An Automated Flappy Bird Player

game Flappy Bird has been ported to just about every system imaginable, including but not limited to the Apple II, Commodores, pretty much every version of the Atari, and serves as a really great demonstration of the TI-99’s graphics capabilities. Porting is one thing, but having a computer automate Flappy Bird is another thing entirely. [Ankur], [Sai], and [Ackerly] in [Dr. Bruce Land]‘s advanced microcontroller design class at Cornell have done just that. They’re playing Flappy Bird with a camera, FPGA, and a penny wired up to a GPIO pin to guide the little 8-bit-bird through Mario pipes.

The setup the team is using consists of a webcam that records the screen of a smartphone, an FPGA, and a little bit of circuitry to emulate screen taps. Inside the FPGA, the team is looking at the video stream from the phone to detect the bird, pipes, and gaps. The ‘tapper’ unit is a US penny, placed right above the ‘tap’ button, wired to a GPIO port. This was found to be the ideal contact for a capacitive touch screen – taps that were too small weren’t registered, and taps that were too big registered as two taps.

For spending an entire semester on automating Flappy Bird, the team has a lot of knowledge to show for it, but not the high score: the bird only makes it through the first pipe 10% of the time, and the second pipe 1% of the time. The high score is three. That’s alright – getting the algorithm right to play the game correctly was very, very difficult, and to nail that problem down, they estimate it would take at least another semester.

Kyub MIDI Keyboard Puts a Piano in Your Pocket

[Keith Baxter] loves making electronic instruments. His latest vision has come to life as Kyub, an open-source MIDI keyboard. [Keith] has previously graced our site and cracked Popular Science with his servoelectric guitar.

[Keith] wanted to make a completely open source instrument that’s elegant, useful, and a bit more accessible than the servoelectric guitar, so he teamed up with a hacker/electronic music expert and an industrial designer. He built the early prototypes around an Arduino Uno. The current iteration uses a Teensy 2.0 and is available in various forms through Kickstarter. [Keith] opened the Kyub up to crowd funding in an effort to obtain volume pricing on some of the parts as well as an Eagle license to make the PCB files available commercially.

The Kyub has eleven pressure-sensitive capacitive keypads on five sides of the cube. The accelerometer can be used to vary note volume, bend the pitch, or whatever else you program it to do. Of course, you’ll need a computer with a synthesizer program, but [Keith] says it is compatible with most software synth programs, some of which are free.

There’s a demo video of an early prototype after the break. Videos of the Kyub in its current form are available on the Kickstarter page.

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Mug Music Is Good to the Last Drop

[Bonnie] is majoring in CS at Princeton and minoring in Awesome. She is taking an electronic music class and had to produce a digital instrument for her midterm project. She and her friend [Harvest] came up with Mug Music, which turns a ceramic mug of water into an instrument.

The circuit is very easy to replicate with an Arduino, a coil, and a few resistors and capacitors. [Bonnie] wanted to experiment with Disney Research Lab’s Touché method of touch detection, and Mug Music is based on this Touché for Arduino Instructable. The inputs are turned into MIDI notes with ChucK, a real-time sound synthesis language developed at Princeton.

As you may have guessed and will see in the demonstration video after the jump, you aren’t limited to touching the water. The entire mug will produce sounds as well. [Bonnie] says you can trigger a thunderclap if you touch the water and a grounded surface simultaneously.

This would be a great project to explore with kids, especially as a music therapy vehicle for kids on the autism spectrum. It isn’t as physical as these portable musical stairs, but it may draw less attention from lawyers.

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The Nickelphone

nickelphone

[Tyler Bletsch] sent us a tip about his new build: a keyboard that redefines “coin-operated.” The Nickelphone can emit square wave tones via a piezo buzzer, but [Tyler] made this 25-key piano as a MIDI keyboard capable of driving a full synthesizer.

He chose an ATMega644 as the brain because it’s Arduino-friendly but has more data pins—32—than the usual ATMega328 chip, which allows him to provide each key with its own pin. Each coin was soldered to its own wire and connects up to a 1MΩ resistor array. Coin-presses are recognized by the simple capacitive sensing technique outlined here, but [Tyler] needed to take advantage of a workaround to accurately detect multiple presses.

Check out [Tyler's] detailed project guide for more information as well as the source code. Check out the video of the Nickelphone after the break, then browse through some other capacitive touch hacks, like the Capacitive Touch Business Card or the Capacitive Touch Game Controller.

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Making capacitive touch sensors with pencil and paper

capacitive-touch-sensor

There are few things more frustrating than being in the middle of working on a project and realizing that you are missing some crucial component that ties the whole thing together. According to Murphy’s Law, this sort of thing will only happen when parts are completely impossible to procure.

If you’re ever hunting for a touch sensor but can’t get your hands on one, [Alan Chatham’s] tutorial on simple DIY capacitive touch sensors might be just what you need to keep things moving along.

[Alan’s] sensors rely on the conductive properties of graphite, which is easily found in just about any pencil on the market. The sensors are created by simply drawing on a piece of paper with a pencil, then wiring the images or text up to your favorite microcontroller via some paperclips and a couple of resistors.

Paper and pencil might not make for the most durable means of input, but we’re pretty sure that [Alan’s] capacitive touch sensors would be very helpful in a pinch. He doesn’t have video of the sensors in action just yet, though he says he’ll put something together here shortly.

Turning anything into a touch sensor

This year at the CHI conference in Austin, [Munehiko Sato], [Ivan Poupyrev], and [Chris Harrison] out of the Disney research lab in Pittsburgh demonstrated their way to make touch sensors out of anything. Not only to they suggest using the surface of your skin to control cell phones and MP3 players, they’re also able to recognize touch gestures, like poking or grasping an object. That sounds a little heady, so check out the video of the Touché tech in action.

Like the capacitive touch sensors in our phones and tablets, Touché measures the rise and fall of a capacitor’s charge over time. Unlike  other touch sensors, Touché scans the capacitor at different rates, allowing for a ‘capacitive profile’ that is used to recognized touch gestures.

The applications for this tech are nearly innumerable; the team demonstrated scolding someone for eating cereal with chopsticks (yeah, we know…), an on-body music player interface, and gestures for an office doorknob that notifies passersby if you’ve stepped out for a minute or are gone for the day.

It’s a very interesting build, and we give it two weeks until someone replicates this build. We’ll be sure to post it then.

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Snap together boombox great for taking your music on the go

fab-boombox

[Matt Keeter] wanted to take his music on the go, and wrote in to share a great looking boombox he built for under $100. His goal was to put something together that could be made in pretty much any hackerspace/fab lab, so his boombox was made using simple materials.

He first modeled the boombox using cardboard, later fabbing it from wood on a laser cutter. The design allows the stereo to be snapped together, though [Matt] says that some joints were glued as an extra precaution. Inside the boombox resides an custom PCB he built which incorporates an ATmega328, an MP3 decoder, and an SD card to store his music.

One feature we really like is the control scheme [Matt] built into the boombox. Each of the capacitive touch buttons are positioned on top of a copper pad, which are wired into the control board. He says that while good in theory, he had a difficult time getting the buttons to work properly, though they seem to do the job well enough.

If you’re looking for a portable music solution and have access to a laser cutter, be sure to check out [Matt’s] page for schematics and firmware.

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