Insects turned into orchestra; not harmed but terribly inconvenienced

[Jochem] has always been fascinated by chaos in nature, whether it’s a swarm of ants or evolution in action in a petri dish. His insect orchestra takes the chaos in the natural world and changes it into something completely artificial. In this case, MIDI.

For the build, a light sensor was placed at the bottom of a test tube. A cricket (or grasshopper, or locust) is then put into the test tube. The test tube is then closed up with a cap that houses a LED. An Arduino reads the light sensors and then transmits the data over MIDI. The MIDI commands are picked up in Abelton Live which converts everything to audio.

[Jochem] rigged up Abelton to have the insects perform in four different modes – instrument, synthesis, samples, and drums. Definitely an improvement over the humble Mexican Jumping bean.

You can check out the insect orchestra in action after the break.

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Making a Bluetooth Headset into a Wireless Music Streaming Device

This bluetooth headset hack, although simple, may provide some hacking inspiration. Turning a Bluetooth headset into a wireless input for one’s stereo is definitely something that makes one think “why didn’t I think of that?” It’s also good if you’ve got a tight hacking budget as there’s not a lot of stuff to buy.

In addition to a possibly broken headset, a 3.5mm stereo plug and some wires are needed for this. Throw in some tools that every good hacker should have around like a soldering iron and glue gun and you’re ready to get started. [Dex] does a good job of describing the process, from disassembling the headset to wiring the stereo plug to it. When making the conversion, one must remember to bridge the left and right output channels, as most headsets only output a mono signal.

There’s not a whole lot else required to do this hack.  Could be a good beginner project. For another Bluetooth-based hack using scrounged equipment, check out this Cellphone controlled retro-radio hack.

VGA video output with an ATtiny

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[Fernando] is working on creating a game at home, with live scoring displayed on a large LCD TV. He’s keeping mum as to what the game entails, but he was more than happy to spill the details on how he planned to use the television as a wireless scoreboard.

The writeup is the first part in what will likely be a substantial series of progress reports, covering how he used an ATtiny45 to drive his LCD display. Eventually, the scoreboard will use a Bluetooth adapter for wireless input, but his immediate goal was to get the display running properly.

He explains how he uses the tiny micro and its limited set of I/O pins to drive the display, dipping into some of the technical details along the way. He discusses how he worked out the timings of the VSYNC and HSYNC pulsing, as well as how how the characters are actually drawn on the screen.

The article isn’t overly heavy on the technical details, and he has sample code available so you can take a look at how the VGA magic was done, so be sure to check it out.

Engine Hacks: The Kawaskai Voyager… V-12?

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Although a V-12 engine is always nice, cramming one into a motorcycle definitely qualifies as an engine hack! [Allen Millyard], wasn’t satisfied with the standard number of cylinders (6!) on his already gigantic Kawasaki KZ1300. Like any reasonable person, he decided to graft two of their powerplants together!

In true engine hacker form, inspiration struck at a classic bikes show when someone said “Suppose you’re going to make a V-12 next, then?” [Allen] replied that it would be impossible, but after this conversation, he reportedly had to build one. By the time the show ended he’d figured out how to do it. Lots of work and two six-cylinder engines later, [Allen] had proven this task to be possible.

Although this may seem like a very extreme motorcycle engine hack, [Allen] has done quite a few motorcycle engine mods, making v-twins out of a pair of single-cylinder engines and a V-eight from two four-cylinder engines. Check out the video of his latest beast after the break! Continue reading “Engine Hacks: The Kawaskai Voyager… V-12?”

Addressing Microchip’s open source problem

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Hackaday alum and owner of Dangerous Prototypes [Ian Lesnet] recently wrote an editorial piece calling out Microchip on some of their less than friendly attitudes towards open source.

[Ian] and his company use PIC microcontrollers extensively in their projects, and they have quite a high opinion of their products overall. The gripe that he has (and thinks you should have too) is regarding Microchip’s approach to open source.

You see, Microchip invested in the Arduino IDE and released the chipKIT, a 32-bit Arduino compatible development board, along with big promises of “playing nice” with the open source community. The problem, according to [Ian], is that while Microchip’s compilers are based on GCC, they “keep some special sauce locked up”, which means that certain parts of the chipKIT toolchain are not open. Many in the community, including [Ian] had high hopes for the chipKIT based on the successes seen by Atmel’s open source initiatives, but many things are still locked up behind closed licenses.

An example of this unfriendly attitude towards open source can be seen in Digilent’s recently released network shield. It supports Ethernet and USB features of the chipKIT MEGA, but the TCP/IP and USB stacks are completely closed source. Digilent pushed hard to get the ability to release open drivers for the board, but it was a battle they ultimately lost. This behavior creates roadblocks for seasoned developers of open source products such as Dangerous Prototypes, as well as the curious beginner, which is why [Ian] is making a point in bringing these issues to light.

[Ian] urges Microchip to give something significant back to the community they are tapping, a result which can only be achieved by speaking up. Be sure to check out his editorial, and if after reading it you have any interest in letting your voice be heard, drop Microchip a line and let them know that their one-way relationship with the open source community is something you would like see change.

Dustbin computer lets you clean and prototype with a Neato XV-11

So you bought yourself a Neato XV-11 and your floors have never been cleaner. The only problem is that you want to hack around with the hardware without losing your floor-sweeping minion. [Hash] found a solution to the issue by building a computer inside of the dustbin module.

You can see at the center of the image above a touchscreen. Normally this is just blank plastic, as it’s the removable container where your floor sweepings go, but [Hash] was inspired by the modular design. Since that bin is intended to be removable, it’s a perfect way to make add-on hardware removable. All he needed to do was find a way to connect to the Neato’s own electronics. The solution was a non-standard USB cable.

Using the guts from an Insignia Infocast 3.5 (he picked several of them up on clearance at Christmas) he  milled an opening for the touch screen, added a cooling fan, and wired up a toggle switch (not pictured above) which powers everything from the 14-17V coming in from that USB cable. The Infocast is a Chumby with a different branding so there’s plenty of Linux-based power and it’s WiFi enabled. Watch [Hash’s] walk through video after the break to see all that went into this clever concept.

We haven’t seen too many hacks that make use of the Neato XV-11. [Hash] is the same guy who hacked the Lidar on the unit, but there must be others turning out impressive projects. Don’t hesitate to send in a tip if you know of one.

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My first robot: A simple demo to get kids excited about robotics

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[Will] from Revolt Lab needed a project to get the summer campers he supervises interested in electronics, but when your audience is 5 years old, your subject matter had better be simple, yet interesting enough to hold their attention at length. He settled on using a Lego NXT robot to keep their little minds engaged, because who doesn’t like robots?

He picked up a basic Lego NXT kit and paged through the manual. The first “example” robot looked pretty cool so he decided to give it a shot, though he still hadn’t figured out exactly what he would have the robot do. Inspiration struck, and he decided that he could take advantage of the NXT’s color sensor as well as its proximity sensor to construct a balloon hunting robot.

He constructed a “balloon corral” to keep the balloons in place and the kids out of his thumbtack-wielding robot’s reach. He let his creation loose, and as you can see in the video below, the robot hunts down the blue balloon and pops it, much to the children’s delight.

If you’re in the position to introduce a group of young kids to electronics, this balloon popping robot paired with some conductive Play Dough would make for a fun and educational afternoon workshop.

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