Create a Buzz with the Mini Electric Ukulele

Everyone’s heard of the “World’s Smallest Violin,” but we think it’s time for something more upbeat. [Simone Giertz] of Punch Through Design has created a mini electric ukulele using a LightBlue Bean. The Bean is an Arduino-compatible microcontroller that you can wirelessly program using Bluetooth low energy (BLE).

The ukulele’s frame is made of laser-cut plywood.  Four 1M ohm resistors are soldered to individual wire strings. A different set of wire strings in the ukulele’s neck are connected to the same ground as the Bean. In order to play this tiny instrument, a finger must be kept on the “ground” strings while the other “tone” strings are touched by a different finger. [Simone] uses Arduino’s Capacitive Sensing Library to determine which string is being touched and what the tone will be (indicated in Hz). A piezo buzzer provides the sound. There is no need to fret when the battery is depleted from using this at an all-night luau: the frame can be unscrewed with easy access to the battery. [Simone] has uploaded the Bean’s code to GitHub.

There’s no shame going solo, but we’d enjoy a show of dueling mini-ukuleles. A duet with the 3D-printed ukulele is always a possibility. Or, play this little guy while running up and down some piano stairs while the kettle fife blows off some steam.  It’ll be a musical way to brighten anyone’s day. Check out the video of the mini ukelele after the break. You can also see more of [Simone’s] work at her website.

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Video Links: Hunting for Hacks at Maker Faire

 

Why not round out our two-week Bay Area Maker Faire coverage with a Links post? This time around it’s video links. We mixed together a bunch of interesting clips that didn’t get their own video, as well as a dose of what it feels like to walk around the Faire all weekend. Join us after the break for the links.

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Hackaday Links: October 20, 2013

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Winter is coming. We’ve see those gloves in stores made specifically to work with your smartphone. [hardsoftlucid] isn’t buying it. He made his own version using… well, you just have to see it.

Here’s an eBookmark for a real book. What? Well, you know how an eReader does a great job of keeping your place between reading sessions? This is an electronic bookmark for paper books which uses LEDs to show you where you last left off reading. [via Adafruit]

[Thomas Brittain] wrote in to share his BLE Module and Pulse sensor updates. Both were featured in a recent Fail of the Week column and the latest iteration takes them from fail to functioning!

You may be able to get a free XMOS xCORE starter kit. The company is giving away 2500 of them. [Thanks Tony]

After learning about custom labels for microcontroller pinouts from [John Meachum] we’re happy to get one more helpful tip: a breadboard trench is a great place to hide axial decoupling capacitors.

A bit of cutting, solder, and configuring lets you turn a simple gamepad into a 4-controller interface for MAME.

Many of the Hackaday Staff are into Minecraft (between Let’s Play videos, running servers, and building computers in-game it’s a wonder we get anything done around here). We restrained ourselves by not making this video of a Restone circuit Blender animation on your desktop into a full front page feature. [via Reddit]

 

Sending data over Bluetooth Low Energy with a cheap nRF24L01+ module

nRF24L01+ modules like the one shown above are a great way to send data wirelessly between your projects. They can be found on many websites for less than $1.50

a piece and many libraries exist for them. After having thoroughly looked at the Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) specifications, [Dimitry] managed to find a way to broadcast BLE data with an nRF24L01+.

Luckily enough, BLE and nRF24L01+ data packets have the same preambles. However, the latter can’t send more than 32bytes in a packet and can’t hop between frequencies as fast as the BLE specification wants. [Dimitry] found the solution when he discovered that he could send unsolicited advertisements on three specific channels. In the end, considering the 32 bytes the nRF24L01+ can send, you’ll need to use 3 bytes for the CRC, 2 for the packet header, 6 for the MAC address and 5 for devices attributes. This leaves us with 16 bytes of pure data or 14 bytes to split between data and name if you want your project to have one.

Bluetooth Low Energy weather lamp

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This is a well-executed proof of concept which [Aaron Jeromin] threw together in a couple of hours. This lamp hosts a Bluetooth Low Energy weather display. The project was a way for him to get used to using the BLE module. But to make the most out of that hardware this should really be refined into an actual low energy circuit. We do think the timing is perfect to feature this project since we just looked at a BLE primer yesterday.

He’s using a BLE Mini board from RedBearLab. It uses a Texas Instruments CC2540 SoC. We’d love to see a follow-up that does away with the Arduino in lieu of code running on the TI chip. But we would have done the same thing (use the uC we were most familiar with) when testing the BLE board out for the first time. It gets weather data from an iPhone. The forecast is projected as one of three icons using an LED bulb and a stencil which is positioned by a hobby servo.

Other inanimate objects that can tell you if it’s storming include this color-coded umbrella stand.

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Primer on Bluetooth Low Energy

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We’re sure that, like us, you’ve heard at least something about Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). Blutooth 4.0 is another name for BLE and it’s already available in some smartphones; starting with the iPhone 4S, BlackBerry 10, and with Android support added in 4.3 — Jelly Bean. Here’s your chance to get acquainted which what the specification brings to the table. The source material (which we’ll talk about below) provides a ton of background. But if you want a succinct overview check out [Gervasi’s] summary of Bluetooth Low Energy.

We won’t republish the technical details here as both articles do a great job of covering those. Here’s what you should take away from BLE: It’s meant for use with devices running off of a tiny power source. The one outlined in both articles is a coin-cell. But we prefer to think of the future that is energy harvesting. Peak current is limited to 15 mA. This does limit the throughput, but think sensors, not Bluetooth headsets. You just don’t need to push all that much data from these devices. A cleverly designed energy harvesting circuit should be able to implement BLE devices with no battery whatsoever.

We did mention a deeper exploration of the standard. The image above comes from this BLE Primer for Developers. Add it to your weekend reading.

[via Reddit]