Quasimotor? A Robot Bell Ringer

In large churches that still use real bells in their bell towers, a large number of them ring bells using a method called full circle ringing. In order to get the bells to sound at exactly the right time, the bells are rung by swinging the entire bell in an almost complete 360-degree arc. This helps to mitigate the fact that often times, the bells weigh more than the person ringing the bells. However, if you don’t have access to a belfry, you can practice ringing bells using this method with your own full circle bell simulator.

The frame for the bell was built from some leftover aluminum extrusion and allows the bell to easily swing on some old skateboard bearings. The mechanism is electrically controlled, too, using a hall effect sensor and a USB adapter so that it can be interfaced with a computer running a virtual bell ringing suite. Once some timing issues are worked out, the bell is all set up and ready to practice ringing changes.

If you’re as fascinated as we are to find that there are entire software suites available to simulate bell ringing, and an entire culture built around something that most of us, perhaps, wouldn’t have given a second thought to outside of walking past a church on a Sunday, there have been a surprising number of other bell-related projects over the years. Bells have been given MIDI interfaces and robotified, and other church instruments like a pipe organ have been created almost from scratch.

MIDI Guitar Pedals

Ever since Jimi Hendrix brought guitar distortion to the forefront of rock and roll, pedals to control the distortion have been a standard piece of equipment for almost every guitarist. Now, there are individual analog pedals for each effect or even digital pedals that have banks of effects programmed in. Distortion is just one of many effects, and if you’ve built your own set of pedals for each of these, you might end up with something like [Brian]: a modular guitar pedal rack.

ae0fmjxTaking inspiration from modular synthesizers, [Brian] built a rack out of wood to house the pedal modules. The rack uses 16U rack rails as a standard, with 3U Eurorack brackets. It looks like there’s space for 16 custom-built effects pedals to fit into the rack, and [Brian] can switch them out at will with a foot switch. Everything is tied together with MIDI and is programmed in Helix. The end result looks very polished, and helped [Brian] eliminate his rat’s nest of cables that was lying around before he built his effects rack.

MIDI is an extremely useful protocol for musicians and, despite being around since the ’80s, doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. If you want to get into it yourself, there are all kinds of ways that you can explore the studio space, even if you play an instrument that doesn’t typically use MIDI.

Slow 3.5″ Raspberry Pi LCD Hacked to 40 MHz with ESP8266

As microcontrollers become more and more common, we see more ways to get a lot of performance out of one chip. A great example of this was the ESP8266 which was originally seen as a cheap WiFi card but has since blossomed into its own dev platform thanks to the horsepower hidden within. To that end, [Martin] is trying to push the now-ubiquitous WiFi chip even further by rolling out his own LCD driver for it from scratch.

The display of choice is the KeDei LCD 3.5″ module which was originally intended for use with a Raspberry Pi. [Martin] points out that this display isn’t optimized for speed, but after everything is said and done he has its clock line running at 40 MHz. To get this kind of speeds from the LCD, he depopulates the first shift register and adds his own fast-propagation circuit to establish a more-traditional serial addressing mode. With use of a WLCD driver that [Martin] also wrote, it is now relatively easy to draw on the screen very quickly with an ESP module. Check it out in the video below.

If you’re looking for your own tiny, cheap, fast display, this is one cool way to do it but we would suggest spinning a carrier board for both the ESP and the added circuitry. We’re looking forward to future projects which puts devices like these inside of really tiny magic mirrors, or uses them in other places where a small graphical display would be handy.

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Vote With Your Feet

Gamifying life is silly, fun, and a great way to interact with those strangers who you pass everyday. Here’s one example that might just pop up along your next walk to work. It’s a way to take a very unscientific straw poll on any topic — you won’t even have to use your hands to cast a ballot.

A group called [Vote With Your Feet] has come up with a novel way of casting ballots. Simply walk down the sidewalk and through one of two doorways, each labeled with either side of a dichotomy. Each doorway is able to count the number of people that pass through it, so any issue imaginable can be polled. They already did vim vs emacs (59 to 27),  and we’d like to see Keynes vs Hayek, or even Ovaltine vs Nesquik. Users can send the machine new issues for the masses to vote on, so the entertainment is quite literally limited only by your imagination.

thumbThe physical build is well documented. Since this is used outside, the choice of a flipdot display (of course always fun to play with) is perfect for this high-contrast in any level of light. Each doorway has a break-beam sensor which is monitored by the Raspberry Pi driving the overhead display (here’s code for it all if you want to dig in).

The point of this art installation like this is to get people to interact with their environment in a novel way, which this project has accomplished exceptionally well. In 3 days, they registered over 10,000 votes which are viewable on their website. If you have a project in mind that calls for data visualization you might want to keep this in your back pocket.

We have also seen other ways that doorways can count people outside of voting, if you’re looking for any inspiration yourself.

Sunrise Alarm Clock with Organic Twist

Most hardware hackers have a clock project or two under their belt. A pretty common modification to a generic clock is to add lights to it, and if the clock has an alarm feature, it’s not too big of a stretch to try to get those lights to simulate a sunrise for a natural, peaceful morning alarm. The problem that a lot of us run across, though, is wiring up enough LEDs with enough diffusion to make the effect work properly and actually get us out of bed without an annoying buzzer.

Luckily for all of us, [jarek319] came up with an elegant and simple solution that should revolutionize all future sunrise alarm clock builds. He found a cheap OLED display and drove it with an LM317 voltage regulator. By driving the ADJ pin on the regulator, he was able to effectively drive the OLED with a makeshift PWM signal. This allows the OLED’s brightness to be controlled. [jarek319] threw some NTP code up on an ESP12E and did a little bit of programming for the alarm, and the problem is solved.

While an OLED is pretty much the perfect solution for a sunrise alarm clock, if you have a problem sourcing one or are just looking for an excuse to use up a strip of addressable LEDs, you can build a sunrise alarm clock out of almost any other light source.

Touchless MIDI: The Secret’s In the Mitten

MIDI is a great tool for virtually any musician. Unless you’re a keyboard player, though, it might be hard to use it live. [Evan] recently came up with a great solution for all of the wistful guitar players out there who have been dreaming of having a MIDI interface as useful as their pianist brethren, though. He created a touchless MIDI controller that interfaces directly with a guitar.

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Harpsi-Gourd Gets You Into Thanksgiving Spirit

Halloween might be over, but for some of us there’s still another pumpkin-centric holiday right around the corner to give us an excuse to build projects out of various gourds. During a challenge at a local event, [Michael] came up with a virtual cornucopia of uses for all of the squashes he had on hand and built a touch-sensitive piano with all of them.

The musical instrument was dubbed the Harpsi-Gourd and makes extensive use of the Arduino touch-sensitive libraries. Beyond that, the project was constructed to be able to fit into a standard sized upright piano. While only 15 pumpkins are currently employed, the instrument can be scaled up to 48 pumpkins. Presumably they would need to be very small for the lid of the piano to still close.

The Harpsi-Gourd is a whimsical re-imagining of the original Makey Makey which can be used to do all kinds of things, including play Mario Bros. There are all kinds of other food-based musical instruments at your disposal as well, though.