Those who may remember my past obsessions with wiring LED lights up to hammerhead tanks and crisis suits and such, may be happy to know that my electronics (self taught) hobby has graduated to robotics, using arduino microcontrollers to make little gizmos that do stuff.. like drive around, avoiding obstacles, and a turret auto tracking a light source around.
Its always been a dream of mine to make a Predator/Rhino tank shelled robot of this sort, but the scale of the models was always too small. There simply were no tread track kits the scale of the Space marine vehicles, though I already had gear motors small enough to do the job.
As a part of my homemade robotics hobby I got into the practice of "toy hacking"; where you take a cheap toy, and smash it apart to salvage the motors, gears, and simple electronics (H-bridge and the sort) from it, to put to use elsewhere. Even cassette tape decks were full of useful goodies for those with a mind to put those motors, servoes, and solenoids to use!
One day, this particularly interesting toy caught my eye: it was a TankBot, from DeskPets. It was a teeny tiny treaded vehicle with independant drive treads, meaning it was fully driveable. better yet, it had an IR control device you could plug into a smartphone to drive it with the phone touchscreen! The size looked right, so I prompty bought one, played with it a bit, then tore it apart to get to the drivetrain and electronics!!! muhahahHAHAHA!! now the fun begins!!
I wanted to keep a lot of its original functionality: its motor controls, its IR remote receiver, etc, so that very little would need to be done when it came time to wire up the Rhino.
But first, I needed to hash together a "proof of concept"... a test to see if the tiny battery and teeny motors of the deskpet would be able to drag the rhino model plastic around under power. So here we go with the pics/movies!!
Here we see all the parts: the Rhino to be "Sacrificed" for this project (already missing its belly), and the bright blue deskpet... all .. uh.. spread out like a dead butterfly. This shows how the Tankbot size related to the rhino model. Its treads werent going to replace the entire models treads, unfortunately, but as I said; those treads are an oddball size to begin with.
Here is the poor, cute little tank bot in detail. I already removed its head (for science!), and reduced its body panelling down to the gear train, which in the end is a handy sized little drivetrain, with easy to access wiring for the motors.
@ center is the brains of the Tankbot- the circuit board. Those things on the right hand corners are actually its original "eyes" that it used to use to avoid obstacles when running in "autonomous mode" (it really is an ingenious little robot- acts like Wal-E) The three black wires extending out @ 3 oclock is the real "Eye" of the bot (the corner things are more like sonar ping IRLED's), that I extended out with the wires, to relocate the eye to be a discreet roof "bump" on the rhino roof.. as this eye needs to see the transmitters led flashes to know what commands its been given.
@ 8 oclock is a little speaker, where the tankbot makes some cute engine noises, and also give feedback when you push the mode button so I know which mode its in (it also gives a cute little "aawwWW!" whine when you power it off). @10 oclock is the teeny little lithium ion battery; a 3.7v rechargeable that drives the whole thing, and is recharged by the thing @ 12 oclock: a USB plug in card that I plan to have accessable from the rhino rear hatch, or maybe side door. Tucked in the front of the drivetrain chassis are some white wires that go to a reset button underneath- that I may repurpose into the mode switch once the mode switch on the left edge of the circuit board is out of reach.
Here we see the belly of the Rhino, savagely gutted to allow a space for the tankBot to sit in, more or less hidden from view. The TankBot was a little too wide to hide completely within the original treads, so they had to notched out a bit as well, but in the end, there was plenty of room to hide the drivetrain.
Here is where I used the floor plate pieces to hotglue the drivetrain in place, and to hold the rhino body a fraction of an inch off of the tabletop
The other side is fitted in place, and you can see how the drivetrain sits nicely inside
Here the electronics are packed inside in preparation for close up. Hopefully in later stages I will be able to snip the circuitboard to to just the IR receiver and motor controllers, to leave more room for other goodies, like a turret control or something. But for now it all fits nicely inside.
With the roof on its almost looking like a plain, boring old plastic model again, isnt it? The IR TRansistor "eye" is sticking out the front like some sort of Chaos infestation, but that needs to be outside for the remote control to work.
If only there was an App for that... The black half circle thing plugged into the headphone jack is the deskpet universal controller, and onscreen is indeed the App for that. Every Deskpet gizmo is selectable to be driven this way, and each color of tankbot has its own code, so you could potentially have a fleet of these things.
And now for the video. It was hard to hold the camera recording, the smartphone screen, and the robot in view all at once, but I think it worked well enough!
I'm happy to see that there is indeed enough power to drive the model all over the place, and, given two thumb control, its actual control would be much less spaztic than seen here. Another somewhat bad/good note is that it actually lacks power to really push anything else around by accident (when I ran into the exacto knife and stalled out), so its really only good for driving out flat level tabletop surfaces.. hmm which is pretty much wwhat 40k tables ARE!
So there we go: a remote control Rhino. Driveable by your smartphone. If I wanted to get more high tech, I could use an arduino nano with a bluetooth shield instead of the clunky IR LED interface seen here, but this proof of concept didnt require any actual designing/programming of my own.
So yeah.. another one of those things that brings a grin to this old geeks face.