Saturday, 7 January 2017

This Bionic Nerf Gun Can Be Fired Without a Hand

For the folks at Hackerloop, a collective of makers, tinkerers and engineers based in Paris, lots of things revolve around Nerf guns—and why not? There is a particular joy gained from shooting a friend with a foam projectile in the face. The Hackerloopers take this a step further though. Their Nerf guns are mounted on drones, robotic turrets—they’ve even rigged up a crazy one involving Google Glass. They’ve raised the bar with their latest Nerf creation, however: a bionic gun that can attach to an amputated or missing limb and be fired by muscle contraction.

Valentin Squirelo, co-founder of Hackerloop, said that the inspiration for the bionic nerf gun all came from a string of jokes involving a friend who had lost his hand. “It was too easy for us to win over him in Nerf battle,” he said in a Facebook Messenger conversation with Motherboard, half-jokingly.

While being competitive in a Nerf war probably isn’t the top of the priority list for those with amputations, Squirelo did point out that in all seriousness: “Being able to have fun with your friends with these wonderful toys is a real game-changer.” So he and his collaborators at Hackerloop set to work crafting a Nerf gun that could attach like a prosthetic hand to their friend’s arm, and that would also be able to fire on his command.

"We're just a bunch of hardware and software engineers, designers, and startup people who love making stupid stuff together."

It works like this. When their friend contracts the muscles in his forearm, a DIY myoware sensor made with a little Arduino circuit board evaluates the amount of electrical activity generated in his body. Electromyography (EMG), as this process is called, measures muscle activation via electric potential. It’s historically been used in the medical field for research and diagnosing neuromuscular disorders, but the advance of electronics has led to an explosion of EMG circuits and sensors in the fields of prosthetics and robotics.

When the electricity in their friend’s arm goes over a certain threshold, the Nerf mechanism, which is connected to the sensor, pulls the trigger and fires off a foam round. When the electricity from muscle activity dips below that threshold, the Nerf gun goes silent. A video of Squirelo’s friend emptying a nerf clip from a prototype of his new Nerf gun hand is on Hackerloop’s Instagram and YouTube. They plan on revealing a more complete version of the bionic toy gun online in February.

And you can expect Hackerloop to continue creating bizarre, yet awesome robotic Nerf creations, as well as other equally awesome but non-Nerf-related robots, like this grafitti drone. “We're just a bunch of hardware and software engineers, designers, and startup people who love making stupid stuff together,” said Squirelo.

In that vein, it’s worth mentioning another recent Hackerloop project of note: the “Nosulus Rift” a virtual reality headset that covers your nose, not your eyeballs. It allows you to smell things you experience inside of a videogame. So far, it’s exclusively compatible with the new South Park video game “The Fractured but Whole,” where you’ll intimately experience all of Cartman’s farts.

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