Capacitive Sensing And Old IBM Keyboards

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The pen is mightier than the sword, but the IBM Model M keyboard, properly applied, can knock teeth in. There are a few more IBM keyboards even better suited to blunt force trauma – the extremely vintage beam spring keyboards made for terminals and desktop publishers. Being so very old, there’s no easy way to connect these keyboards to a modern system, so when [xwhatsit] wanted to make his work, he needed to build his own controller.

The beam spring keyboards use capacitive switches, and with 122 keys, the usual method of reading capacitance – putting a capacitor in an oscillator – would be far too slow to be of any use in a keyboard. There is another method of reading capacitance: measuring the current going through the capacitive switch. This can easily be accomplished with an LM339 comparator.

[xwhatsit]‘s keyboard controller uses this capacitive sensing circuit to read the four rows of keys, with a few shift registers taking care of the columns. An ATMega32u2 is the brains of the outfit, running LUFA to translate the key presses to USB.

If you’re lucky enough to have one of these ancient keyboards, [xwhatsit] is selling a few over on the usual mechanical keyboard forums. There’s also a controller for the Model F keyboard using the same basic circuit. If you need one just drop him a line or grab the gerbers and roll your own.

 

 

Easy Capacitive Touch Sensors In Eagle

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Capacitive sensing libraries for the Arduino and just about every other microcontroller platform have been around for ages now, but if you’d like to put a slightly complex cap sense pad in a PCB without a lot of work, you’re kind of out of luck. Not only do you need a proper education in how capacitors work, but a custom cap sense pad also requires some advanced knowledge of your preferred PCB layout program.

The folks over at PatternAgents have just the solution for this problem. They created an Eagle library of touch widgets that includes everything from buttons, linear and radial sliders, touchpads, and a whole lot more.

The simplest cap sense pad is just a filled polygon on the top layer of a board, but this simple setup isn’t ideal if you want to use Eagle’s autorouter. By playing with the restrict layers in Eagle, PatternAgents were able to create easy cap sense buttons that will work perfectly, without the problems of the autorouter placing traces willy-nilly.

There are more than enough parts to replicate a whole lot of touch interfaces – buttons can easily be made into a smallish keyboard, and the radial touch sensor will emulate the ‘wheel’ interface on an iPod. Very cool stuff, and we can’t wait to see these in a few more boards.

Beautiful Touch-Sensitive Furniture

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It’s taken over a year, but [tinkering techie] has finally completed his touch sensitive nightstand. At first glance, it looks like any normal piece of furniture. With the addition of an Arduino, some copper clad board, and a few LEDs, he’s turned it into a very elegant, electronic home furnishing.

The nightstand is built out of a few very nice pieces of mahogany. Underneath the top of the nightstand, three Kapton-covered copper clad boards are inset along the front and side edges. These capacitive sensing boards are connected to an Arduino Fio that reads the capacitance of these sensors and turns on a small LED under the drawer or the mains powered lamp.

The electronics are powered by a small USB charger with a battery backup all hidden underneath the top of the nightstand. Inside the drawer, a magnetic reed switch turns on an RGB LED whenever the drawer is opened.

While the nightstand itself is a wonderful piece of woodworking, we need to tip our hat for a remarkably seamless integration of fine furniture and electronics. The electronic furniture modifications we usually see are Ikea cruft, but this wonderful homemade nightstand should last decades or centuries.

Video of [techie] going over his build below

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Quick and dirty touch-sensitive keyboard project

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You don’t have to have high-quality parts to play around with electronics and here’s a great example. [Vishal] used junk to play around with CapSense, the touch sensitive Arduino library. What he ended up with is this touch-based piano keyboard.

We’ve featured the CapSense library in the past, but even that example uses a very meticulously crafted test rig of foil tape, protoboard, and some resistors. If you still haven’t given it a try follow this example of using aluminum foil, electrical tape, and a cardboard box.

[Vishal] just sandwiched the end of jumper wire between two pieces of foil to make each ‘key’. We believe the other end of the wire is soldered to the bias resistors where they connect to a couple of pin headers. The headers were hot-glued in place through holes in the bottom of the box, making the entire rig simple to plug into the Arduino board driving it. After adding in a small speaker and flashing the code he’s finished. It certainly makes for a short afternoon project which you won’t feel bad about taking apart later since you didn’t sink a ton of time or resources into the build.

Mobile chicken coop includes wireless sensors

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In and of itself this mobile chicken coop is a pretty nice build. There are some additional features lurking inside which you don’t find on most coops. [Neuromancer2701] built-in a set of sensors which can be accessed wirelessly. It makes it a snap to check up on the comfort of the hens without leaving the couch.

At the heart of the sensor system is an Arduino along with an Xbee module. The build isn’t quite finished yet, but so far three sensors have been implemented. A thermistor is used to read the temperature inside the coop. To make sure there’s enough water, two sheets of foil tape were applied to the water reservoir. The CapSense library measures the capacitance between these plates which correlates to the water lever (we’ve seen this type of water level sensor before). And finally, there’s a sensor that can tell if the door to the coop is open or shut.

He’s having trouble automating the door itself. This can be pretty tricky, especially if you go for a super complicated locking mechanism like this one.

Making a game with capacitive touch

Hackaday has seen a ton of builds make use of the Arduino CapSense library of late, so it was only a matter of time before we posted a capacitive sensing game controller that is able to move sprites around a screen.

For this build, the controller is made out of small strips of Aluminum foil, wired straight to an Arduino with a few resistors. Once embedded inside a wonderful enclosure that brings about pangs of nostalgia it’s time tow write the game.

For the game portion of the build, Processing was brought into the mix to create a SpongeBob-themed ‘capture all the jellyfish in jellyfish fields’ game. By taping the contacts for the d-pad, the player can move SpongeBob around to catch jellyfish. If you’d like to give the game a go, you can play it in your browser on the project page.

This isn’t the first – or the last – CapSense build we’ll see on Hackaday, but it is the first one dedicated to making a DIY (albeit Nintendo inspired) video game controller. If six buttons aren’t enough, you’ll just have to wait for the PS3 version.

 

Knock lock balks knock, uses CapSense without shock

[Rob Hemsley] sent in an update to an RFID-based door lock. Previously, if you wanted to enter the MIT media lab, a RFID-enabled card was required to get in. Now, with [Rob]‘s update, you only need to tap the door handle in a ‘secret’ pattern.

The earlier RFID-enabled build used about $80 in hardware, not a very economical solution. The new touch-based solution only uses an Arduino and servo, making the build much cheaper.

The touch sensitive lock uses the CapSense Arduino library. By turning the door handle into a touch sensor, [Rob] allowed a secret code to be saved in the EEPROM. Repeating this sequence when the door is locked sends power to the servo, unlocking the door.

A very cool build that’s also a little more secure than the traditional, audible knock lock. Check out the video after the break.

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