Make an Arduino talk to you


One of the highlights from the Music Hack Day in Berlin was the Arduino singing “Daisy Bell”. If you don’t know, this is an homage to the HAL 9000 in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey; an artificial intelligence that was taught the song in its first steps toward self awareness culminating in an attempt to kill its masters.

It’s unlikely an Arduino will every make it to the point of attempted homicide but with the available code you can find out. Sample code and an explanation of human synthesis is now available through the Cantarino project. The project facilitates the use of phonemes from the SAM Apple II synthesizer to build wave forms that make up recognizable speech on the Arduino platform. The code illustrates how to select and link together speech sounds from the library. Check out the video after the break and then get to work on your own speech synthesis. We’re waiting for someone to put together the theme song from the 1980’s Transformers cartoon. Good luck!

[picture: jeanbaptistparis]


  1. Entropia says:

    Yeah, nice proof-of-concept but the sound quality is just disgusting and I couldn’t make out a single word.

  2. monkeyslayer56 says:

    i love the picture :)

  3. Timothy says:

    Actually, it’s a homage to the IBM 704, which sang this song and is considered the first computer to sing. HAL’s rendition, in the movie, is a homage to this computer as well.


    As an additional tidbit, if you take each letter in HAL and move it forward by one character you arrive at IBM.

  4. biozz says:

    ok .. i have taken quite a few pictures of the arduino … not one in someones mouth … but i applaud you XD

  5. Caleb Kraft says:

    I saw a documentary at some point about that. It explained that HAL was in fact an homage. good job.

  6. Ben Ryves says:

    @Timothy: Adding one letter to HAL to get IBM was an accident, according to Clarke. Interesting information otherwise!

  7. shudder says:

    Please… someone tell that dude in the video to trim his nails.

  8. The Moogle says:

    I hope that board is ROHS compliant or it is hello lead poisoning :-D

  9. uh, dude says:

    As smug as his look was I was expecting a teensy bit more coolness, but on the upside- those nails look like they can pluck a mean guitar.

  10. DarkFader says:

    Anyone know a good rss filter? I need to filter out the a-word.

  11. Rivetgeek says:

    I dont understand all the arduino hate. This is a cool hack using easily available hardware. If you want to program your own chips with a custom boot loader and instruction set, great. But nobody in their right mind would prototype with a custom circuit.

  12. sjc says:

    I want to hear it say “Greetings, Professor Falken. How about a nice game of chess?”

  13. Chris says:

    Saw this a while ago on Make and considered it more “humming” than singing. Can anyone understand _anything_ that is being said?

  14. incognito53 says:

    if an arduino does any more toilet tweets or toy car-making contact then, YES, i do believe it probably would commit suicide

  15. svofski says:

    This is pretty cool and reminds me of Robotic Liberation:

  16. Mike Szczys says:

    @sjc: YES! That is indeed what I’d like to hear as well.

    @Timothy: You’re right, HAL singing was an homage to the IBM 704. But for me, hearing a microcontroller singing drums up the man-vs-machine movie memories despite knowing the facts.

  17. nope says:

    speakjet anyone?

  18. KAH says:

    “It’s unlikely an Arduino will every make it to the point of attempted homicide,” What? No KAH (Kill All Humans) opcode!?
    I always love when a computer of some kind sings “Daisy Bell” ever since I watched 2001: A Space Odyssey…

  19. Eww what the fuck is up with those fingernails.

  20. b says:


    try playing the video again and listen closley for the “I’m” in “daisy, daisy, give me your answer true, I’m half crazy over the love of you”

    ps: i heard that when the ibm 704 “sang” daisy bell, it left a subliminal message in the song if so, does anyone know what the message is?

  21. svofski says:

    @b, the subliminal message is “buy moar arduino”

  22. Amos says:

    Also, FWIW, the “robot” voices in the Transformers theme were probably done with either a vocoder or “talk box” (

    In fact, Hasbro sold a Transformers “voice changer” back in the 80’s. It was basically a battery-powered aquarium pump. You put the vinyl tube under your tongue and your voice modulated the hum (or vice versa?). I don’t remember it being all that fun :P

  23. draeath says:

    The motor would be the carrier, your voice the modulator. That’s how vocoders usually work (synth is the carrier).

    That said, you can always flip that around if that’s the sound you want.

  24. mjrippe says:

    I built a speech synth for my Commodore 64 using the SP0256 chip. It has 64 phonemes and pauses and is dead simple to use. Sounds better too!

  25. Sigg3 says:

    @mjrippe: Send in your version of the song then so we can compare!

  26. rohmell says:

    I tried this on a Mega 2560 R3 and it didn’t work.

  27. DK says:

    I would like to hear the computer talk like the enterprise from star trek that would be nice. and simple.

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