Emulating a marching band with wearable instruments

[Scott] is a design and technology master’s student who just came up with The Imaginary Marching Band – virtual band instruments you can wear on your hand.

Taking inspiration from Minority Report and the NES Power Glove, the system is able to emulate 6 instruments at this point – A trumpet, trombone, tuba, snare drum, bass drum, and cymbals. The glove itself reads data from a variety of sensors and passes that onto an Arduino Uno which sends serial data back to a computer. This data is then parsed by a Serial – MIDI converter, and can then be played back through a sampler, synthesizer or piped into your sequencer of choice. Happily, [Scott] will be designing custom PCBs for his gloves to cut down on space and weight, and he’ll also be making his project open-source eventually.

[Scott] has a kickstarter page for his project, and so far he’s been on track towards getting this project funded. Check out a demo after the break.

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Stress testing robots…with baseball bats


When you are working on constructing the first Cyberdyne Systems Model 101 prototype a super-robust robotic arm, you’ve got to test it somehow, right?

You probably recognize the robot being abused in the video below, as we have talked about the construction of its hand once once before. The German Aerospace Center has been working on the DLR Hand Arm System for some time now, and are obviously really excited to show you how their design performs.

In case you are not familiar, the arm you see there uses 52 different motors, miniaturized control electronics, and a slew of synthetic tendons to behave like a human arm – only much better. The system’s joints not only provide for an incredible amount of articulation, they are specially designed to allow the unit to absorb and dissipate large amounts of energy without damaging the structure.

We think that any human would be hard pressed to retain their composure, let alone be able move their arm after suffering a blow from a baseball bat, yet the robot arm carries on just fine. It’s awesome technology indeed.

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USB Geiger counter hack


[Vic] bought a Kvarts DRSB-01 Geiger counter a few years ago, and recently dug it out of his electronics stash. The counter is a run of the mil no-frills unit. It lacks any kind of LCD display and it cannot be calibrated, so Sievert exposure ratings are out of the question. The unit essentially monitors background radiation and alerts the user to the presence of gamma and high-energy beta rays via audible clicks.

[Vic] wanted to make it a bit more useful, so he decided to interface it with his computer in order to take long-term radiation measurements. He dug up a schematic online and deadbugged a small circuit using an ATtiny44. The circuit allows him to enumerate the electrical pulses generated by ionizing particles striking the Geiger tube, passing them along to his PC over USB.

The counter seems to interface with the PC just fine, but [Vic] does say that he’s getting some odd readings. He thinks that he might have damaged the tube while messing around, but he’s all ears if you have any insight on the matter.

Adding MIDI to a very old drum machine

Long before drum machines played samples from an SD card or EPROM, drum sounds were analog – just filtered waveforms and noise. To the modern eye, these are very primitive machines, but for [Andrew], they’re the inspiration for this brilliant hack.

[Andrew] took a Roland CR-68 drum machine from 1978 and added MIDI input with the help of a PIC microcontroller. Not wanting to modify the look of the machine, [Andrew] programmed the PIC to watch the START/STOP button when the the unit is powered on. If the button is held down, the PIC enters it’s programming mode, where the sounds from the CR-68 can be mapped to an individual note on a MIDI controller. There’s no mention if the TRIGGER IN is queried by the PIC to modify the tempo of the preset patterns, but we assume that would be a relatively trivial implementation. Still, very impressive for a machine made 4 years before MIDI.

We love [Andrew]‘s work, and we’re happy for any future owner that he documented how to use his device (and cleverly taped that to the bottom of the drum machine). It’s very nice to see old drum machines being used for more than doorstops after their samples have been recorded. Check out the video of [Andrew]‘s walk through after the break.

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Using Google’s ADK on standard Arduino hardware


When we heard that Google’s open accessory development standard was forthcoming, we were pretty excited. However once we heard that the reference hardware kit was going to cost nearly $400, our thoughts changed to, “Surely you can’t be serious.”

Well, Google is dead serious (and we hear they don’t take kindly to being called Shirley either.)

With such a ridiculous asking price, it was only a matter of time before someone tried getting the ADK software running on vanilla Arduino hardware. [Inopia] wrote in letting us know that he did just that.

Using an Arduino Uno and a Sparkfun USB shield, he was able to get the ADK working without a lot of fuss. He tweaked the ADK firmware image in order to bypass a couple of hardcoded pin assignments Google made, and he was good to go. The image boots just fine, though he can’t necessarily guarantee that his setup works with an Android handset, as he doesn’t currently own one that supports accessory mode.

Now that just about anyone can get their hands on the ADK at a reasonable price, we look forward to seeing what you can put together!

Monitor your home’s power usage on the cheap


[Paul] was pretty sure that he and his family used a lot of electricity throughout the day. Admittedly, he enjoys his creature comforts, but was wiling to try living a little greener. The problem was, he had no idea how much electricity he was using at a given time.

While some power companies offer devices allowing homeowners to monitor their energy usage, [Paul’s] did not. After a bit of research however, he was ready to build a power monitoring system of his own. He found that his meter emits a small infrared pulse every time a watt-hour of electricity is consumed, so his system counts how many flashes occur to measure usage.

The counting circuit is pretty simple consisting of only an AVR, a resistor, a capacitor, and a phototransistor. The data is fed to a computer where the results are graphed with gnuplot.

It’s quite a useful little hack, and undoubtedly far cheaper than purchasing a whole house power monitor.