Author Topic: "SchneeBeast" aka Rare Swiss Cow  (Read 8696 times)


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"SchneeBeast" aka Rare Swiss Cow
« on: February 28, 2016, 11:27:21 AM »

"SchneeBeast"  aka Rare Swiss Cow

Videos to this project can be found in this play list :-

Update 20160228 :-
After recent experimentation with Autocad 123D Catch I have been able to scan the original SchneeBeasts head ready for 3D printing :-

This is the 3D scan sent back to you.... pretty impressive as it also sends the +mtl file so you model gets a graphical skin.

For those who are not familiar with the "SchneeBeast" project ....its an epic tale...
Rool back the clocks 5 years:-

    Its been almost a year since i started the original Rare Swiss Cow epic blog_ing event, recent interest in Theo Jansens works has encouraged me to  finally present to you with the  "SchneeBeast"

   This  is not an easy write up for me to do as so many spin offs came from the  construction and cosmetics..... it enabled me to learn new skills and to bring some abstract ideas i had brewing into reality.
....where to start.

Etape  0 -  Embryo
The project started after rik had been posting  some gripping experiments with Theo Jansen "Strand Beasts" legs, it  captivated me, respect to you rik - (-8 i pinched your legs, i hope i  did not stand on your toes 8-)

Etape 1 - Proof of  concept :-
I built a Lego mindstorms Theo Leg based off a  sketch rik had made (i measured the proportions off my compy screen  :-). The Leg worked then half hour later a second leg worked and before i  knew it i had a very efficient walking biped pushing the "Mindstorms  Brick" along like a supermarket trolley.

N.B. These where the closest i could get to the "Holy Numbers" using lego - more about those later.
Now i had run out of Lego linkages .... "wot to do"  ...
.... wood ...replace each part with wood as i wanted an Organic feel to the project anyways....

These worked, however with a "Wobble" factor.
So  out with the Dremel and a full scale rebuild of the legs.

<img src="">
I also noticed that i could replace some links with triangles - making it even more stable.

Etape 2 - Trivots :-
 Shops where closed for 4 days over Xmas so no screws for fixing it together..... however that turned out to be "Luck in Un-luck", my son came up with the "Daft Vader" idea ....... "Use the Polymorph , Dad"   and the idea of making "Trivots" hatched.

They worked a treat because i  was able to squeeze them when warm to eliminate any "Dead-Band".
Before  i welded them together i applied the graphite from a "8B" pencil where there was any wood2wood contact.
The graphite made a  good slippery surface and the joints where well lubricated.

Etape 3 - Motorisation & Chassis :-
Motors  where attached via a crank arm made from PolyMorph, note the embedded  blind nut,
The original motors i had won off an OddBot Competition

This was the original Chassis - however the hot  glue could not keep it together .....wot to do......

As i needed a more powerful motors and slower gear  drive, i  upgraded not only the motors but also the "Shaky  Chassis", you can also see the carbon fibre rods that fixed the alignment and you can see also the startings of the  movable neck mechanism.

Training on her first Alp.

Etape 4 - Mysterious UFO :-
Then  came some fun when i posted the Mysterious Object

Which turned out to be a cows udder with  radioactive fallout.
They where made by pushing a dish into a  plate sized piece of polymorph to create the belly part, and then i  pushed chopsticks into the warm polymorph  "Sushi-Style"  to make the long wiggly bits.

Here it is in "Action" the right way up.

Etape  5 - Flattering Eyes
Her eyes have that hypnotic effect,  however have a more practical and safety slant :-
When Green all  is Normal                        Amber is opening of the Mouth            Red warns when the laser Distancing Probe fires

They are simple RBG Leds Pwmed to give any colour  required.

Etape 6 - Cow Brains & mobile Neck
Her  Brain is - An Arduino Mega with Motor Driver Shield.

And the Servo  (Left) that opens the jaw.

Etape 7 :- A Cow is Born (my  favourite part of project)
The Cows head was first constructed out  of cardboard get a feeling of its possibility and also to get an  idea of its size.

I  wanted an organic looking boney skull so i used the below model to   create a PolyMorph Skinned version.

How on earth do you skin PolyMorph i hear you asking  .......

"Tie me kangaroo down sport" .... i let you decide
And  matching "Hide and Tail" to keep the snow at bay......

She is not your regular cow  ......she  glows........ quite brightly , what you see here is her colour  (grass) sensor, her  eyes match the colour she  sees, no need for a makeover  she is ready at  all times.

Inbuilt into her jaw is an RGB led array  and light dependent resistor

With this arrangement she is able to detect colours  and react to them.
Here you see her tasting a robot friend - once  she has detected the colour her eyes will light the same colour too.
When  she detects green her jaw opens and closes as it she is able to eat  grass this way (trust me it works).

Etape 8 - Theo Locomotion :-
The  Movement mechanism is based off work done by Theo Jansen . Her "Strand Beast Legs" are more  likely to be seen strolling the sands on the Dutch coastline....... or  on exhibitions throughout the world.
I choose this style after  seeing one of riks first blogs made here & general leg action here - the  fluid movement entrapped me .... and so the "SchneeBeast" was born.
Here  is a rough idea of the linkages and the corresponding leg movement.

Here are her "Theo Legs" legs :-

"These, then, are the holy numbers:

a = 38
b = 41.5
c = 39.3
d =  40.1
e = 55.8
f = 39.4
g = 36.7
h = 65.7
i= 49
j = 50
k = 61.9
It is thanks to these numbers that the animals walk  the way they do."
Health Warning :- Do not mess with Theos holy Numbers ............. they are worth their weight in gold.
This form of movement allows the  foot to lift off the ground go forwards and then touch the ground and  drag backwards giving locomotion forwards - or Vicea-Verca
The  more legs a "StrandBeast" has the smoother is it motion ......
....  mine had only 4 legs and when all four legs met in the  middle she would lose balance and fall over.

Etape 9 -  Gear Motor Encoders & S(Th)yncronisation control :-
So  this is when i had the idea to install encoders into the motors and on  the spline of the motor drive shaft.

This  is how to Hack a standard geared motor to turn it into a rotary encoder
With this combination on both leg pairs i was  able to "synchronize the legs" to give reliable forward  motion.

Etape 10 - What is the future for  "SchneeBeast" :-
She was originally made to house this  under her belly :-

Yes this is a Wii-Mote and yes they are lasers  connected to servos.

The Wii-Mote is able to detect reflected laser light  .... if you remove the IR filter off the front of it.
Then by  using a Blue-Tooth link you can extract the positions of the point of  light.
The lasers are set at an angle to each other, meaning that  the closer the cow is to a wall the further apart the laser spots are.
More  info can be found here Laser distancing using  Wii-Mote & Video1 Video2
I have since worked out that you only need one  laser at one angle and the Wii-mote being the second angle - all i need  to do now is finish the programming.
Etape  11 Conclusion :-
Even simple robots can have a lot of  meat to them, be careful as they could roam the world (stay tuned)

Below are the original comments included in my original posting of this project ...
By arbarnhart @ Thu, 2011-01-20 14:10                  Is it time to rechristen it as...  Schnee-San
Congrats on the exhibition!
        By Gareth @ Fri, 2011-01-21 12:01                  Schnee-San  Thanks arbarnhart-sama , i was puzzled for a bit how you knew she was on her way to Japan ........(till i found rik had spilled the beans:-)
I will keep the name in mind for a forthcoming project i have lined up..............
        By TheCowGod @ Wed, 2011-01-19 19:15      God I love this. Dan  God I love this.
        By Gareth @ Fri, 2011-01-21 12:08                  What else could a CowGod say  Something tells me you like cows Dan, its amazing how much you can learn from such a Megacool animal.
       By phozon @ Mon, 2011-01-17 17:02               missed a word  *take
       By phozon @ Mon, 2011-01-17 17:02               wow, man. amazing work. I  wow, man. amazing work. I should a robotics internship with you .
       By MarkusB @ Mon, 2011-01-17 14:28              I like your polymorphing  I like your polymorphing skills, Gareth...And the use of chopsticks. More chopsticks in robotics, please.
        By Gareth @ Fri, 2011-01-21 12:15                  I use them a lot for PolyMorph  I use them a lot because when the water is boiling it helps to stop  the "cooking of the fingers".
Plus when wet the polymorph does not stick to the wood so well - i also used then to make the first part of the extruded polymorph workshop i did.
        By ralph @ Sat, 2011-01-15 16:37                   Thanks for the great SchneeBeast info  Wow Gareth.  Nice work on an awesome robot and an awesome posting.  I've just started playing around with Jansen mechanisms myself and very much appreciate the details on your build.
        By Gareth @ Sat, 2011-01-15 19:50                 Light on the hoof  They are amazing contraptions...... and the best is....... the light stepping motion .... however the more the better.
        By OddBot @ Sat, 2011-01-15 04:39                 I'm udderly speachless  I'm udderly speachless
        By Gareth @ Sat, 2011-01-15 20:05                  It was a close call ..... it could have been a kangaroo pouch  It was a close call ..... it could have been a kangaroo - pouch included.
After the PolyMorph work i was in a quandary whether to write some jump code into it.......
If you had not guessed it was made with the help of some "Chop Sticks" - i presume you have mastered thoose now!!
       By merser @ Sat, 2011-01-15 05:16                   I'm not surprised  It must be hard to speak with an lcd in your mouth
       By Gareth @ Sat, 2011-01-15 19:47                   Green LCD are her favorite  Merser...... she love to eat anything green ..... green LCDs included.
       By Jad-Berro @ Fri, 2011-01-14 23:58                 Nice work !  Holy Cow ! Udders !
       By Gareth @ Sat, 2011-01-15 19:52                   Himalaya  Maybe as "Holy Cow" he could roam the mystic Himalayan Alps
       By GroG @ Fri, 2011-01-14 21:45                        You ROCK Gareth !  You art/engineering/documentation is inspirational!   So much to play with in so little time !
BTW - So far, I found fixing the laser directly to the wii at 4 inches with a 65 degree angle the most accurate and simple solution for WiiDAR. Then scanning the whole unit (wii and all) taking range samples.  So far I've tried at least 6 completely different designs.
Here's one where the laser was above a fan motor spinning scans with an encoder. The taped region is unused - since the field of view of the wii is only around 50 degrees (more tapping was reducing unwanted chatter as the motor spun)
I've also learned the refresh rate of the camera may be 100 Hz but the refresh of the data coming out of the camera is significantly lower.  It may be the processing needed to track the center of 4 points... not sure.  I tested this when I spun the motor and counted how many updates there where when the motor was spinning.
You were definitely right about the wii being a Swiss Army Knife of sensors.  After I get WiiDAR working well enough to provide data for SLAM, I'll be looking into the wii extension/communication for - Arduino->WiiMote->Bluetooth->Computer and practice my soldering skills for the way back Computer->Bluetooth->WiiMote->LED->Arduino.
Happy Bot'ing !
        By Gareth @ Sat, 2011-01-15 19:30                  Keeping a close Eye  Grog i would love to see this thing whirl on video - i'm trying to calculate the speed of rotation (high tempo disco speed i guess)
Your laser platform would look quite spectacular strapped to the "udder side" of the cow.
It make sme think what data you would get pointing a "Line laser" at the angled mirror !! (poke me in the eye if you have already tried).
        By GroG @ Wed, 2011-01-19 19:49                  Gareth!  WiiDAR posted here!
I didn't get the whirling encoder working very well, but I suspect there are a few more versions to create
        By Gareth @ Wed, 2011-01-19 21:21                  Coolieoo  You are surging ahead my friend ....... i reckon even the version you have now would be enough for steering "SchneeBeast"
Thanks for posting the Whirling dervish ..... all failures lead to success (failure does not exist in my vocabulary)
        By rik @ Fri, 2011-01-14 20:37                        Excellent writeup  Just to clarify for those not in the know: "strand" is Dutch for beach.
That is one awesome summary of a year's work Gareth. And your cow deserves one!
        By JAX @ Fri, 2011-01-14 22:11                      Excellent write-up indeed.  As I am one of those not in the know, thanks Rik. Am I also to believe that "schnee" refers to the beast's love for Swiss snow?
        By rik_admin @ Fri, 2011-01-14 22:24             Keine Ahnung  Dutch != deutch
 ;-) yes it does
        By Gareth @ Sat, 2011-01-15 19:44                  Schwyzerdütsch  "Keine Ahnung"  translation ....... a deer with no eyes ......... No-Eyed-Deer  ............ No Idea ...
Schnee is indeed what we call the snow,,,,,,, pronunciation is a bit on the tricky side though.
Yes Niederlandisch >< Deutsch ><Schwyzerdütsch (Swiss/German) have much in common.
« Last Edit: February 28, 2016, 11:45:50 AM by Gareth »


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Re: "SchneeBeast" aka Rare Swiss Cow
« Reply #1 on: February 28, 2016, 03:16:35 PM »
Gareth, this is such an epic project - A combination of the rural idyll and a bad acid trip.
I'm glad it's still a work in progress and I can't wait to see a video of it roaming the alps.
Necessity is the mother of many strange bastards.


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Re: "SchneeBeast" aka Rare Swiss Cow
« Reply #2 on: February 28, 2016, 03:53:48 PM »
Ohh, I had long forgotten this project. so fantastic. And with a laser equipped head, what can possible go wrong.


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Re: "SchneeBeast" aka Rare Swiss Cow
« Reply #3 on: March 01, 2016, 12:05:22 PM »
what a great project
you are truly a master of polymorph!


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Re: "SchneeBeast" aka Rare Swiss Cow
« Reply #4 on: March 06, 2016, 02:16:32 AM »
Whoa Gareth you are trully bringing the fun times back  ;D


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Re: "SchneeBeast" aka Rare Swiss Cow
« Reply #5 on: March 06, 2016, 10:16:31 AM »
I can't wait to see a video of it roaming the alps.
The old framework still survives after its exhibition in Japan.....after being stung with 50CHF "Import Duty" (don't ask)......wish it had found a rice field to graze on.
The 3D print version is still in Blender at the moment... I hope to churn out some 1/4 scale versions as the grazing patterns are more symmetric with many little ones.


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Re: "SchneeBeast" aka Rare Swiss Cow
« Reply #6 on: March 06, 2016, 10:18:13 AM »
what can possible go wrong.
Now that I have my hands on 4 InfraRed lasers I guess "A Lot"  >:D


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Re: "SchneeBeast" aka Rare Swiss Cow
« Reply #7 on: March 06, 2016, 10:20:54 AM »
master of polymorph!
The trouble we went through circa 5 years ago...all in the name of Plastic .... since my 3D printer arrived, I am afraid the PM box is tightly shut... :-\


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Re: "SchneeBeast" aka Rare Swiss Cow
« Reply #8 on: March 06, 2016, 10:23:00 AM »
fun times back  ;D
Indeed tinhead -  I had to reinstate the project on the grounds that I actually missed the beast, really they were great times..


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Re: "SchneeBeast" aka Rare Swiss Cow
« Reply #9 on: March 12, 2016, 07:13:37 PM »
One of my favorites!  I need to do a SchneeSheep for my Anatolian Shepherd.


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Re: "SchneeBeast" aka Rare Swiss Cow
« Reply #10 on: March 15, 2016, 08:49:52 AM »
great project sir ......


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