Kaossilator on the cheap

We recently stumbled on a way to turn a regular laptop into a poor man’s Kaossilator. Using the touchpad of your laptop, some PureData software, Touchpad2MIDI and a couple custom patches, [zenpho] has set everyone up to create that crazy electronic music that kids listen to these days.

But what was that? You cant afford a whole laptop, and need to make this happen on an even tighter budget? Oh, we’ve got your back. Using just the trackpad and an Arduino, [Bastiaan] has created a basic PS2 to Arduino to USB link which can be parsed by your favorite language of choice into a working MIDI interface. Good news for all the lazy hackers out there, he’s planning on swapping out the Arduino for a Teensy, and making a real USB to MIDI interface.

A Black Box Mystery

One of the members of the SomethingAwful forum recently found a black project box on the street (as seen above), with no idea what the thing did. After (hopefully) making sure there were no explosives, [noapparentfunction] posted a picture online to see if someone could figure it out. According to them, this is what the chips are labelled as:

Center black IC: MICREL Y22758C; 0417
Long white DIP switch IC: CTS 206-12; T438
Small black microcontroller on right: 12C508A; 04/P1V6; 0437. Has a tiny “M-inside circle” logo.

From our experience, we recognized the PIC on the board, but without some more photos, it makes this mystery a little more interesting.

Right now their best guess is a garage door opener of some kind because of the 12 DIP switch part. Any HAD readers willing to investigate and weigh in? The game is afoot!

[thanks to Dave D. who sent this in]

Human Tetris: object tracking on an 8-bit microcontroller

Elaborating on an item previously mentioned among last weekend’s Cornell final projects list, this time with video:

For their ECE final project, [Adam Papamarcos] and [Kerran Flanagan] implemented a real-time video object tracking system centered around an ATmega644 8-bit microcontroller. Their board ingests an NTSC video camera feed, samples frames at a coarse 39×60 pixel resolution (sufficient for simple games), processes the input to recognize objects and then drives a TV output using the OSD display chip from a video camera (this chip also recognizes the horizontal and vertical sync pulses from the input video signal, which the CPU uses to synchronize the digitizing step). Pretty amazing work all around.

Sometimes clever projects online are scant on information…but as this is their final grade, they’ve left no detail to speculation. Along with a great explanation of the system and its specific challenges, there’s complete source code, schematics, a parts list, the whole nine yards. Come on, guys! You’re making the rest of us look bad… Videos after the break…

[G’day Bruce]

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Hack a Day’s Dictionary of Questionable Utility™

We frequently receive inquiries from eager readers asking how they can best get started in electronics and computer projects. Countless great books have been written on these subjects, and of course now there’s our answers.hackaday.com site. But there’s a difference between being “book smart” and being “street smart.” What are the terms that you really need to know to get ahead in this field? We’ve collected a few of our favorites here.

Have any terms or definitions to add? Leave a note in the comments!

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Minimalist AVR programmer is just fab!

Whether you’re burning a new bootloader to an Arduino board, or doing away with a bootloader to flash Atmel chips directly, an in-system programmer (ISP) is an indispensable tool for working with AVR microcontrollers. If cost has held you back, it’s no longer an excuse: FabISP is a barebones USB-based AVR programmer that can be pieced together for about ten bucks.

FabISP was created by [David Mellis] as a product of MIT’s Fab Lab program, which provides schools with access to design and manufacturing tools based around a core set of fabrication capabilities, so labs around the world can share results. But the FabISP design is simple enough that you don’t need a whole fab lab. It’s a small, single-sided board with no drilling required; the parts are all surface-mounted, but not so fine-pitched as to require reflow soldering. Easy!

There’s still the bootstrap problem, of course: you need an AVR programmer to get the firmware onto the FabISP. This would be an excellent group project for a hackerspace, club or school: if one person can provide the initial programmer to flash several boards, each member could etch and assemble their own, have it programmed, then take these out into the world to help create more. We must repeat!

[Thanks Juan]

Button mapping for all

[Tim] came across a Kotaku story about a handicapped gamer who’s starting an Internet petition for button mapping features in all games. First of all, watch this guy play Modern Warfare 2 with a stock control, he’s got some mad skills. We’d normally be looking for a hardware solution like this PS3 Frankenstein controller or a controller emulator to do the job. There’s also the mix-and-match controller that Ben Heck sells. But we’re inclined to agree that button mapping is a useful feature for everyone, especially if you’re in [Chuck Bittner's] shoes. We still miss the console and macro capabilities of the original Quake… oh why didn’t that functionality make it into console gaming?

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