Automating Rock Band vocals

rockband_audio_simulator

When it comes to Rock Band, our friends suck at singing. No, really.

We’re cool with them beating on the drum set completely off-time, but the sound of them trying to sing “Tom Sawyer” makes us want to cut out our eardrums.

We’re willing to bet that Cornell students [Gautam Kamath and Dominick Grochowina] have friends like ours. Their Electrical and Computer Engineering final project aims to remove the tone deaf from in front of the microphone, allowing a computer to sing vocals instead.

Since Rock Band simply listens for the proper frequency to be sung, the pair figured it would be easy enough to monitor the game’s output and feed computer-generated signals back into the microphone. Once the game’s vocal bar is isolated via a series of filters, an ATMega644 is used to interpret the notes and generate the corresponding tone via a speaker.

While automating Rock Band gameplay is nothing new, we don’t recall seeing anyone try to cut the singer from the band. We think it’s a pretty cool concept – rock on!

Edit: Updated with video

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Google? In my lightbulbs? It’s more likely than you think

led_lighting_by_google

With the recent announcement and release of their ADK, it was only a matter of time before Google started invading your home in a big way. From the looks of it, Google will be jumping into the home lighting market very shortly, which could prove to be quite interesting.

Partnering with Florida-based Lighting Sciences, Google is planning on developing consumer-grade 60W equivalent smart LED light bulbs. The bulbs will be able to wirelessly communicate using Google’s new open-source home networking protocol. The lights will be controllable using any Android device allowing users to dim, brighten and toggle the lights on and off without ever touching a wall switch.

We think it’s an interesting idea, and we’re all for getting quality LED lighting in the home. That said, some of Google’s other utility-centric endeavors such as PowerMeter have met only mediocre success, so it remains to be seen if this concept takes off. If it does however, we can’t wait to see the flood of ADK-based hacks the community puts together. Since their new wireless protocol will likely be extended to all sorts of other household systems, the possibilities are endless.

GSM-to-Skype bridge lets you lose those roaming fees

Here’s the scenario: you’re going to be traveling somewhere and you’ll be charged roaming fees if you use your cellphone. But there is free WiFi available in this place. You can save yourself money by leaving your SIM card at home and using a GSM-to-Skype bridge to take calls on your phone via WiFi.

[Trax] is using a USB GSM modem to take cellphone calls on a PC. He leaves his sim card in this modem so that it can make and receive calls and text messages through your normal telephone number. For some reason, the USB connection only provides control of this modem and doesn’t pass bi-directional audio. To make this happen, he built an audio interface cable using two transformers and a few passive components to connect the modem to the computer’s audio card.

On the software side of things, an application written in Delphi 7 manages the modem, the audio stream, and the Skype application. When a call is incoming it sets up a Skype connection with your handset via the Internet, passing along the caller ID data in the process. If you choose to answer the Skype session the application will pick up the GSM call and you’ll be connected. It works the same way when placing an outgoing call.

This seems easier to manage than a rig that physically pushes a cellphone’s buttons via the Internet.

[Thanks Mure]

Touch-based synthesizer is a wiring nightmare

[Jane] wrote in to let us know about the touch-based synthesizer she and her classmates just built. They call it the ToneMatrix Touch, as it was inspired by a flash application called ToneMatrix. We’re familiar with that application as it’s been the inspiration for other physical builds as well.

A resistive touch screen in the surface glass of the device provides the ability to interact by tapping the cells you wish to turn on or off. Below the glass is a grid of LEDs which represent sound bits in the looping synthesizer track. Fifteen shift registers drive the LED matrix, with the entire system controlled by an ATmega644 microcontroller. Although the control scheme is very straight forward, the jumper wires used to connect the matrix to the shift registers make for a ratsnest of wireporn that has been hidden away inside the case. Check out the demonstration video after the break to see what this looks like and sounds like when in use.

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Adding power trim to a boat

[Matt's] boat had a trim plate that could be adjusted by hand. The problem with this setup is that the trim angle of a boat changes as you speed up or slow down. Last year he never really went over 35 MPH because of this issue, but he set out to correct that by adding power trim plates for the upcoming boating season.

The original trim plate didn’t have a hinge on it, but simply flexed when tension was added to the adjustment hardware. [Matt] removed the plate and cut it into three parts; one long thin strip to serve as a mounting bracket, and two plates to independently adjust trim for the left and right side of the keel. Some aluminum strip hinges connect the three pieces, and a pair of used actuators acquired from eBay automate the trim adjustment. Each plate is strengthened by a pair of angle brackets, which also serve as a mounting point for the actuators. The final step was to add a pair of switches near the throttle lever which are used to make manual adjustments when the boat is in motion.

DIY hidden bookshelf speakers

hidden_speakers

[Steve] was tired of looking at the speakers in his workshop and began searching around for something a little more aesthetically pleasing. Having recently received a set of hollowed out books used for hiding things as a gift, he thought that he might be able to solve his speaker issue in a similar fashion.

He grabbed a couple of books from a local thrift store and promptly removed the pages. They were replaced with cloth-covered plywood to make the device more sturdy while simulating the look of pages.

He mounted his speaker inside one of the books, and in a second installed a small 7W Class A amplifier. A third book houses a padded compartment to hold his iPod, completing the set.

[Steve] reports that the speakers are pretty much undetectable, and the sound quality is decent too. In fact, we’ve started looking for some old books to re-purpose in our workshop as well.

I2C 101

Embedded Labs has come out with a very detailed I2C 101  tutorial, that you should check out if you have any questions on the system. I2C is a short distance serial interface that only requires 2 bus lines. Keep in mind that as wires go down complexity goes up. While there are more than a few I2C devices out there in the wild, and the 2 wire system does make wiring a breeze sometimes, the information required to make use of it often seems confusing to someone who is just starting with it.

The tutorial covers basic theory, stop / start conditions, addressing, data transfer, and acknowledgment plus illustrations. A couple of specific examples are given in the form of a 24LC512 serial eeprom, and a DS1631 digital thermometer complete with code.

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