We at Gomi Style are pleased to announce the launch of our new sister site: SparkyJr.com.

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Sparky Jr. is a one-stop shop for everything you need to make your own DIY videochat robot. We give you free software, instructions, templates and more – Plus a whole community of people making their own telepresence robots and rovers.  Post your projects, ask questions, and see what others are making.

The Sparky project has been featured in Make Magazine, on PRI’s Studio 360 radio show, and been presented at AFI’s DigiFest, The San Jose Museum of Art, the SFMoMA and museums and galleries throughout the country.

Click Now and join the growing community of DIY Telepresence robot builders

Wow! I’m a double finalist! Two of my TV show pitches are in the top 10 finals of the Slamdance Unscripted Teleplay Competition. The winner will be announced next week. Wish me luck!

Here is a short teaser for PROMOSEXUAL, one of my finalists and one of the earliest appearances of Gomi Style.

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Altoids_garden

Everyone seems to be putting their DIY projects into Altoids tins and other candy containers.  I’ve been collecting these small containers for a while but didn’t have a use for them until now.  The Altoids Garden.

These tiny succulents cuttings and small herbs seem to be thriving in organic potting soil.  I water them a few times a day.

A single cutting in organic soil covered with black stones.  A tiny bonsai in a promotional CD case.  They will likely stay small with such a small volume of soil.  They should be misted a few times a day but don’t overwater.  A light covering of stones will help keep the soil moist.  Perfect for the office.

I really know very little about plants. However, all of these small succulents are native to Northern CA and are very hearty. I plucked them out of my yard like weeds. They require minimal care and watering. The Banzai were chosen based on small size. I have one that is a Pine, and a few others I don’t know. I also grew cat grass and other sprouting seeds. The only plant that didn’t last long were the herbs, because they need to grow – the succulents and Banzai are content to remain small.

I didn’t intend to make a Bioshock / Fallout 3 character mash-up.

Self Portrait - Fly Daddy

Self Portrait - Fly Daddy

The Self Portrait – Fly Daddy. Over the course of months, objects in my studio get assembled in interesting ways -  like legos, but with junk.  Bits and pieces are added, then taken away, then added again, until the assemblage of found objects and recycled scrap transforms into “something.”  At first, it may be unclear what the new thing is  –but as I continue to work, listening to the materials and their stories, they usually suggests a figurative character, some kind of weird living being with a personal narrative and rich history.

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Fly Daddy Side View

This new piece seems to ask the question: What do you get when you cross a Big Daddy from Bioshock with a Bloatfly from Fallout 3?

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Fly Daddy Rear View

The answer is some kind of armored flying Cyclops apparently.

flydaddy_detail

Fly Daddy Detail

Some of the materials used include a video loop played on an embedded mini DVD player and LCD monitor, a coffee bean dispenser, a paper lantern, a brass drain cover, several magnifying lenses, brass wallet chain, scrap textiles, brass and copper hardware.

Enjoy this short video of some recent artworks. They are kinetic sculptures made with found objects, obsolete TV’s, toys and trash. Sometimes referred to as Cyberpunk or Steampunk, these transhuman sculptures reflect a dystopian mashup of humanity’s past and future. Influences include City of Lost Children, Fallout 3, Bioshock, Diamond Age, The Difference Engine and Leonardo da Vinci.

Sparky and Marque

Sparky and Marque

Make: Magazine has assembled a terrific profile of the Sparky project in anticipation of Maker Faire Bay Area 2009.  Read it Here.

The folks at Make are a great bunch.  They publish an essential how-to magazine and host the ultimate DIY science and art fairs all over the world.   They have always been supportive of Sparky.  Thanks Make!

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Sparky uses a Mac Mini and LCD

Over the years, Sparky has gone through many changes and upgrades.  The current version uses a Mac mini  and Lilliput headrest LCD monitor.  At first these components were powered by a small 12v. lead acid battery connected to a DC/AC inverter, but here’s a simple hack for running a them both directly from a lithium ion battery pack.  Since the Mac and battery  both run on DC power, this hack eliminates the DC/AC inverter and the Mac’s brick-sized wall wart.  And the Li-Ion battery is a fraction of the size and the shaves more than 7 lbs. of the robot’s weight.

The new battery is a Digipower, 4.4Ah universal laptop battery from Radio Shack.  It comes with a charger and a bunch of adapters for different laptops, cellphones and PDA’s.   It offers a choice of 16 or 19 volts out, as well as  a standard 5 V USB port.  The Mac Mini requires between 14 and 18 V. and is easily powered from the primary power out, but the monitor is designed to run on 12 V  A little probing on the battery’s internal circuit revealed an onboard 12 v. source, but getting that 12 V. power to the monitor would likely require a hole cut into the case and some sort of adapter hanging out, unless we opted to use the USB out to power the 12 V. monitor.

12 v. jumper wired added go Digipower battery circuit

Jumper wired added to battery

This part of the job was much easier than we originally thought, requiring little more than splicing a single jumper wire on the battery circuit board.  This choice comes with a BIG WARNING however.  USB uses a 5 V power standard.  Rewiring the USB for 12 V. means it will instantly DESTROY any and all USB devices  plugged into it.  It is ONLY to be used as a power source for this 12 V. monitor.  It is highly recommended that you clearly label this USB port so that it doesn’t become a iPod killer or worse.

The only other part of the job is splicing Molex connectors to the Mini’s Power cord and RCA connectors to the monitor. We added connectors to both the original and the new wires so the robot can switch back and forth between the two batteries in just a minute.

Why Molex and RCA connectors?  Two reasons.  First, both connectors are designed to work reliably over and over, and second, I already had them lying around.

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RCA spliced into USB for LCD power cord

Molex spliced on Mac's power cord

Molex spliced on Mac's power cord

Lead acid vs. Li-Ion

Lead acid vs. Li-Ion

In a somewhat scientific head-to-head test of both battery systems, we put them each on Sparky in full running mode.  The original lead acid edged out the Li-ion with a running time of 1:35 to 1:10.

These results are pretty close to each other considering the lead acid is rated at 7Ah and the Li-ion is rated at 4.4Ah.

We also discovered that the Li-Ion runs a bit hot, so Frank suggested cutting a hole in the case, adding a 40mm fan and running it directly from the battery internally – the fan can be powered off the USB’s original 5 v. source, so it’s a fairly straight forward modification.  I’ll update this post when I have pictures of that.

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