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All posts by Jon Hiller

If you think programming with Scratch is only for kids and non-programmers, please open your mind for a minute. Here at Modbot HQ our MOSS Scratch plugin is the goto tool for prototyping new robot behaviors–even though we’ve got a bunch of hardcore programmers. Why? Simply because it leverages 100% of the capabilities of MOSS behavior in a package that facilitates real time iteration and experimentation – just like physical MOSS itself. For example, we’re working on designing creatures for our next specialty artist kit of MOSS. This crazy snake-like one needed a synchronized motion pattern for the two pivot blocks in order to move at all. Starting with the sine wave generator example project included with MOSS Scratch we added a second channel and phase lag parameters in a few minutes.  Immediately we had a robot writhing on the table and could quickly tweak the amplitudes, offsets, phase lags, and physical MOSS configuration to achieve optimal locomotion and turning. ScratchUltraSineIf we pursue this robot design the next level of development would also happen in Scratch.  We’d boil down all these optimal parameters to a simple forward/back/left/right interface tied to arrow keys and drive around for a while!  Only then would we finally transfer into textual coding, either into firmware via MOSS Flash or a dedicated mobile control app to distribute the behavior when a kit ships.
Have you ever wanted XRay goggles? As we’ve put MOSS into the hands of our Kickstarter backers, early adopters, and educational pilot programs we’ve heard several times that visualizing power and data flowing through a MOSS construction can be tough starting out. No longer. We’ve equipped every robot in the MOSS robot recipes with a beta XRay view! JungleView JungleXray Check out the live Braitenbird page here. Green is power, and orange is data, just like in the new “How to Build” Guide. The bubbles move along the tubes to show how everything flows.  We hope that everyone who touches a MOSS kit makes the jump from following instructions to inventing their own unique MOSS bots. Seeing how our example bots are connected inside will be a handy stepping stone to MOSS building proficiency. By the way, we didn’t just program in the circuits for two dozen robots. We programmed a system so that your web browser understands MOSS, how it works, and how it all connects. Feel free to let your imagination run wild at the possibilities…      
What better way is there to evaluate the reliability of a new Cubelet design iteration than by pitting it against its future comrades? It may seem strangely cynical, but on a practical level it saved an enormous amount of time designing and building a drive block torture test jig. And it’s modular to boot. Cute recursion aside, it’s important business to make sure we’re sending out quality products to our customers, and an all-star design team is no substitute for some good ‘ol torture testing. What you see here is a multi-purpose jig that will repeatedly stall the drive wheels or provide resistance as the drive block runs through a simulated play session velocity profile – for hours and hours. Or days. And all the cubelets in the jig are essentially stock, besides the gutted friction-wheel mounting cubelet and the plug-in power cubelet to run tests overnight. We easily reprogrammed a knob block to output a velocity profile based on the knob position, and I hacked together a cam that snaps onto a rotate block to raise and lower the friction wheel. After the first few hours of listening to cubelets torture, it’s time for another project: build a sound isolation chamber out of Cubelets!
As a new member of the modrobotics team, part of my fun is hacking together new and exciting Cubelets! Over the coming weeks and months, I’ll be posting some of our behind-the-scenes Cubelet hacks we’re playing with here in the lab. Any of these could end up as production Cubelets, especially if you make your desires heard. We have a backlist of new ideas, but we’ve also got eyes on our forum for suggestions, which is exactly where the first idea in this series came from: the roller Cubelet. (Thank you to Michael Tarr for the suggestion!) After getting our hands on a roller ball and housing, we heisted a rotate block shell which had an appropriate size opening. After 45 minutes of running up and down from computer to the laser cutter and juggling little screws with a couple drops of super glue for good measure, we have the result you see here. The ball sticks down the same amount as the drive blocks to make a low friction omni-directional point of contact with the ground. Stable robots are happy robots! More Cubelet hacks are coming! Stay tuned and flip over to the forum if you have any Cubelets you want us to make.