Saturday, March 2, 2013

Robot Targets

Fail Train Automation Robotic Target Stand Set (RTS) - V1.0

Summary: The RTS is designed to teach reactive shooting, vigilance in searching for targets, and rapid target assessment for anyone involved in shooting sports or professions. The shoot-though design of the target stands makes the compatible with anything from airsoft to AP 50 BMG.

Detailed Description: Each of the four RTS targets can rotate to show either an enemy side, a friendly side, or the edge of the target (indicating no-shoot). The targets are shifted to the right so it is obvious whether the shot went to the enemy or the friendly. All four targets are driven from a single control box, connected by ethernet cables. The control box has four algorithms for the targets which are selected by a knob on the top of the box. A remote control is then used to turn the targets off or on. The control box has a self-contained battery which can last for several days of continuous use.
  • 1 vs. 1 Algorithm (click for video) : The 1:1 algorithm is the most basic, showing a single friendly and a single enemy. After several rounds, the targets face you so you can score your work.
  • 3 vs. 1 Algorithm (click for video) : The 3:1 algorithm is the more difficult, showing a single friendly and a three enemy. This is a challenging ratio and timing on purpose; it will help you find and improve the limit of your speed and duration.
  • Chaos Algorithm (click for video) : The chaos algorithm shows an unknown number of friendly and enemy with an unknown amount of time between. The lack of predictability of this algorithm will help you break any patterns you might be learning from the 1:1 or 3:1 algorithms.
  • Vigilance Algorithm : This algorithm waits an unspecified but long amount of time between events and launches attacks of unspecified strength. Only shooters who are most committed and patient will feel confident in their shooting against this algorithm.
  • Q: How do I add/modify algorithms?
  • A: The control box is powered by an Arduino micro-controller. Opening the cover and removing the black side panels will expose the Arduino's USB port. You can download and modify the existing programming by going to
  • Q: The remote control seem to only go about 50 feet, how can I shoot at longer ranges?
  • A: RTS can be connected to an external switch in addition to the internal remote control. Your RTS came with an additional cable connector that plugs into the front of the control box, right next to the batter charger. Closing the circuit on the two wires of that cable connector will turn the machine on in exactly the same way as the remote control does.
  • Q: Workmanship on the RTS seems kind of poor, why is that?
  • A: I've designed every piece possible of the RTS to not need exact tolerances. For example, the welds might look bad, but the targets are mostly made out of 1/8" thick, 1/2" wide mild steel and even a messy weld on this is very strong. In the end, this design means I can make them on the deck of my apartment on weekends instead of having to spin up and manage some factory overseas like everyone else does.
  • Q: What if I shoot the RTS motors or controller box? They don't seem to be armored.
  • A: If shot, they will be destroyed. Don't shoot them. I recommend practicing such that you never let bullets go significantly off-target. For example, shoot only within a small area on a given target and treat shots outside that area as 'misses' even if they hit the paper somewhere else. If you find yourself hitting outside of that area regularly, get closer. If you're already at point-blank range and still at risk of hitting the robotics perhaps it's time to practice on static targets for a while instead.
  • Q: Can I plug the targets or the controller box into my computer? They seem to use ethernet cables.
  • A: Do not ever plug the ethernet/network-cables from the RTS into a computer; they will likely destroy the computer. RTS does not actually follow the ethernet standards or protocols. Instead, ethernet cables were chosen here because they were cheap and readily available in many lengths. This means that owners like you can buy your own longer or shorter cables depending on your needs.
  • Q: What's up with the see-through pipe section that sticks out the side of each target stand?
  • A: This is the position sensor. Notice that when the target turns it moves the slider. That slider tells the controller where the target is. Though less durable than a shaft-encoder, this system does not require calibration or limit switches and saved you about $300 off the price of the RTS.
  • Q: Why can't I select the target algorithm by remote control?
  • A: Multi-select remote controls are more expensive. You can hack this by removing the cover and re-wiring the selector switch yourself.
  • Q: What kind of deal is this; you keep talking about things you did to make it cheaper but it's not exactly pocket change?
  • A: You should have seen what it would have cost with all the extras that 90% of people wouldn't use. Robots are just expensive that way. Unless they're made by children in China, which this one wasn't.