Nebulophone microcontroller synthesizer project sounds great

Judging from the video (found after the break) the Nebulophone is one of the best sounding DIY synthesizers we’ve seen. Especially when you consider the simplicity of the hardware design. It uses an AVR chip and an OpAmp. The rest of the parts are just a few handfuls of inexpensive components.

The device was developed by Bleep Labs, and they sell the synthesizer kit seen on the left. But since it’s an open source project you can follow their design to fabricate your own, which is what [BlinkyBlinky] did with his offering seen to the right.

An ATmega328 drives the device, which is the chip often used in the Arduino Duemilanove. The keyboard is a set of traces hooked to the microcontroller. These are tinned pads on the kit PCB, but the DIY version simply uses some adhesive copper foil with a jumper wire soldered to it. The keys are played with a probe that makes the electrical connection, a common practice on these stylophone type designs. Chances are you have everything on hand to make this happen so keep it in mind for that next cold winter weekend that’s making everyone a bit stir crazy.

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Making your anime papercraft move to the music

This anime character is dancing to the music thanks to some animatronic tricks which [Scott Harden] put together. She dances perfectly, exhibiting different arm and head movements at just the right time. The secret to the synchronization is actually in the right channel of the audio being played.

The character in question is from an Internet meme called the Leekspin song. [Scott] reproduced it on some foam board, adding a servo to one arm to do the leek spinning, and another to move the head. These are both driven by an ATtiny44. All of the movements have been preprogrammed to go along with the audio track. But he needed a way to synchronize the beginning of each action set. The solution was to re-encode the audio with one track devoted to a set of sine wave pulses. The right audio channel feeds to the AVR chip via an LM741 opamp. Each sine wave triggers the AVR to execute the next dance move in the sequence. You can see the demo video for the project after the break.

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Scratch-built RFID reader

We never bought an RFID reader because it seems too simple to be all that much fun. But [Abdullah] really caught our eye with his latest project. It’s an RFID reader built from discrete parts, and that’s an adventure we can get behind!

His write-up dives right into the theory of the device. He wrapped his own coil, which measure about one microhenry, then shares an equation used to calculate the appropriate capacitor pair for it. This is fed by a 125 kHz oscillator and works as the most basic reader. In practice this needs more components for rock-solid operation and he quickly moves to a marginally more complicated circuit which still does exactly the same thing.

He is now able to detect RFID tag data by reading this circuit with an oscilloscope. But the signal is very very weak. The rest of the post focuses on how to best utilize an OpAmp to increase signal quality and on/off time.

If you’re looking to recreate his reader [Abdullah] included a Kicad schematic and board layout.

Chiptune player uses preprocessed .MOD files

[Kayvon] just finished building this chiptune player based on a PIC microcontroller. The hardware really couldn’t be any simpler. He chose to use a PIC18F2685 just because it’s big enough to store the music files directly and it let him get away with not using an external EEPROM for that purpose. The output pins feed a Digital to Analog Convert (DAC) chip, which in turn outputs analog audio to an LM386 OpAmp. The white trimpot sandwiched between the chips controls the volume.

The real work on this project went into coding a program which translates .MOD files into something the PIC will be able to play. Because of the memory limits of the chip it is unable to directly use all of the instrument samples from these files. [Kayvon] wrote a program with a nice GUI that lets him load in his music and page through each instrument to fine-tune how they are being re-encoded. The audio track from the video after the break doesn’t do the project justice, but you will get a nice look at the hardware and software.

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Morse Code interpreter

[Sulaiman Habsi] and two classmates put together a Morse Code interpreter as a class project at Sultan Qaboos University. The system listens to a morse code signal using a microphone, then translates that input to text which is displayed on this character LCD.

The breadboarded circuit feeds an audio signal from the microphone, through an OpAmp, to the ADC of an ATmega8 microcontroller. The captured signal is stored as a byte in a special way. The three least-significant bits signify how many total dots or dashes are contained in the character, the remaining bits represent those dots and dashes with zeros and ones. A full description of this process is included in a PDF linked in the article above. As you can see in the video after the break, the hardware waits to process all of the signals once the full message has been received.

This would be a great add-on for a Morse Code practice keyer.

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A Bright Idea

[Jeri Ellsworth] had a bright idea – a brain-activated light bulb that floats above your head. While out and about, she saw some guy with a video game icon attached to metal rod sticking out of his backpack. The rod made the icon appear to be floating above his head (think The Sims), which was the inspiration for this LED powered light bulb. The bulb is connected to a metal rod, as well as a metal hoop which is springy enough to keep a pair of electrodes snugly attached to your head.

Those electrodes, along with a third probe used for noise reference, are hooked up to a AD620 instrumentation amplifier. With the help of op amps, it modulates the red or green LEDs that are attached to the back side of the light bulb. The end result is an amusing way to show brain activity while being grilled on a Q/A panel, or while just wandering around taking in all the amazing sights presented at Maker Faire.

Join us after the break for a video demonstration.

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Bouncing ball analog computer

bounce

[Eric Archer] constructed an analog computer to model the physics of a bouncing ball. The core is a TL074 opamp that does all the integral math. He had no trouble finding descriptions of analog computers, but how to set the initial conditions was rarely covered. The controls include potentiometers to set the initial velocity, force of gravity, and coefficient of restitution (how much energy is lost in the bounce). The output is displayed on an oscilloscope. He mentions that this output could be used in electronic music, citing Aphex Twin’s Bucephalus Bouncing Ball. Watch the video below for a demo of all the features.

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