The Vibrotron

Behold the Vibrotron! Constructed by the Carnegie Melon University robotics club, the vibrotron is a piece of a larger project called the robOrchestra. The mechanics in action here are quite simple. You have two reservoirs of small steel balls. One at the bottom, one at the top. The bottom ones are fed to the top ones using an Archimedes’ screw. Once at the top, they are dispensed through some tubing down to plink off of a vibraphone key. All of the timing is done via solenoids mounted at the end of the tubes. The final product reminds us of the Animusic animations that were put out a few years ago.

For this system, since they wanted this to be an automated and reconfigurable bot, they are using an Arduino to control the solenoids. This way they can change songs as they please. We have to admit though, we’d love to see one where the timing for the song was all done through tube length or some other passive system allowing it to be hand cranked and purely mechanical.

[via Make]

Comments

  1. Woodstock says:

    Gameletron will assimilated vibroton!! If vibrotron resists it will be destroyed!!!

  2. Chish says:

    Why is it just making a terrible noise instead of playing a song?

  3. Talented musical composers may want to check out the original story for information as to how to submit MIDI files for performance.

    http://www.iheartrobotics.com/2011/04/nrw2011-roborchestra.html

  4. buckwheat says:

    I had hoped for something else

  5. Elias says:

    I would think that the tubes are full of the balls as much as possible and the thing in the end of the tube is a solenoid controlled “valve” that let’s off one ball at a time.

  6. justme2 says:

    Sounds like the screw adds too much noise to hear the music properly. I’d like to hear what it sounds like with that part off.

    Maybe they could change the shape of the bearing reservoir to isolate the screw from it, unless that wave action is there to keep the bearings from getting stuck in the hopper.

  7. Aleks Clark says:

    yes but why not angle the vibraphone keys inwards so the balls roll right into the bottom bucket?

  8. zool says:

    looks like something from animusic

  9. barry99705 says:

    @zool

    Probably why they mentioned it in the post.

  10. Erik Johnson says:

    I was totall expecting animusic, instead I’m reminded of a pachinko parlor/slot machine row.

  11. brad says:

    i’m really trying hard to recognize the song, but all i’m hearing is noise.

  12. MrTaco says:

    It’s Mozart’s Turkish March. Go to around 0:50, you can hear the recognisable chorus part there.

  13. StumpieMacGee says:

    We’re experiencing the same effect as not sitting in the “sweet spot” for a marching band. If they were to mic it in the center above this particular instrument, it would be more discernible. That doesn’t fix the noise, but this is still a very impressive concept (especially in light of the bigger picture). Kudos to CMU Robotics.

  14. Swankie says:

    crappy recording with “auto-leveling”. they need to set the recording level manually beforehand, else it will amplify the random noise whenever theres a tiny bit of relative silence.

  15. zengar says:

    @Aleks Clark: Probably angling the key’s inward would result in the balls bouncing off of each other/the screw, resulting in even more random noise.

  16. Bruce Perens says:

    This looks very much like an instrument from Animusic’s piece “Pipe Dream”.

  17. am_i_evil says:

    ex-term-in-ate!!

  18. Maruneagle says:

    Those are Vibraphone keys. The worst thing you could possibly use to play those is metal. It would sound much better if you could get your hands on some rubber instead.

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