or so.

I’m hoping to order Rev 2 of the delta’s brain by this weekend. That’s the goal.