Maker Project Lab
May 10, 2017 AUTHOR: Donald Bell CATEGORIES: News Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

CNC Sky Iris [Maker Update #33]

This week on Maker Update, a giant mechanical iris, a lightsaber, remote control Arduino, a micro torch, python boxes, Google HATs, Processing Spirographs, and Maker Faires. Support the show by purchasing this week’s featured tool.

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May 3, 2017 AUTHOR: Donald Bell CATEGORIES: News Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Heartbeat Lights [Maker Update #32]

This week on Maker Update, lights that synchronize with your heartbeat, a $30 synthesizer kit, cardboard pinball, modified NERF guns, heat shrink, Pi shims, and a good, fast wood finish.

Support this show and our sponsor, Cool Tools, when you buy the heat shrink kit featured in this show using this link: 

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April 26, 2017 AUTHOR: Donald Bell CATEGORIES: News Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Beach Art Robot [Maker Update #31]

This week on Maker Update: an autonomous beach-roving art bot, Kickstarter wants your ideas, a project that makes kits for other projects, GUIs for Raspberry Pi, stipple ceramics, and I’ll show you why digital calipers are cool (and why you should buy them here:

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April 19, 2017 AUTHOR: Donald Bell CATEGORIES: News Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Sun Powered CNC [Maker Update #30]

This week on Maker Update, an all natural laser engraver that harnesses the sun, a fume-free portable workstation, a tool recommendation from Adam Savage, 3D printed Lego tape, and a collection of vintage Mac software you can use in your browser.

Amazon link for Knipex High Leverage Cutters:

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November 29, 2016 AUTHOR: Donald Bell CATEGORIES: News, Tools, Uncategorized Tags: , , , , , ,

Hands-On with the Fotokite Phi Drone

About a month ago I got a call from the people behind a drone called Fotokite, wondering if I’d be interested in seeing a demo of their product. I already knew the product pretty well based on a demo of their prototype I was given last year while I was on staff at Make Magazine. With this in mind, I was curious to see how the product had evolved into its final state.

So here are my thoughts based on my hands-on time with the shipping version of the Fotokite Phi, a drone with a thin, strong leash attached to it, selling now for $249.

Fotokite Retractable Leash

The prototype model of this I played with last year had limited features, no camera controls, and a somewhat fragile 3D printed construction — but it was a fun product and the concept was still strong. It’s a fold-up drone you can fit in a backpack and launch in the air in just a minute with no fear of it flying off or getting stuck in a tree.

Fotokite Foldup Design

This final shipping version uses a stronger injection-molded plastic that I bounced off the wall a few times without losing control. It also includes more control features in the handle, which help steer it around and can directly control a GoPro mounted on the front. You have to provide the GoPro, though, so that’s an extra cost. A less expensive GoPro alternative can be substituted in the same space, however you’ll have to operate the controls manually directly on the camera before and after flight.

Fotokite Camera Front

They’ve also included a new follow mode that allows you to just tow this thing behind you while you’re snowboarding or biking or whatever. The included leash extends 25ft, but can be upgraded to 100ft. To hear them tell it, this is a big deal because many of the more expensive drone solutions with follow modes still have a tendency to wander off.

Fotokite Outdoors

All-in-all, I walked away wanting one — not because it’s a drone, but because it’s like a kind of magic kite really. This sounds sorta obvious when you consider the name, but when you first look at this thing it takes a minute to reconcile that it’s not the drone toy you expect it to be — and as someone who’s not a big fan of drones that’s a good thing.

And to be clear, this isn’t a paid endorsement. I just wanted to share my experience because I thought it was pretty cool, and neat to see a unique product go from concept to finished design. Let me know what you think by leaving a comment on the video above.

November 18, 2016 AUTHOR: Donald Bell CATEGORIES: Project Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

How to Hack Alexa into a Billy Bass Talking Fish

As many of you know from watching my Maker Update video series, I’ve been obsessed with hacking together a Billy Bass novelty talking fish and Amazon’s Alexa virtual assistant. About a month ago, an artist named Brian Kane published a viral video showing a Big Mouth Billy Bass novelty singing fish, seemingly voiced by Amazon’s Alexa virtual assistant. The internet went nuts for it, and so did I — but mostly I just wanted to know how it worked so that I could make my own.

After a few weeks tinkering with it and collecting the components I needed, I’ve come up with a workable hack. The project documentation and code are available on Instructables. I encourage you to provide feedback and ideas on how to improve it.
Make an Amazon Alexa talk through an animatronic Billy Bass singing fish.

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