An XBMC controller built for Grandma

10-finished-controller

Is your grandmother cool enough to use XBMC? Maybe it’s a testament to the functionality of the wildly popular home entertainment suite rather than the hipness of your elders. But indeed, [Brian's] grandmother is an XBMC user who needed a controller with larger buttons to accommodate her. This is what he built. He sent us a set of photos and a description of the build, both of which you can see below. He was inspired to get in touch after reading about the custom controller which [Caleb] has been working on for [Thomas].

[Brian] didn’t get bogged down with electronics. He went with the simple, cheap, and popular solution of gutting a wireless keyboard. After tracing out the keys he needed he got rid of everything except the PCB. A wiring harness was crafted by soldering jumper wires to the PCB traces and terminating them with crimping slide connectors. The arcade buttons he used have terminals for the connectors which will make it simple to mate the electronics with the mechanics.

The enclosure is a little wooden hobby box. It originally had a lid with a mirror. [Brian] broke open the lid’s frame to replace it with a thin piece of plywood which hosts the buttons. Inside you’ll find a battery power source. These keyboards last a long time on one set of batteries so he just needs to remember to preemptively replace them from time to time. The finishing touch was to add decals so that granny can figure out what each button does.

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Build a waterproof music controller on the cheap

shower-controller-for-music-playback

[Aaron] wrote in to show off the waterproof music controller (translated) he just finished building. He uses it in the shower — which makes us wonder how long he’s spending in there. We could also see it being useful by the pool, on the beach, or anywhere else that you need a cheap and easy control system.

His computer plays tunes while he’s getting ready for the day. This means he was able to use an inexpensive wireless keyboard for control. The donor keyboard has dedicated music control keys which he carefully traced to the PCB before removing the flexible sheets that detect key presses. Next he found a water tight food container and sized his protoboard to fit. You can see his button layout above. Holes were cut in the lid of the container, with a plastic membrane glued on the underside. This will keep the water out while still allowing him to actuate the momentary push switches.

Most mobile devices will work with wireless keyboards. If your car is nearby just hook your phone to the stereo and control it with this rather than building a dedicated beach stereo system.

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.

One man’s adventures in custom keyboard development

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As a software developer, [suka] spends a lot of time every day in front of a keyboard. He had been trying out different keyboard layouts far less common than even the moderetly obscure Dvorak layout, and after some time decided a custom ergonomic keyboard was what he wanted. His progress of designing his own custom ergonomic keyboard is a fascinating read, made even cooler by the fact these are real, professional-quality keyboards with mechanical switches and custom enclosures.

After starting off with a few USB numpads, [suka] dove in to the world of Cherry switches by crafting his own wing-style keyboard. [suka] works for one of the larger manufacturers of laser-sintering machines, so he was able to create the enclosures for his keybaord – as well as the key caps – fairly easily. The technology behind laser sintering allowed [suka] to create some strange bowl and trough-shaped keyboards before settling on his daily driver, seen above.

The Blue Cube, as [suka] calls it, includes an integrated stand, an integrated IBM trackpoint mouse, and is powered by a Teensy microcontroller. [suka]‘s keyboards might not be heafty enough for melee combat like the venerable IBM Model M, but it’s exactly what [suka] wants, and that’s just fine by us.

Auto dimmer hacked into keyboard backlight

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As the title says, [José Faria] added the ability to adjust his keyboard backlight based on ambient light levels. But that’s just one of the things he did during his hacking extravaganza with this Razer BlackWidow Ultimate.

When he first received the peripheral he didn’t like the blue LEDs used as backlights. So he removed all of them and put in white ones. He doesn’t talk too much about that but we’d image it was a ton of work. The new color was pleasing, but then the ability to adjust their brightness started to irritate him. There are four predefined levels and that’s all you get. Even the GUI which has a slider for adjustment couldn’t go outside of those levels.

His solution was to augment the controller with his own. He patched in an AVR chip to the transistor which controls the low side of the LED circuits. While at it he also noticed that the keyboard case was actually translucent. This let him hide a photosensor inside which automatically adjusts the light levels. But he did it in a way that still allows him to use the original functionality with the flip of a switch. See for yourself after the break.

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Horribly complicated electric guitar keyboard

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Gutarist, hacker, and mustache enthusiast [David Neevel] brought together way too many pieces of hardware in order to use his electric guitar as a computer keyboard.

So let’s dig into the house of cards he built for the project. It starts off with the guitar which has been fitted with an additional pickup to interface with a Roland GR-33 synthesizer pedal. That outputs a MIDI signal, which many hackers would have connected to the computer and parsed with a simple script. But not [David], he connected it to an Arduino via an optisolator. Well that’s not too ridiculous, right? Don’t you think he’ll just parse the MIDI signals and push them to the computer via the Arduino’s USB port? Wrong! He translates the MIDI signals into combinations for a big relay board which is emulating the key matrix of an old USB keyboard. But as you can see in the demo video after the jump it works quite well.

If you’re more of the drumming sort there’s an electric drum set version of this hack too.

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Ask Hackaday: Are we close to reinventing the keyboard for touchscreens?

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We mourn the loss of the physical keyboard with the advent of tablets. After all, we do a bit of typing getting all of these features posted throughout the week. And we kind of blame tablets for the decline of the netbook industry (we still use a Dell Vostro A90 when not at home). But we’re trying to keep an open mind that we may not need a physical keyboard anymore. If someone can come up with an innovative alternative to the Qwerty layout that we are able to learn and can use with speed and without physical strain we’ll be on board. Our question is,  do you think we are close to a screen typing breakthrough?

This question came to mind after seeing the Minuum keyboard shown above. It compresses all of the rows of a Qwerty into a single row, monopolizing less screen space than conventional smartphone input methods. The demo video (embedded after the break) even shows them hacking the concept into a distance sensor and using a graphite-on-paper resistor. Pretty cool. But what happens when you type a word not in the dictionary, like this author’s last name?

You can actually try out the Minuum style thanks to [Zack's] in-browser demo hack. He’s not affiliated with Minuum, but has done quite a bit of alternative keyboard input work already with his ASETNIOP chorded typing project. It’s another contender for changing how we do things.

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