Mr Purple : VEX SMART RADIO : VEX WORLD FINALS 2016

So, the first part of this year, I have been swamped with VEX stuff to do, it’s been pretty good fun actually.  I now have lot’s of VEX EDR (the metal stuff) to play with.  Very excited about that!  I have also been invited to VEX World Finals in the US!  The aim is to build some smartphone controlled robots that show off the power of the Smart Radio. Thanks to Xander and RobotC it is now possible to do 2 way communication between VEXIQ and iOS

Code is here! https://github.com/burf2000/VEXIQ_iOS_ROBOTC

Anyway, so MR PURPLE, I went in to the garage, I came out with MR PURPLE.  3  DOF per arm and his head moves!  Super happy with him

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Getting to grips with Unity & VR

At work, I have been tasked with investigating Virtual Reality and what can be done with it.  The results went in to a Lab Report to that was sent to the rest of the business.  When thinking about building any VR proof of concept (POC), Unity just makes sense due to how easy they make it to enable it (a single tick box).  Out of the box, they support the main headsets (Rift, GearVR, Vive) to a useable level.  All of my POC’s where targeted at the Samsung GearVR as currently that’s the only commercial headset available.  This does give you some challenges due to the lack of user interaction possible and performance.  That’s been my major struggle recently, gett the FPS up.

Unity do offer some very nice and pretty VR samples in the Asset store, its recommended for anyone to take a look at how they are put together.  They also show you have to pickup taps / swipes etc on the GearVR touch pad.

Another challenge I have faced with being a programmer, and not a designer is making stuff look awesome, luckily in the Lab we have someone who knows Unity a lot better than I do and has a eye for detail, which most developers lack.

All in all I have enjoyed learning Unity and hope to use it with some proper VR hardware (Vive / Rift), I also hope that if I do get to do a larger project in it, that I have a more powerful machine.  Even my fairly new MacBook Pro struggles with Unity.

I have also learned a lot about good but mainly bad uses of VR,  the key message here is, don’t use VR for everything, use it for its strengths

 

VEX and the Big Bang Science Fair

So I have been asked by VEX Robotics to build 2 small robotics for Big Bang Science show at the NEC.  The 2 robotics will be on stage as helpers.  It’s a super fun idea, focus is reliability!  The robots need telescopic arms to push buttons and be able to push out a bottle of water from their chests.

Here are 2 initial videos I did showing progression

I actually got to see the robots on stage and they worked perfectly!

What I enjoyed about this was trying to make VEX stuff look cool, it’s actually harder than it is with LEGO 🙂

 

 

VRUKFest : Judge and Panelist

So, I was very honoured to be invited to the VRUKFest in London last week as a panelist and judge due to me investigating Virtual Reality for O2.  People were very interested in how I thought O2 could use VR.  The event was amazing, I got to meet some of the industry leaders in VR (PlayStation, Rewind etc), hardware from HTC (Vive Pre), Wizdish (treadmill, Pacman in VR).  The VR Space is super exciting at the moment and is only going to get better!

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LEGO Humanoid Diary : Part 1- 3

So, this year my main LEGO Project is a large LEGO Humanoid, one that can see items, point to them, talk and listen.  It will take me a while to build and I am already massively behind on it due to VEX projects.  But here is how I am doing so far

I have already overcome some issues.  The hole in the chest is for a tablet.  The project needs to be complete for July

 

New year, new challenges

So, apologies for the lack of updates.  Work in the O2 Lab has been pretty busy in a fun way.  I also been doing a lot in the robotics area (see my youtube http://www.youtube.com/user/burf2000).

So, as for coding I have been working in Java/Android/Lejos when working on my LEGO robots, a lot of this I have opened sourced on GitHub.

As for non robotic stuff, I have been tasked with learning more about Virtual Reality and learning Unity (Best tool for the job), and I have to be honest, now that I have thrown some proper time at Unity, I really like it!  Virtual Reality is enabled by a tick box.

So I don’t have much to show yet but some cool VR stuff will be coming soon 🙂

 

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Book Review : Hacking Your Lego Mindstorms EV3 Kit by John Baichtal

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I have known John for a few years now due to him doing a write up on my LEGO Wheelchair for Make, back then he was working on a book that covered using LEGO and Arduino’s together, called Make: Lego and Arduino Projects: Projects for extending MINDSTORMS NXT with open-source electronics.  It’s a fantastic book!

His new book, Hacking Your Lego Mindstorms EV3 is on a similar theme but of course for the EV3, not the NXT.  It also covers making your own parts via 3D Printing and Laser cutting which I found very useful.

The book features nice colourful based instructions to build 5 projects and then how to hack each one (e.g change the EV3 for a Arduino or Pi).  Like the previous book, this book uses products from Wayne and Layne e.g the Bricktronic Shield however also includes hacks / projects using the Raspberry Pi. I would of liked to have seen the introduction to Electronics chapter added to this book which exists in the previous book.  I believe this book is more designed for beginners than the previous book.

If you own a EV3 and want to take it to the next step by using another controller, this book is a very good introduction for you.

 

 

Skills Show 2015 : Review

The Skills show is a massive careers show at the NEC, it has over 70,000 + people visiting and boy it’s busy. It covers everything from hairdressing, welding, fitness to joining the army.

The O2 / NSPCC / The Lab had a awesome display and we stayed pretty busy throughout.  The LEGO displays went down like a bomb!

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Got to have a chat with VEX UK and Studica Ltd (who do Tetrix and Fischertechnik).  It was really nice seeing all the different types of robotics platforms for kids to learn on.  

I loved the fact that Forensic Science was next to the butcher area.

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Great event to take the kids to!