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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Expanded Memory For The Teensy++ 2.0


Sometimes with a microcontroller project you need to do some very RAM-hungry operations, like image and audio processing. The largish AVR chips are certainly fast enough to do these tasks, but the RAM on these chips is limited. [xxxajk] has come up with a library that allows the use of huge RAM expansions with the Teensy++ 2.0 microcontroller, making these RAM-dependant tasks easy on one of our favorite microcontroller board.

[xxajk]’s work is actually a port of XMEM2, an earlier project of his that added RAM expansion and multitasking to the Arduino Mega. Up to 255 banks of memory are available and with the supported hardware, the Teensy can address up to 512kB of RAM.

XMEM2 also features a preemptive multitasking with up to 16 tasks, the ability to pipe messages between tasks, and all the fun of malloc().

The build is fairly hardware independent, able to work with Rugged Circuits QuadRAM and MegaRAM expansions for the Arduino Mega as well as [Andy Brown]’s 512 SRAM expansion. With the right SRAM chip, etching a board at home for XMEM2 is also a possibility.

Stop Traffic In This 7-Mode LED Running Jacket

[Miria] was tired of tangling with bicyclists on her nighttime runs. It was obvious to her to illuminate herself, but she thought it would be really cool if the lights responded to her heart rate. The short summary that tipped us off is over at NYC Resistor, and [Miria] gives the gory details on her blog. The LEDs operate in seven different light modes that increase in speed proportionate to her heart rate.

She started the build around an Arduino but found that the compatible heart rate sensors were mostly optical and gave inaccurate readings. Since she was already using a Garmin GPS watch and heart rate monitor band, she decided to hack into the conversation between the two. Garmin uses the ANT protocol for this. While [Miria] found the documentation to be an effective sleeping pill, she also found that SparkFun has an ANT transceiver breakout board. Unfortunately, it’s been discontinued.

[Miria] continued undeterred, using the SparkFun board for prototyping. Her final version uses a Teensy 2.0 and this ANT transceiver in place of the ill-fated SparkFun board. She found an Energizer power pack that plugs directly into the Teensy and can power both Adafruit weatherproof LED strips for about an hour. Look both ways, and check out her demo after the break.

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Benchmarking USB transfer speeds


[Paul Stoffregen], creator of the Teensy series of microcontroller dev boards, noticed a lot of project driving huge LED arrays recently and decided to look into how fast microcontroller dev boards can receive data from a computer. More bits per second means more glowey LEDs, of course, so his benchmarking efforts are sure to be a hit with anyone planning some large-scale microcontroller projects.

The microcontrollers [Paul] tested included the Teensy 2.0, Teensy 3.0, the Leonardo and Due Arduinos, and the Fubarino Mini and Leaflabs Maple. These were tested in Linux ( Ubuntu 12.04 live CD ), OSX Lion, and Windows 7, all running on a 2012 MacBook Pro. When not considering the Teensy 2.0 and 3.0, the results of the tests were what you would expect: faster devices were able to receive more bytes per second.  When the Teensys were thrown into the mix, though, the results changed drastically. The Teensy 2.0, with the same microcontroller as the Arduino Leonardo, was able to outperform every board except for the Teensy 3.0.

[Paul] also took the effort to benchmark the different operating systems he used. Bottom line, if you’re transferring a lot of bytes at once, it really doesn’t matter which OS you’re using. For transferring small amounts of data, you may want to go with OS X. Windows is terrible for transferring single bytes; at one byte per transfer, Windows only manages 4kBps. With the same task, Linux and OS X manage about 53 and 860 (!) kBps, respectively.

So there you go. If you’re building a huge LED array, use a Teensy 3.0 with a MacBook. Of course [Paul] made all the code for his benchmarks open source, so feel free to replicate this experiment.

This GPS logger is so small…


How small is it? Two things should give you a good sense of scale, the SD card slot on the lower right, and the slide switch on the upper left. This minuscule module is an all-in-one GPS logger which [J3tstream] built.

Main system control is provided by a Teens 2.0 board. If you look really closely you’ll see the SD card slot is actually a breakout board which mounts on top of the Teensy’s pinheaders. Also on the board is a PA6B GPS module with a few passive components to support it. The back side of the board hosts a Lithium Ion battery from an old phone. Note the mangled pin header which works as connectors for the battery. [J3tstream] even built a charger into the project. He’s using an LTC4054 chip to handle the charging. We were a bit confused at first because we didn’t see a way to connect external power. But he goes on to explain that the USB port on the Teensy board is used for charging. Just plug in USB and press the button to get things started.

Mood lamp/notifier uses neat modular PCB design


Not only does this mood lamp which [J. Sutton] built look great, but we love the modular design he adopted when building the circuit boards.

If you’re building something that is going to sit on your desk for some time it just has to look good. We think that he achieved that, using a small block of oak as the base, and a cloudy white cube of unknown origin as a diffuser. Notice that the different colors are not mixed. There’s a baffle inside the diffuser that keeps them separate as early testing showed any combination of intensities was resulting in nearly the same shade of color.

The part we really like is the modular design of his circuit boards. The project is based around a Teensy++ 2.0 board. He first built a PCB baseboard which feature two SIL sockets to accept the legs of the Teensy. There is a third SIL socket which accepts some long legs from the LED host board, letting it perch on top of the Teensy.

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The beginnings of a geeky wristwatch


Wow, we’re seeing all kinds of good stuff from NYC Resistor today. [Caleb] found this link to [Hudson’s] early work on a geeky wristwatch. It is based around an HDSP-2112 eight-digit alpha-numeric display. Each digit is a 5×7 array of LEDs, but the look of it really reminds us of [Woz’s] Nixie Wristwatch. The nice thing about using a display like this one is it’s much easier to drive and the power requirements don’t really call for special consideration either.

The display happens to be nearly the same footprint as the Teensy 2.0. In fact, the display is a bit longer. That makes it a perfect backpack, bringing everything necessary to drive the display. Check out the video after the break to see it scrolling the time as words, and displaying numbers.

This needs to have an RTC and portable power source before you can wear it around. But the proof is there. Perhaps [Hudson] will spin his own board with a uC that includes RTC capability and a charging circuit for a tiny Lithium cell.

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