Mechanical Donkey Kong features laser cut Mario

[Martin] just sent in a project he’s been working on that takes Donkey Kong out of the realm of pixels and sprites and puts our hero Mario into a world made of laser cut plywood.

This mechanical version of Donkey Kong uses an Arduino stuffed into an old NES to control Mario jumping over ball bearing ‘barrels.’ The game starts with 12 of these barrels ready to be thrown by our favorite gorilla antagonist, which Mario carefully dodges with the help of a pair of servos.

This is only the first iteration of [Martin]‘s mechanical version of Donkey Kong. The next version will keep the clever means of notifying the player if Mario is crushed by a barrel – a simple magnet glued to the back of the Mario piece – and will be shown at the UK Maker Faire next year.

Although [Martin]‘s ideas for a mechanical version of Donkey Kong aren’t fully realized with this build, it’s already a build equal to electromechanical Pong.

Speech recognition on an Arduino

Speech recognition is usually the purview of fairly high-powered computers chugging along at hundreds of Megahertz with megabytes of RAM. Bringing speech recognition to the low-power microcontroller you’d find in an Arduino sounds like the work of a mad scientist or Ph.D. candidate, but that’s exactly what [Arjo Chakravarty] did. He developed the μSpeech library for the Arduino to allow for speech recognition for a limited set of voice commands.

Where most speech recognition systems use FFT and very fancy math to determine what phonemes a user is saying, [Arjo]‘s system does away with this unnecessary complexity in favor of using very, very basic integral and differential calculus.

From [Arjo]‘s user guide for μSpeech (PDF warning) we can see it’s possible to connect a small microphone to the analog input of an Arduino and accept voice commands such as ‘left’, ‘right’, and ‘stop’. The accuracy is pretty good, as well – 80% if μSpeech is trying to recognize words, and 30-40% if μSpeech is programmed to recognize single phonemes.

Sadly we couldn’t find a demo video of μSpeech in action, but you’re more than welcome to grab it via github for your own project. Send us a video of μSpeech in action and we’ll put it up.

Communicating with a beam of light

Last weekend, ARRL, the national association of amateur radio, held a contest called, “10 GHz and up” with the goal of communicating via radio or microwaves over long distances. [KA7OEI] and a few friends decided to capitalize on the “and up” portion of the ’10 GHz and up” contest by setting up a full-duplex voice link over a distance of 95 miles. They used the 478 THz band, also known as red LEDs and laser pointers.

With [Ka7OEI]‘s friends [Ron] and [Elaine] perched atop a 5700 foot-high mountain near Park City, Utah, [Gordon], [Gary] and [KA7OEI] trudged up a hill about 10 miles north of Salt Lake City. With the help of a pair of 500,000 candlepower spotlights, the two teams found each other and began pointing increasingly higher power LEDs at each other.

The teams started off with 3 Watt red LEDs before moving up to 30 Watt LEDs and a photodetector at each end. Even though the teams weren’t working with a true line-of-sight – refraction of the atmosphere allowed them to transmit this far – they were able to transmit tone-modulated Morse and even full-duplex voice.

Not bad for a transmission that bends the FCC’s “275 GHz and up” amateur band to its breaking point.

Adding Famicom audio channles to an NES without messing up the console

[Callan Brown] wrote in to show us a really interesting NES audio hack. [Callen] decided that he wanted the full Castlevania III audio experience, which (without modifications) can only be had through the original Japanese Famicom console. [Callen] weighed a few adapter options, and instead decided to come up with his own.

The issue is that the Japanese Famicom and the American NES actually have a different cartridge connector. The change in hardware from a 60 pin to a 72 pin connector added “features” like the 10 pins connected directly to the expansion port (used for stuff like the teleplay modem, who knew). The other two additional pins are used by the annoying 10NES lockout chip. While they were at it, Nintendo decided to route the audio path through the expansion connector instead of the cartridge.

This means that the Japanese cartridges can’t pipe sound to the NES audio channel with just a pin adapter. Good news though, after sourcing a pin adapter hidden inside certain NES games (Stack Up, Gyromite), audio can easily just be pulled from the adapter PCB. This requires the more expensive Famicom Castlevania III cartridge (Akumajou Densetsu). To cleanly route the new audio cable out of his front loading NES [Callan] reuses the sacrificial adapter game’s cart to make some kind of unholy hybrid. To round it off [Callan] also goes over steps to flash a translated ROM to the Japanese game.

What difference could an extra two squares and a sawtooth make? Check out the sound comparison video after the jump! Thanks [Callan].

[Read more...]

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 96,405 other followers