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Total Posts: 57
Joined: Sep 2015
Posted: 2015-12-17 22:17
Anyone have any pointers as to where to get started in robotics/home hacking?

I would like to create small projects to create solutions to problems that I find at home.

Has anyone had fun in this space with small projects?

Would love to hear what you have attempted and how it has gone.

I have an arduino board gathering dust and found the sample projects rather uninspiring.


Total Posts: 1057
Joined: Feb 2007
Posted: 2015-12-19 07:03
I thought about it for a few days, spoke to a roboticist I lift weights with, then turned the raspi into a GPS/NTP dongle in case I want to run a stock exchange out of my closet. I figure if I need to make things on the lathe, I'll make clocks or something.

My goal was to build something that would get me a beer placed in a semi-random location in my refrigerator, and be able to deal with the books and random junk on the floor of my apartment. It turns out this would be an enormous breakthrough if it did it without using any parlour tricks, like sticking some kind of special doodad on cans of beer. Even using special tricks it is a considerable engineering challenge.

If you just want a toy that does pre-programmed actions, there's lots of stuff out there for kids.

"Learning, n. The kind of ignorance distinguishing the studious."

Founding Member
Nonius Unbound
Total Posts: 12651
Joined: Mar 2004
Posted: 2015-12-19 14:47
" deal with the books and random junk on the floor of my apartment"

I like this concept. I envisage a robot a bit like those automated vacuum cleaners that pseudo-randomly move around the apartment, but the stuff it sucks in, it applies an algo to classify stuff and store it in temporary filing cabinet that is attached to the back of the robot- Bench Warrant for Arrest==> Dewey Cheatum and Howe Folder, Letter from IRS===> Liechtenstein Banker Folder, Exotic Sphere Topological Data Analysis memo===> mad scientist folder, Particle Beam Weapons transaction==> North Korea Folder, Bill for case of Pappy Van Winkle===> Fuck AA folder, Letter from Ex-wife's Attorney threatening summons for being deadbeat===> Dewey Cheatum and Howe Folder.

Chiral is Tyler Durden


Total Posts: 44
Joined: Apr 2014
Posted: 2015-12-21 01:44
I have some small knowledge of robotics. Is there a particular application or type of robotics you're interested in?


Total Posts: 57
Joined: Sep 2015
Posted: 2015-12-21 15:10
@jslade - yeah similar realization i had when researching some problems.

@AB - no clue but have been looking at adafruit for inspiration on small projects.

Maybe a lo-fi security system for home (?), or interactive through house lights/switches etc.

With all the coding I (we on this board) do in the impalpable it feels as if it would be fun to do something that I can see/touch.


Total Posts: 252
Joined: Dec 2012
Posted: 2015-12-24 18:26
Robotic arm for making eggs? (And/Or burning down house for insurance $)

There are no surprising facts, only models that are surprised by facts


Total Posts: 63
Joined: Nov 2010
Posted: 2015-12-28 16:43
I've thought about a trash can that can come when its called. It would be nice when I am tinkering around the kitchen and need to throw something away that is messy, or when my kids leave a disaster and I want the can close by to make clean up easier.

It seems like it could happen. Roomba has their stuff make a map of the room, and the google/siri stuff can respond to voice commands. I just need the ability to get by on less sleep and I'm there.

For now, I just pick the closest child and have them move it. It works...most of the time. But when you think of how many hours I had to invest in them...


Total Posts: 44
Joined: Apr 2014
Posted: 2016-01-04 23:36

A smart mailbox along the lines of what Nonius was talking about would be pretty cool. Something that fits inside a mailbox and determines if mail is junk or not, and alerts you if you've got something for which it's worth opening the box.

A project that I'm researching at the moment is automated control of home brew. Something similar would make a decent introductory project for process control (substitute sous-vide / automated espresso maker / etc for beer, if that's more your thing).

A fun (and scalable) toy problem for learning robotics could be to mount a nerf gun on a stepper motor with some sensors (webcam?) and make it shoot at moving targets. As you gain familiarity this could then be extended to add degrees of freedom, smarter aiming, target discrimination, etc.

I honestly have trouble thinking of any practical applications of robotics around the house that wouldn't involve huge amounts of effort.


Total Posts: 252
Joined: Dec 2012
Posted: 2016-01-05 04:57
Home brew as in pour-over? That sounds pretty challenging and probably involves some significant cleverness as the bonavita/hario kettles etc are pretty heavy, no?

I do think cooking / food-bev prep is a good target if you're focused on controlled, repeatable experiments. But it would be probably best to have some basic primitive behaviors (different kinds of stirs, agitates, shakes) and then combine them into scripted action-chains.

There are no surprising facts, only models that are surprised by facts


Total Posts: 44
Joined: Apr 2014
Posted: 2016-01-05 22:31
Home brewed beer. I'm doing preliminary design for a lab in which to test and refine recipes for a microbrewery. As you say, control and repeat-ability is key.


Total Posts: 424
Joined: Feb 2006
Posted: 2016-01-05 22:39
You may enjoy this:


Total Posts: 1057
Joined: Feb 2007
Posted: 2016-01-09 02:46
Home Brew is a decent hobby use for a raspi, and is conceivably something you could sell to people if you can get the sensing apparatus cheap enough. Brew temperature over time would give you something useful. Volume of CO2 (I dunno, check balls?) and SG over time (almost certainly can be done with capacitative measurement) would be better. End to end, sparge, boil temperatures and times as well.

Nonius has apparently been to my place and rearranged my files without my noticing. Maybe I need a robot burgle alarm.

"Learning, n. The kind of ignorance distinguishing the studious."


Total Posts: 57
Joined: Sep 2015
Posted: 2016-01-14 21:26
Trasmitter brewing ( is rigged up by one of the guys there for remote-controlled brewing.

Encourage a visit if youre nearby when the founders are there to pick their brain.


Total Posts: 220
Joined: Apr 2009
Posted: 2016-01-29 09:27
How to build a BB8:


Total Posts: 566
Joined: Dec 2004
Posted: 2016-01-31 12:01
Have you taken a look at this course?

The Robotics Specialisation introduces you to how robots sense and reason about the world they live, how they plan three dimensional movements in a dynamic environment and how they fly or run while adapting to uncertainties in the environment. You will be exposed to real world examples with drones, legged robots and driverless cars. The courses build towards a capstone in which you will learn how to program robots to perform a variety of tasks in unstructured, dynamic environments.

Near the end of the course they tinker with some concepts more related to current reinforcement learning / deep learning paradigms.

Robotics: Estimation and Learning

How can robots determine their state and properties of the surrounding environment from noisy sensor measurements in time? In this module you will learn how to get robots to incorporate uncertainty into estimating and learning from a dynamic and changing world. Specific topics that will be covered include probabilistic generative models, Bayesian filtering for localisation and mapping, and machine learning for planning and decision making.


Total Posts: 78
Joined: Jul 2007
Posted: 2016-08-05 17:11
Sorry for bumping an old thread. However there is an old book: "Home Automation Basics" by Thomas Leonik. It goes over how to control PLC's (Programmable Logic Circuits) using visual basic 6.0. The PLC is basically the controller that lets you manipulate mechanical things. This book is extremely useful in that you can fuck with your thermostats, garage doors, etc etc sitting at your desk. It's fun and cool. As jSlade alluded to earlier, although meant for kids, LEGO Mindstorms is a PLC interface also. You can make a machine that will do all sorts of stuff and make some somewhat-complicated decisions. I dunno, thought maybe this would help.

"There probably isn't any meaning in life. Perhaps you can find something interesting to do while you are alive. Like how you found that flower. Like how I found you."


Total Posts: 991
Joined: May 2004
Posted: 2017-01-18 14:30
Bumping this thread again as this is somewhat related...

My idea du jour is to build a robot that picks-up trash at a beach near where I live. The beach would be awesome, except that it is full of plastic, and rather than being sad about it I am trying to think about what I can do to solve the problem.

So how do I build something that can do the job? It will have to be powerful and durable enough to move in sand and not get damaged by the elements. It could be remote-controlled at this point, I leave automation to a later stage... I figure if I build it as a game with some score according to how much trash you pick-up, my kids will fight to play with it -and pick-up trash as a by-product. Maybe I could also make it controllable from a website or an app so that other kids can play... Hell, people play Farmville or Pokemon Go, so why not?

Anyway, I haven't built anything physical since my Lego spaceship when I was 8, so how do I build this thing? Is arduino a reasonable option?

"Earth: some bacteria and basic life forms, no sign of intelligent life" (Message from a type III civilization probe sent to the solar system circa 2016)

Founding Member

Total Posts: 4969
Joined: Mar 2004
Posted: 2017-01-18 14:34
Not getting hit by waves is one helluva dynamical problem. Makes 'roided up Kalmans and KAM to shoot down rockets mid-flight look easy. Maybe you could have a tide chart local to the bot so it picked up the trash as the tides receded.

Nonius is Satoshi Nakamoto. 物の哀れ


Total Posts: 15
Joined: Mar 2013
Posted: 2017-01-18 23:59
maybe something like this ?


Total Posts: 44
Joined: Apr 2014
Posted: 2017-01-19 01:14
Something like a squat ride-on mower but with no blades, big fat tyres, and a mesh collector to prevent sand from being collected? Maybe with a few moving rods that hang beneath the body to agitate any particularly stubborn litter (like the bristles on a vacuum cleaner head, but controlled).

Using a robotic arm with a small robot like in vinpao's link seems very inefficient, more appropriate for a toy than for a serious application.


Total Posts: 1242
Joined: Feb 2005
Posted: 2017-01-19 01:58
My thoughts would be a drone-based garbage machine given you would be controlling it.

Using this method, you can split up the task to two different drones, one for high tide collecting floating garbage in the water (much like that waste shark they have at port of rotterdam), and then something similar to vinpao's kickstarter but I would imagine something less robotic arm ish and more a net based debris collection using a net that sifts out gravel.

edit: just saw/cross post with AB's rec and it is something similar to the latter one that I was thinking of as well

Dilbert: Why does it seem as though I am the only honest guy on earth? Dogbert: Your type tends not to reproduce.


Total Posts: 44
Joined: Apr 2014
Posted: 2017-01-23 01:14
I'd use a raspberry pi over an arduino. That way, if you give up you can chuck retropi or osmc on it.
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