If you believe any Sci-fi films from the last few decades, by now we should all be living on the moon, driving our own personal spaceships and wearing those funny tinfoil outfits. Unfortunately, it would seem that we’re not quite there yet – life is still just as earthbound and humdrum as ever. Now, though, with the help of some old toy parts, off the shelf components and a bit of skill, you can recreate some of your favorite gadgets from sci-fi films and TV for yourself, for relatively little cost.
First off, how would you like your very own robot? This one can be built relatively simply and is based around the Arduino microcontroller, a simple yet powerful piece of kit that can be adapted for endless uses. I particularly like the way that this spins about or crabs sideways, and it can be easily programmed with just a basic knowledge of computing and mechanics for whatever use you require. It’s not an advanced or complicated robot but it’s an excellent starter build.
The Raspberry Pi is causing a lot of excitement in the electronics and computer hobbyist community at the moment. A simple yet very powerful processor, that with just a soldering iron, some soldering accessories and some programming knowledge, can be adapted by even a novice to do almost anything, from the simplest electronic circuitry for school students, right up to creating a basic personal computer. It is based around the popular open source operating system known as Linux, and so can take advantage of all the expertise and support that is already available.
This wearable computer is much lighter and has a far better battery life than previous versions that could be built at home. The undemanding components allow it to be powered by four AA batteries, keeping costs and weight down, which is of course vital in something that you will be wearing.
The Raspberry Pi and the Arduino can be combined to make this brilliant little Segway style robot.
This is a much more complex robot, using both control units to create a powerful and challenging project. This really will be worth the effort as it is absolutely fascinating to watch and play with and could be adapted for many uses.
Using some old parts and a few off the shelf components such as a multi-channel radio control system and a relay socket, it is even possible to create gadgets from your favorite TV series. The Skutters are small claw headed robots who perform the day to day maintenance tasks aboard the spaceship Red Dwarf, in the BBC show of the same name. This tutorial will help show you how to create a Skutter of your very own, by using a Raspberry Pi controlling the arm and the base, made out of an old BigTrak.
If you’re still not satisfied, I’m a little disappointed in you but, if I have to up the ante, how about your very own personal aerocar, like George Jetson? While we’re not quite in the era of The Jetsons, it is getting closer with the invention of the fabulous Mosquito XE, a small, car sized personal helicopter, which is selling for around $30,000.
This one person micro-copter can fit in a single parking space, although that is with the rotors stationary. If those are spinning, I’d find a little more space for the landing.
As these projects show, the parts available now allow the home user to create some amazing machines to recreate the vision of the future found in their favorite science fiction. No longer do you have to stay jealous of TV show characters and their awesome gadgets.
Except for Marty McFly, because no-one’s built a hover board yet.
About the Author:
Christopher Parkinson’s interest in electronics stemmed from an early age, watching his father using a multimeter to assess why his Scaletrix which had stopped working. At that time this was the most fantastic thing he had ever seen (bear in mind he was 6 and hence very easily impressed). He went on to study microprocessor design theory before working for a company repairing mobile phones.