Gemma-Powered NeoPixel Sound Reactive Drums

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This tutorial from Adafruit shows how to create a custom interactive drum set that lights up with sound. It uses a mic amp sensor that is connected to a miniature Arduino Gemma board to detect when the instrument is being hit by the sticks. Neopixels then illuminate into a range of colors creating a beautifully synced up music presentation.

The container that houses the electronics is 3D printed. The entire circuit is integrated into the snare, mid-tom, hi-tom and a drum kick. All the code and step-by-step instructions can be found on Adafruit’s website. Now imagine something like this being packed up in a suitcase and carried from venue to venue as an up-and-coming band travels from state to state on tour; especially at Drum n’ Bass raves or electronic based music festivals. A video of the kit being used is below.

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A Virtual Touchscreen (3D Ultrasonic Radar)

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Producing items onto a screen simply by touching the air is a marvelous thing. One way to accomplish this involves four HC-SR04 ultrasonic sensor units that transmit data through an Arduino into a Linux computer. The end result is a virtual touchscreen that can be made at home.

The software of this device was developed by [Anatoly] who translated hand gestures into actionable commands. The sensors attached to the Arduino had an approximate scanning range of 3m, and the ultrasonic units were modified to broadcast an analog signal at 40 kHz. There were a few limitations with the original hardware design as [Anatoly] stated in the post. For example, at first, only one unit was transmitting at a time, so there was no way the Arduino could identify two objects on the same sphere. However, [Anatoly] updated the blog with a 2nd post showing that sensing multiple items at once could be done. Occasionally, the range would be finicky when dealing with small items like pens. But besides that, it seemed to work pretty well.

Additional technical specifications can be found on [Anatoly]‘s blog and videos of the system working can be seen after the break.

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The Counter-Strike Airsoft Robot

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[Jon] and his brother converted an RC car into a robot that can fire airsoft pellets into the air. The little motorized vehicle was disassembled and a handheld was attached to the top. A pulling mechanism was put in place and a safety procedure was added to make sure no accidents occurred.

The chassis stand was created to hold the handle. The setup was then tested at this point, and a Raspberry Pi server was configured to have a camera that would act as the eyes for the robot. Once everything was in place, the wheels hit the ground and the vehicle was able to move around, positioning itself to aim the servos at a designated target. Footage was transmitted via the web showing what the robot was looking at.

A video of the remote-controlled counter-strike robot can be seen after the break. You could consider this your toy army. That makes this one your toy air force.

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Stewart Platform Ball Bearing Balancer

PID balancing a ball on a plate

For their Mechanical Engineering senior design project at San Jose State University, [Tyler Kroymann] and [Robert Dee] designed and built a racing motion simulator. Which is slightly out of the budget of most hackers, so before they went full-scale, a more affordable Arduino powered Stewart platform proof of concept was built. Stewart platforms typically use six electric or hydraulic linear actuators to provide motion in six degrees of freedom (6 DOF), surge (X), sway (Y), heave (Z), pitch, roll, and yaw. With a simple software translation matrix, to account for the angular displacement of the servo arm, you can transform the needed linear motions into PWM signals for standard hobby servos.

The 6 DOF platform, with the addition of a resistive touch screen, also doubled as a side project for their mechatronic control systems class. However, in this configuration the platform was constrained to just pitch and roll. The Arduino reads the resistive touch screen and registers the ball bearing’s location. Then a PID compares this to the target location generating an error vector. The error vector is used to find an inverse kinematic solution which causes the actuators to move the ball towards the target location. This whole process is repeated 50 times a second. The target location can be a pre-programmed or controlled using the analog stick on a Wii nunchuck.

Watch the ball bearing seek the target location after the break.

Thanks to [Toby] for sending in this tip.

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Sparkfun Ships 2000 MicroViews Without Bootloaders

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Everyone has a bad day right? Monday was a particularly bad day for the folks at Sparkfun. Customer support tickets started piling up, leading to the discovery that they had shipped out as many as 1,934 MicroViews without bootloaders.

MicroView is the tiny OLED enabled, Arduino based, microcontroller system which had a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign earlier this year. [Marcus Schappi], the project creator, partnered up with SparkFun to get the MicroViews manufactured and shipped out to backers. This wasn’t a decision made on a whim, Sparkfun had proven themselves by fulfilling over 11,000 Makey Makey boards to backers of that campaign.

Rather than downplay the issue, Sparkfun CEO [Nathan Seidle] has taken to the company blog to explain what happened, how it happened, and what they’re going to do to make it right for their customers. This positions them as the subject of our Fail of the Week column where we commiserate instead of criticize.

First things first, anyone who receives an affected MicroView is getting a second working unit shipped out by the beginning of November. Furthermore, the bootloaderless units can be brought to life relatively easily. [Nate] provided a hex file with the correct bootloader. Anyone with an Atmel AVR In-System Programming (ISP) programmer and a steady hand can bring their MicroView to life. Several users have already done just that. The bootloader only has to be flashed via ISP once. After that, the MicroView will communicate via USB to a host PC. Sparkfun will publish a full tutorial in a few weeks.

Click past the break to read the rest of the story.

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When Worlds Collide: 68008 Bootstrapped by an Arduino Uno

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[Peter Bjornx] brings classic microprocessors and modern microcontrollers together with his Arduino bootstrapped 68008 computer. The Motorola 68008 is the 8-bit external bus version of the well-known 68000 (or 68k) microprocessor. A friend gave [Peter] one of these chips, so he built a simple computer around it.

This isn’t one of those clean retrocomputers with every connection carefully planned out and wire wrapped. [Peter's] created a true hack – a working 68k system on a breadboard created with whatever he had on hand at the time. The real gem of this system is the ROM. [Peter] replaced an EPROM chip with an Arduino.

In the not-so-good-old-days, microprocessors (and many microcontrollers) ran from an external ROM chip. This often was a UV-erasable EPROM. Carefully compiled code was burned into the EPROM with a device programmer. If the code wasn’t perfect, the EPROM had to be pulled and placed under a UV lamp for 20 minutes or so to erase it before it was time to try again. EPROM emulators were available, but they were way too expensive for the hobbyist.

Thankfully those days are far behind us now with the advent of EEPROM and then Flash. [Peter] didn’t want to revisit the past either, so he wrote a simple Arduino sketch which allowed it to act as an EPROM emulator, including address logging via the serial port.

The design still caused [Peter] some headaches, though. His major problem was a classic 68k issue, /DTACK timing. /DTACK or Data Transfer Acknowledge is one of several bus control signals used by the 68k. When the 68k performs a read from the data bus, it waits for /DTACK before it transfers data. The Arduino was too slow to release /DTACK in this case, which caused the 68k to think every read was immediately completed. There is a much clearer explanation of the 68k bus cycles on this Big Mess O Wires page. [Peter's] solution was simple – a D flip-flop connected to the address strobe took care of the timing issues.

It took quite a bit of tinkering, but the system eventually worked. Peter was able to run the 68008 from its reset vector into a simple loop using the Arduino. It’s only fitting that the 68k program loaded by the Arduino was an LED blinker, everyone’s favorite hardware Hello World.

Thanks [Robert!]

Speedy Drinkmaker Keeps Party Guests Hydrated

the rumbot

After five weekends of work, [Alex] completed his automatic drink maker, the RumBot. What makes this automated bartender different from others is the fact that it is fast. VERY fast. It can serve drinks to five different locations in as little as 3 seconds per drink. By [Alex]‘s estimation, this could keep a party of 100 people going without anyone waiting on a drink.

The RumBot can make either of five pre-programmed drinks at varying levels of alcoholic intensity, ranging from 1 (“Virgin”) to 10. And for that extra push over the cliff, you can turn the knob to 11 (“Problem”).

Drink selection itself is handled by a simple digital I/O on an Arduino with a 1950s-styled user interface. The frame is built out of wood and uses 3D Printed plastic parts. It houses a very robust servo on a belt screw-driven stage to move the drink nozzle, and special sensors placed at either of the five drink locations detect a cup ready to be filled. Any cup placed at any of the positions will automatically be filled based on the RumBot’s settings at any particular time.

Based on the quality of the build and the increased speed of this automatic drink maker, this should be a huge hit at any party. With all the knobs turned to 11 though, it might be a good idea to have a breathalyzer on hand! All of the code and schematics for the project are available at the project site as well.

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