Quick and dirty touch-sensitive keyboard project

quick-dirty-touch-sensitive-keyboard

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.

Fruit piano uses a different circuit than the Makey Makey

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[Hasbi Sevinç] is using perishable goods in his electronics project. The orange, tomato, and two apples seen above act as keys for the virtual piano. The concept is the same as the Makey Makey which is often demonstrated as a banana piano. This implementation uses an Arduino to read the sensors and to connect to the computer running the piano program.

You can see there’s a fair amount of circuitry built on the breadboard. Each piece of fruit has its own channel to make it into a touch sensor. The signal produced when your finger contacts the food is amplified by transistors connected in a Darlington pair. That circuit drives the low side of a optoisolator transmitter. The receiving side of it is connected the I/O pin of the Arduino. You can see the schematic as well as a demo clip after the break.

This use of hardware frees up a lot of your microcontroller cycles. That’s because projects like this banana piano use the timers to measure RC decay. [Hasbi’s] setup provides a digital signal that at most only needs to be debounced.

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Traffic light cufflinks

[Brendan Sleight] has been hard at work on this wearable piece of tech. He doesn’t wear much jewelry, but a wedding ring and some cufflinks are part of his look. To add some geek he designed a set of cufflinks that function like traffic lights. Since he still had some program space left he also rolled in extra features to compliment the traffic light display.

That link goes to his working prototype post, but you’ll want to look around a bit as his posts are peppered with info from every part of the development process. The coin-sized PCB hiding inside the case plays host to a red, amber, and green surface mount LED. To either side of them you’ll find an ATtiny45 and a RV-8564-C2. The latter is a surface mount RTC with integrated crystal oscillator, perfect for a project where space is very tight.

The design uses the case as a touch sensor. Every few seconds the ATtiny wakes up to see if the link is being touched. This ensures that the coin cell isn’t drained by constantly driving the LEDs. The touch-based menu system lets you run the links like a stop light, or display the time, date, or current temperature. See a quick demo clip after the break.

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Building touch sensors from digital barometer chips

A couple of Harvard researchers have developed a method of using digital barometers as a touch sensor. The good news for us is that they’ve open sourced the project, including Eagle board files, firmware, and details about the materials they used.

The digital barometers were chosen for their characteristics, availability, and low-cost. The sensor uses an array of Freescale MPL115A2 chips, a MEMS Barometer designed for use in altimeters. The mass production makes them cheap (Octopart found some in single quantities for $1.71 at the time of writing). The chips are soldered onto a board which is then cast in rubber. This distributes the force while protecting the sensors. The video after the break shows them standing up to rubber hammer blows and supporting a 25 pound weight.

There are a few tricks to reading the array. The first is that the devices are designed to be used one-to-a-project so they have a fixed i2 address. A separate chip must be used to address them individually. But one it’s up and running you should be able to use it as feedback for the fingertips of that robot arm you’ve been building.

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The many iterations of [Joe’s] PCB business card

[Joe Colosimo] is putting on a show with his PCB business card project. The idea isn’t new, but his goal is to keep it simple and undercut the cost of all other PCB cards he’s seen. This is the third generation of the board design, and he’s just waiting on some solder mask solution before he tries running it through the reflow oven.

The first two prototypes used some through-hole parts. Notably, the battery was to be positioned in a circular cut-out and held in place by a metal strap and some bare wires. But he couldn’t quite get it to work right so this design will transition to a surface-mount strap for one side, and the large circular pad for the other. At each corner of the board there is a footprint for an LED. He tried milling holes in the board to edge-light the substrate. Now he just mounts the LED upside down to give the board a blue glow. The LEDs are driven by an ATtiny10 microcontroller which takes input from the touch sensor array at the bottom right.

He etched a QR code on the board which seems to work better than the milled QR experiments we saw back in April. The link at the top point’s to [Joe’s] main page on the card. Don’t forget to follow the links at the bottom which cover each part of the development more in-depth.

[Thanks Skitchin]

Bananaphone lets you use fruit and other things as switches

We’re used to [Sprite_TM] rolling out his own hacks hot on the heels of new concepts. Now we’re glad to see that [Jeff Ledger] is doing the same thing here. He was inspired by a Kickstarter project which vows to let you use fruit, clay, and a number of other common (but weird for this use) substances to interface with electronic projects. The mess you see above is the Bananaphone, a synthesizer played with touch sensitive bananas. Think of them as keys on a piano.

The interface works by measuring R/C decay. Each banana is connected to its own input pin on the Propeller board. The capacitance of the bananas rise when you touch them, and this results in a longer R/C decay measurement. Calibrate the target decay period, and you’ve got a reliable capacitive touch sensor which also happens to be delicious. Check out the results which [Jeff] achieves in the video after the break.

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Turning anything into a touch sensor

This year at the CHI conference in Austin, [Munehiko Sato], [Ivan Poupyrev], and [Chris Harrison] out of the Disney research lab in Pittsburgh demonstrated their way to make touch sensors out of anything. Not only to they suggest using the surface of your skin to control cell phones and MP3 players, they’re also able to recognize touch gestures, like poking or grasping an object. That sounds a little heady, so check out the video of the Touché tech in action.

Like the capacitive touch sensors in our phones and tablets, Touché measures the rise and fall of a capacitor’s charge over time. Unlike  other touch sensors, Touché scans the capacitor at different rates, allowing for a ‘capacitive profile’ that is used to recognized touch gestures.

The applications for this tech are nearly innumerable; the team demonstrated scolding someone for eating cereal with chopsticks (yeah, we know…), an on-body music player interface, and gestures for an office doorknob that notifies passersby if you’ve stepped out for a minute or are gone for the day.

It’s a very interesting build, and we give it two weeks until someone replicates this build. We’ll be sure to post it then.

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