Niklas Roy’s Music Construction Machine

If you think of a music box, the first image that might come to mind is that of a small tabletop device with a simple mechanism and a single instrument. Usually a row of chimes triggered by points etched on a roller. If you are a bit more ambitious maybe you thought of a player piano with a roll of perforated paper carrying a tune, but yet again with only the single voice of one instrument.

mcm_06[Niklas Roy] however has a different vision when it comes to mechanical music. He’s created an entire ensemble with real musical instruments, a drum kit, keyboard, and electric guitar. His Music Construction Machine is no simple music box with a single tune though, it generates a constantly changing melody through a mechanically implemented algorithm with a complex interaction of cyclic variables that periodically alternate between harmonic and discordant. Unfortunately we can’t find any audio examples of the installation at work.

There is a timeliness to this post, the machine is part of an art installation at the Goethe-Institut Pop Up Pavillion on the Nowy Targ square in Wrocław, Poland, and it will be exhibited until the 10th of July. We hope some of our Central European readers will be within range and can make the trip. If you do, we’d love to hear some sample audio from your visit.

We’ve featured [Niklas]’s work many times before here at Hackaday. Just a few highlights are a past musical project powered by water, God on the CB radio, and his all-terrain mobile beer crate.

UPDATE: [Niklas] has posted details of the exhibition in Wroclaw on his blog, including several videos like the on below the break that show the machine in its full glory.

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RC Beer Crate Handles Rough Terrain like a Pro

[Niklas Roy] is at it again. Summer time means beer time and what better way for him to distribute beer at outdoor parties than a with an amazingly agile remote controlled beer crate capable of handling rough backyard terrain. With the controller firmly in hand he could even institute a leave-an-empty, take-a-beer policy to speed clean-ups.

We’ve seen awesome beer dispensing robots with all the bells and whistles in the past, from ones that are moving coolers, decapping the beer before handing it off, to BREWSTER the modified roomba who’ll fetch you a beer from a mini-fridge. [Niklas]’ RC beer crate sits at the simplicity end of the spectrum, reminding us of the no nonsense Star Wars mouse droid that wandered the Death Star’s corridors. The beer crate sits on a low wooden platform with a lip added to it to keep the crate from sliding off.  Under the platform are your basics: 2-channel RC receiver from a cheap toy car, H-bridges, two windscreen wiper motors and wheels, a LiPo battery, an on/off switch and two casters. For an arcade feel, the RC controller is a modified Competition Pro offering retro joystick steering.

As you can see from the video after the break (with a party-appropriate Metal soundtrack) it’s incredibly stable, moving rapidly over patio stones, from patios stones to dirt and lawn and even up messy inclines. This one’s sure to add excitement to many parties, while keeping party goers well served.

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God on the CB Radio

Sometimes art pushes boundaries. We’ve covered a lot of tech art that blurs the lines between the craft of engineering and high-concept art theory. Praydio, by [Niklas Roy] and [Kati Hyyppä] leans easy on the tech, but pushes against viewers’ religious sensibilities.

Playing with the idea of talking directly to God, and with the use of altars as a focal point to do so, [Niklas] and [Kati] took the extremely literal route: embedding a CB radio into a dollar-store shrine. The result? If you’re lucky, someone will answer your prayers, although we’re not too hopeful that the intervention will be divine.

The art critic in us would say that this is a radical democratization of religious authority in that anyone who is tuned in can play the role of Jesus. Or maybe we’d say something about the perception of religious significance in the seemingly random events of our everyday life — maybe it’s not just chance that someone is tuning in at the time you’re asking for help?

Honestly, though, we think they’re just having a bit of fun. The video (below the break) shows someone asking Jesus for a coffee, and the artist on the other end laughs and fetches him one. It’s not high-tech, and it’s not even amateur radio the way we usually think of it, but something about the piece made us laugh, and then to think for a bit. Even if this art isn’t your style, check out [Niklas’] website — he’s got tons of fun projects written up, a few of which we’ve covered here before.

Most useless machine: building elevator edition

[Niklas Roy] calls it his Perpetual Energy Wasting Machine, but we know it for what it truly is: a building-sized most useless machine. You’ll remember that a most useless machine is a bobble that uses clever design to turn itself off once you have turned it on. This does the same thing with the elevator of the WRO Art Center in Wroclaw, Poland. The one difference is that it continually turns itself on and off.

He rigged up a pulley system that travels through the stairwell of the building. Whenever the elevator door on the top floor opens it causes the call button on the bottom floor to be pressed. The same thing happens when the elevator reaches the ground floor. But he didn’t stop there. Since the device is just wasting electricity whenever the elevator moves without passengers in it, he added a meter to track the loss. It’s the guts of a printing calculator strapped to the inside of the car. Every time the doors open it adds to the total.

You can see the installation in the video clip after the jump.

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Water-powered multi-channel audio

[Niklas Roy] is rolling out some water-powered music for Berlin’s Museum night. It seems that this water-wheel is attached to the side of the Museum. It’s got a stream flowing past it and the wheel is constantly turning. The thing is, that work isn’t being used for anything. Now we’ve already seen [Niklas] making electricity from moving water, but that’s far from what he had in mind this time around. Instead he’s driving a multitude of music boxes with the motion transferred from the water.

He teamed up with another artist named [La belle Imira] to build and connect a series of pulleys to the waterwheel. The video after the break shows the rope system being strung throughout the grounds of the museum. After passing around the output drum of the water wheel, the rope snakes through each pulley. Many of the pulleys have the mechanism from a music box attached to their axles, so whenever the water is flowing, music plays. They don’t all play the same tune, so you get a variety of selections as you walk around. We could swear that one of them is playing ‘My Way’.

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Window curtain moves to screen pedestrians

[Niklas Roy] built a motorized window curtain to screen out foot traffic in front of his window. When you hear “motorized curtain” you may think that this will move up and down but it doesn’t. Instead, the small curtain move horizontally to cover passersby as they travel down the sidewalk. This is accomplished using a camera in conjunction with some motion sensing software. In the video after the break you can see that the software also anticipates the movement, and ends up doing a good job of keeping the target covered. That’s thanks to the Processing sketch working in conjunction with a rotary encoder on the hardware setup. Details for both are available on the page linked above.

This harkens to other community involvement hacks we’ve seen like the subway stair piano, or the bottle recycling video game. It’s fun and quirky, which is not too much of a surprise as we saw a glimpse of that when we looked at [Niklas’] public fountain hydropower generator.

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