Micromouse update 4, Makelangelo 7.3.4, Arm 3, and VR

Today’s monday update is about Micromouse 3, Makelangelo 7.3.4, Arm 3, and VR.

Micromouse update 3

In a previous post I told you about the track we’re building.

Micromoue track walls

The walls and floor are getting painted. We estimate the track is 85% done. In the photo above you can see the micromouse maze walls and pegs slot fitting together. We’ll be able to set up practice tracks at VHS before the event and the full track on the day of the event. Register your contest entry free right now!

Makelangelo 7.3.4

Over the weekend Makelangelo software has a small upgrade to 7.3.4. The “start”, “start at line #”, “top”, “left”, “right”, “bottom”, and “go home” buttons are now automatically disabled until you hit the home button. This is to prevent user error at the start – they’re not meaningful if the robot hasn’t already found it’s starting home position.

I’ve been cleaning stuff under the hood for the next 7.4.0 update. Until now converting a picture automatically places the picture in one place on the drawing robot. The improvements move everything to one coordinate system and one scale. This means that the code for each conversion style more concise because the style converter doesn’t need to translate between machine coordinate system and image coordinate system. It also opens the door to moving, scaling, flipping, and rotating images before converting to lines. Who knows? Maybe someone will add Photoshop style layers and an undo/redo system.

Here are some of the style conversion options, all using a picture of an owl’s eye.

Makelangelo 7.3.4 boxxy style

Makelangelo 7.3.4 zigzag style

Makelangelo 7.3.4 voronoi stippling style

Makelangelo 7.3.4 pulse style

Makelangelo 7.3.4 Sandy Noble style

Makelangelo 7.3.4 crosshatch style

All these styles are in the Makelangelo software already. You can download Makelangelo today.

Arm 3

My long term project is the next robot arm. Here’s an early draft, cutaway in Fusion360 to show the inside of the wrist.

early cutaway of arm 3

The goal is a ~100cm arm with 2kg lift and +/-0.5mm repeatable accuracy. No easy task! It also has to have all wires hidden inside so that it has a good ingress protection rating.  When it’s ready it will ship fully assembled, like all Marginally Clever robots, and it will be driven from Robot Overlord.

If you’re a long time follower then you know my last arm used two electric pistons, much like a backhoe you’d see at a construction site. Now I need some help with a math problem: how do I maximize the range of motion?


Making robots easier to use is always high on my list of priorities. I want to program the Arm by pushing and pulling the real machine. But what if I don’t have the real machine in front of me yet? It would be pretty sweet if I could just push and pull a virtual model. It seems to me VR would be a natural fit. When I look at the choices out there, I’m being offered only awful choices.

  1. TOcculus Rift is owned by Facebook and (I hear) it likes to phone home all the time with mysterious updates and information sharing. On the plus side they have C/C++ developer libraries. In theory a Java wrapper can’t be far behind.
  2. The HTC Vive wants all their support handled by Valve and Steam, which means I’d need to register as a Steam game developer just to access their support forums. It feels like a lie! I can’t find anything about their developer libraries until I register. Edit: Tom G @ Valve just sent me a link to the OpenVR library, in C/C++. Java soon?  Edit: JMonkeyVR is the Java interface. Yessssss!
  3. The Microsoft Hololens looks ridiculous on the human head, and since when does MS support Java?

Final thoughts

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