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Computer/nerf Project

Prototype for future development

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#1 Wordbiker

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Posted 31 January 2006 - 12:47 AM

Howdy!

After one of our local LANs, some buddies and I discussed fun mods we could do to our computers. One that stuck was the NoobRocket. Basically, this is a device that is controlled via USB and shoots a Nerf dart at an unsuspecting "noob". We all laughed at the prospect, but my best geek buddy and I have taken the idea up again in the hopes of developing it as a fun toy that has a lot more function than just to merely humiliate (as if that wasn't enough...heh).

For starters, the USB controller drives a pair of servos mounted in brackets to give it pan and tilt. The plan is to mount an infrared webcam to it that will show the target in a window on the screen. The mouse moves the camera and Nerfgun, aiming it for trajectory, and a left click launches it. It gets better...

Other than for night vision capabilities, the infrared webcam paired up with a small infrared laser opens up the opportunity for a couple possible features. As you may know, rangefinders often utilize the IR spectrum, measuring the angle that the beam bounces back to the CCD and calculating the distance by triangulation. "Touchless" thermometers also use either an IR laser diode or LED to measure the beam's reflection to a receiver, and then calculates temperature. Besides those possibilities, one of the more practical reasons we prefer the IR laser is that in certain states, pointing a laser at a human being and causing fear is considered menacing. With a low powered laser (not much over 1mW is required) the classification is lowered as the IR spectrum in such small doses is not considered harmful to the human eye. The telltale red dot is also gone from the "target's" point of view, but can be seen through the IR camera, creating stealth and the appearance of harmlessness to passersby, as well as lowering the chances we'll be sued for encouraging such deviant behavior.

With software, it is possible to operate this gadget over a network, or even from a remote location over the internet. Depending on how our development goes, it could also have features such as autotracking (enabled or disabled through a click for full manual control, using the same logarithm as face-tracking webcams), automatic trajectory compensation (requires the IR rangefinder to calibrate the angle based on the velocity of the Nerf projectile), add-on modules for extra features and upgrades...but really, we just want to get it working first.

OK, that's all fine and dandy techno-geekery, but it'll all seem like a pile of junk if the Nerf gun portion is unreliable. So far, the plan is to use a small pull type solenoid to release a plunger that must be cocked by hand. One shot seems like kind of a bummer, but it does make the overall device lighter, and can still use lower powered servos. To make it more user friendly, the goal is to power it solely from the 5V USB connection, so any power savings are a good thing.

I bought a knockoff Buzz Bee Mech 6 at a local discount store to explore the possibilities of a multi-shot launcher....and found it rather disappointing. First off, the thing is heavy...too heavy for the servos to handle. It appears to use a flywheel that spins constantly (and annoyingly LOUD) to give the darts thrust. There is no tube to guide them, and darts get stuck in it every other shot or so...not that they come out in any way resembling accurately. After that little escapade, I figured that I needed some expert advice on how to make a single-shot, reliable and consistently accurate Nerf launcher...which brought me here.

Several ideas have already been thrown out, such as pneumatic thrust, since the pumping action might cause problems with the fragile electronics and hinges. The air leaking out over time if it were left in a "primed" state also negates the idea of using a compressed air tank or CO2 thrust. This seems to leave me with no choice but a simple spring action. I did take a look at the potential of using a solenoid for thrust, but the power requirements greatly exceed the 500mA of the USB bus, and adding an additional power supply would just add to the overall cost to manufacture it. If it wasn't so impractical, the idea of not having to cock it by hand sure is appealing, and I may try that with another project.

I just wanted to start off this thread with my idea. Rest assured, I will do my best to abide by the forum etiquette and will be studying other threads for ideas on constructing the gun before asking any specific questions. A load of parts is due to arrive tomorrow and I will update this thread with the construction process. Thanks for reading, and please feel free to offer any constructive suggestions you may have.

Wordbiker

Edited by Wordbiker, 31 January 2006 - 09:54 AM.

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#2 Nerforbust

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Posted 31 January 2006 - 05:28 AM

I have seen a USB nerf rock somewhere... Its been done.
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#3 hoshiadam

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Posted 31 January 2006 - 07:25 AM

It should be noted that USB bus can source up to 500mA, not 500mW. However you'll have to watch out for power requirements of other devices on the bus - it is limited to 500mA total.

A simple way to make it multi-shot would be to use a low power motor like a winch - have it wind a cord around, pulling the plunger back until the gun is cocked, then let it spin free. With that, you could use something like the Maverick for the base, and get 6 shots. Wouldn't be rapid fire, but it could work. You can vary the size of the axel the cord is being wrapped around, and the speed of the motor, to get different power requirements.

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#4 Talio

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Posted 31 January 2006 - 09:18 AM

Okay, since we have alot of new members I'm going to lay out some of the unspoken shit around here and post the links into the new members thread on the front page.

First off, if you've been around for less then six months, don't use the word "noob." I don't care and don't believe how long you've been "reading." Don't use it, becuase frankly, those of us who have been around here for a long fucking time don't even use it. You'll get the idea.

Second, this has been written and if you have been "reading" for as long as you say you have, you'll understand this concept already. Don't come on here and post your crazy shit idea's without having a finished product. If I had a dime for every "concept" or "idea" that's been post without anything coming to fruition (I am particularly guilty for this one myself, so don't feel bad), I wouldn't be driving a Pontiac. So if you have a crazy shit idea, ask a SPECIFIC, and I do mean fucking SPECIFIC question about it or post the finished product. The definition of specific is to the staffs descretion, as is everything else.

That just about covers this topic, don't feel bad, it was a good post, I've just got to break in a few of you new guys so you get the idea of how it works. If you want a looser sight with less expectations, hit Nerf HQ.

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#5 Wordbiker

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Posted 31 January 2006 - 10:19 AM

I thank you all for the responses.

Nerforbust, if this has already been done, I'd sure love to see a link or some pictures. I don't doubt that someone has built one as all of the parts are readily available, and we're not trying to break new ground. The hope is to have it usable right out of the box. If producing it commercially proves to be unviable, then we can still have some fun with a prototype or two.

hoshiadam, my thanks for the suggestions regarding the multi-shot mechanics and the correction of my typo. I do plan to buy more authentic Nerf guns and examine them for more possibilities, but for my prototype, will stick with a single shot for simplicity and efficiency.

Talio, my apologies for posting a concept without anything to show. After seeing several concepts posted previously and being asked in a personal message by another member to post, I went ahead before having pictures available.
Regarding the "N" word...it was not my intent to call anyone here by a degrading title. The term is the product's name, and was only referring to its use as a common gaming term due to the market segment it is intended for. Once I receive my parts order, I shall correct the previous lack of product to show. As I am sure you can tell, this project will take a bit of time, and perhaps some steps forward as well as a few back. Would it be OK to post my progress? I do have some offsite picture and video hosting available to me, and could share links of substance and pertinence.
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#6 Talio

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Posted 31 January 2006 - 12:31 PM

Look at Boltsnipers history and how he posts about his project. That's what I expect from all members.
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#7 Langley

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Posted 31 January 2006 - 01:33 PM

In the last few months or so a few people have posted links to a site where they have a nerf based robot AI competition. Here are a few of those links:

http://www.ottawarob...s.org/nerf.html
http://voodooz.no-ip.../robotics/ONYX/

You might find some info there about automating a nerf gun, and using a laser as a rangefinder.

Here's a website devoted to a DIY automated sentry gun project.

http://www.thesentrygun.com/

Hope that helps. Oh, and you might ask Talio about his electronic nerf gun project. He can probably give you some pointers about how not to rig up solenoids to a supermax 1500.
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#8 Wordbiker

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Posted 02 February 2006 - 12:27 AM

Wow, great links Langley! ^_^
There was a lot of good information on those sites, though I am trying to accomplish something different. Although I mentioned having autotracking as a possible feature, that is not the main focus of what we're trying to do. This Nerf gun is intended to be fully under the user's control, perhaps even over a great distance, not as an autonomous robot.

As a development platform, I started with a USB servo controller from a company called Phidgets, though most likely we will be developing our own board with only the needed features. I bought a kit for quick assembly and testing. Phidgets did include some sample code, but for our mouse interface we (more than likely my buddy, or someone we hire) will have to write custom code. I only wish I could say I'm a programmer. I did get the kit going with some sample code, and you can see a short .wmv video I took here:

phidgeting.wmv

And here is a still of the unit:

Posted Image

In the computer field, my focus is hardware, so this weekend I'll be taking a trip to Albuquerque NM where there's a lot more hobby, toy, computer and hardware stores than in my rural area of Colorado. I plan to use cxwq's excellent advice and buy some brass tubing to make a nested barrel for a simple single-shot spring driven gun. I also plan to look at what is available in multi-shot Nerf products to see if I can potentially give this gadget some real firepower. Recommendations are welcome, though the requirements are:spring action only, relatively compact size and weight, and reliability. From what I have read so far, I will be looking for a Maverick.

After a few discussions, we have come to the realization that having this run solely from the USB is impractical, and additional power will be required from either an external power supply, or a molex extension from the host PC. The Phidgets controller has two servo outputs that are presently not being used, so some experimenting with servos may net us a repeatable or full-auto gun. I'll be picking up some servos of differing torque ratings, size and quality to try that concept out, as well as test for how the servos I have can handle the weight of a mounted gun.

Edited by Wordbiker, 02 February 2006 - 12:29 AM.

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#9 Falcon

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Posted 02 February 2006 - 12:57 AM

Something else to consider (if someone happens to have one laying around) would be to use one of the Lego Mindstorms sets (the "build-a-robot" set; I have one and it'd work great) as a mechanical way to pull the trigger of a nerf gun. They come with all sorts of sensors you can set to trigger a specific action when a specific event occurs (like rig up the light sensor so when a person walks into a dark room, they'll turn on the light, and the sensor will trigger the motors to move, which will tpull the trigger of one or two strategically placed RF 20's...done it before.)

Then again, the "unsuspecting person" was myself, and it was supposed to be an alarm clock. I had an electronic timer turn on my reading lamp at 5:45 am (when my alarm was supposed to go off) and it triggered the light sensor. Only problem was that the gun had a slow leak, and I had pumped it the night before. One of them fired maybe two or three rounds at me, the other nothing. Oh well... If you set it up shortly before it will be triggered, it would work...

Edited by Falcon, 02 February 2006 - 01:00 AM.

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#10 Carbon

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Posted 02 February 2006 - 11:55 AM

Just had this link sent to me today...yes, it's a USB controlled Nerf rocket.

http://www.engadget....-usb-air-darts/
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#11 davidbowie

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Posted 02 February 2006 - 04:06 PM

IIRC, the buzz-bee RFR action runs off of a rod which moves back and forth, just above the grip. This seems like it would make it an easy gun to apply, since you could use a single, simple, solenoid attachment to reload, and another to fire. It might be a bit big for your pan/tilt stand, though.

Maybe a Dart Tag Gun?
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#12 Wordbiker

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Posted 02 February 2006 - 05:08 PM

Yeah, nice link Carbon. It does appear that they have the same basic idea. What I found interesting after following all those links is that a good number of the comments were requesting a targeting webcam, faster response, Mac compatability, remote capability...and something more than the crap 5-6' range.



I saw that some of these sold for over $50/ea shipped, and we were hoping to come in somewhere under that for our retail figure, though that may be a bit optimistic. Heck, it looks like they're going for even more now:
USB Missile Launcher eBay
...and not a single "Buy it Now"...

One thing I am interested in is so far, all the ideas regarding this project have come from myself and my buddy. If you were to have a toy like this available, what specific features would be important to you? I am looking to buy one of these for "research" purposes, so if anyone here might have one to sell, I'll pay a fair market value for it.

While we do have to pare things down to essentials for manufacturing reasons, we'd like to offer some "upgrade" options as well as have the software open source. We are geeks ourselves and would love to see what other people can do with this once we have sold the hardware. I can honestly say I'm glad someone else has tried this. Now we have a better idea where they fell short, what people are looking for, and a general idea of what price they might sell for.

OK, just an update:

I did my shopping trip and came back with a starter arsenal of mod potential.

Posted Image

As I stated before, I'm new to nerfing, so these guns are just to play around with, mod, and to see how I can better make the gun portion of the project (and to play some games with my 3 kids...heh). I did find some 17/32", 9/16" and 19/32" brass tubing, so a nested barrel is in my near future. One design issue is making the gun as small as possible, yet allowing it enough push to still have some decent range. The previously linked USB missile launcher is barely capable of a weak lob, and given the size and lack of a beefy propulsion setup, I can see why. I don't see building anything as beefy as the long range air-powered guns seen elsewhere on the site, but I do want something that has at least decent accuracy and consistency. It just wouldn't be any fun if you can't hit what you're aiming at.

I will post more once I have the time to gather more supplies from the local hardware. Thanks for reading. :D

Edited by Wordbiker, 06 February 2006 - 03:47 AM.

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#13 Sponge Nerfer

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Posted 13 March 2006 - 08:28 PM

Hmmm...

I dont mean to be accusitory and I dont mean to take over the administrators job, (I know I am a noob) but I could not help but realize that on the pics you showed us there was a website. When I went to this website to check it out I found that someone with the user name Wordbiker had posted both of your pics on that website. The first one was posted on February 1st and the second one was posted on February 6th. For the second picture I got the impression that you had just bought those guns. I realize that you could very well also be a member of DragonModz.net but I cant help but wonder weather or not you truly have made that robot thing and bought those nerf guns.

I know I am probably being really stupid and missed something so please tell me if I am wrong.
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#14 boltsniper

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Posted 14 March 2006 - 12:26 AM

Look at the date of Wordbiker's last post in this thread
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#15 Sponge Nerfer

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Posted 14 March 2006 - 08:18 PM

OoOoOh

I told you I was probably being stupid and missed something.

Im sorry Wordbiker and thanks boltsniper for clearing that up.
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