Raspberry Pi Robot Arm

arm_main

I said that I would work on controlling my robotic arm with Python/Raspberry Pi, and after a few week’s planning and tinkering, I got it to work. Using a couple of L293 motor drivers (PDF), I hooked up four of the arm’s motors plus the LED and wrote some simple functions to control it all via GPIO. Introducing my Raspberry Pi Robot Arm!

I used this DC motor guide for help with the circuit and the programming. However, I found the batteries didn’t provide enough voltage, so I used a 5v cooling fan power source instead. From there, I pre-programmed a routine in which the arm picks up blocks and stacks them. Here, watch. The RPi Arm picks up the blocks, stacks them, then signals “HEY” in Morse code with the LED:

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Mind over machine

You know that part at the end of “The Empire Strikes Back” where a robot is giving Luke Skywalker a robotic hand and it looks and works just like his old hand? Well, that’s not science fiction anymore.

What’s interesting about the arm in that video is that it’s controlled by implants in the remaining arm tissue. Which apparently works well – better than sensors on the surface of the skin. But what if it could be controlled by the brain itself? I read Beyond Boundaries: The New Neuroscience of Connecting Brains with Machines-and How It Will Change Our Lives last year. Author Miguel Nicolelis, one of the world’s leading brain-machine interface scientists, has allowed mice and monkeys to control robotic arms using nothing but their thoughts, sometimes from halfway around the world. Sounds like science fiction, but it’s real.

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