Curious Inventor Blog

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Painting Robot uses Neural Networks for Stroke Mapping

Pindar has created a robotic painting system named Zanelle that does everything from mixing paint to algorithmically shaping digital source images. Upwards of 25,000 brush strokes are applied in 12-36 hours to complete a painting. It would appear that Zanelle is intended to be more than a complex plotter, but rather a system that adds its own artisitc aesthetic (with some guidance from Pindar, perhaps). Read on for some pictures of the final paintings, as well as some before-and-after pictures from the neural net pre-processing.

The effect almost seem reminiscent of the rotoscoping in the movie ‘A Scanner Darkly’ and all those Charles Schwab commercials. I wonder how much is from the robotic arm versus the pre-processing algorithms. A question with any robotic artists (musicians, painters, etc) is what role the robot plays… why not just have a speaker or printer?

This is from a DC Dork Bot presentation.

Brushes apparently only last 2-3 paintings before requiring replacement.
Pindar says the next step is to add a camera to give the robot direct feedback from its output.

You’re too late ASIMO, Newton (1989) is my personal robot of choice

specs say it all: 20 Megabyte hard disk drive, 720K floppy, 16 bit microcontroller, 2 DC motors, 1 Castor, polyethylene shell… Capabilites: straight line and turning motion, object detection, classroom education, security, home manager?, friend. $7k (~$12k today) according to goretro’s blog. From the theme song: “Bring the future home to you, he’s watching you.” Do we really need human-like robots (like ASIMO) that try to do everything? Task-specific machines seem to do fine for many things, like a dish washer, dryer, or a chess program on a computer. A dish washer would be horribly inefficient if it had to make use of two arms…

New Kit: PS2 to MIDI Converter

Our new open-source kit is a PS2 to MIDI converter based on a PIC microcontroller, and we call it the MIDIATOR. It turns a PS2 or guitar hero controller into a MIDI controller. We’ll be posting info on how to interface a PS2 controller with any microcontroller soon.

Video from Maker Faire 2008 San Mateo

We went to Maker Faire 2008 in San Mateo, CA, and brought our video camera along. This is just a small sample of everything that was there, including the destruction of Pleo (cute robot dinosaur) in the battle bot arena, powered recliners wheeling around (and cupcakes), cement and candy 3d printers, a dirt cheap multi-touch table, Tesla coils, lots of fire, and a bunch of music interfaces. Check out the makerfaire website for more info.

Computers Making Their Own Music

We attended the annual concert / exhibition by GaTech’s music technology and digital media groups. Here are some highlights: There was a multi-touch table with a variety of games and interactive movies, two Indian songs involving computers writing their own accompaniment based on real-time analysis, a virtual world where your movements create music, and a bit of wii art. And I almost forgot the computer-keyboard band… Click the heading for some links.

listening machines concert / exhibit program
gatech music technology department
gatech digital media department
One of the links in the video was wrong for the Sarod Indian piece: slowTheka

Checking Out a GaTech Competition Bot

We get an overview of the GaTech IEEE Robotic Team’s 2008 competition bot, which has a ridiculous amount of gizmos on board, including a 300V light bulb charger / flasher, bluetooth-to-serial communication and wireless playstation controller operation, RFID, IR range finders, a block finding vision system and a lithium laptop battery power system. But the most impressive part is the block picker-upper… just a wheel and a loose strip of vinyl.

Solder Sucker Not Sucking Enough?

Sometimes solder suckers lose their suction even though nothing appears to be clogging the tip. By cleaning and re-lubing the O-ring inside, this simple tool can oftentimes be brought back to life. Click the title for more pictures and steps.


If you hold your finger against the tip and release the plunger, the vacuum should be enough to keep the spring from extending. If you don’t feel any suction and the plunger pulls back with little hesitation, it’s time to clean the innards…

First, make sure the tip isn’t clogged. Most solder suckers have an internal rod that automatically pushes out any debris when the plunger is pushed in, but a drill bit will work if the rod isn’t doing it’s job.

Now unscrew the main cylinder and pull out the plunger.

Clean out the inner tube and O-ring with paper towels.

Before reinserting the plunger, lube up the O-ring with a few drops of oil.

Before screwing everything back together, check to see if the suction works again by manually pushing the plunger in and out while sealing the tip with a finger.

Open Source Kits: Plug-in BreadBoard Power Module

We’re happy to release a new section to the site that contains open-source, fully documented kits. Lots are coming soon, but our first one is a plug-in bread board power supply module designed by David @ Instead of stripping wires from a wall wart and cramming them into a bread board, this module lets you plug the barrel jack straight in or neatly attach stripped wires with screw terminals. It’s configurable to supply 3.3V, 5V, 6V or 9V from either an AC or DC input. We’ve put together instructions that make a great starter guide for someone just beginning with electronics, covering basics like soldering, which way to install caps, clinching leads and more.

Kitchen Counter Invisible Fence

Having lost a just-out-of-the-oven Quiche and a meal of freshly delivered Chinese food to an otherwise very well behaved dog, one of the guys that works here used a salvaged industrial emitter / detector pair, relay and car horn to provide a bit of doggy defense for his kitchen counter. The industrial emitter is a tad expensive, but you could probably use a laser pointer and photo transistor just as well.

New Product: Tapping Block

We’re proud to release our first home-grown product: a tapping block. If you’re not familiar with tapping (cutting screw threads), the hardest and most tedious part is starting–an off-angle start can ruin parts and break taps. However, by guiding a tap through the close-fitting holes, it’s easy to keep the tap straight. You can always make your own, or if you want something that will survive a nuclear war, get this one.