Everything’s a Touch Surface with Electrick

Touch screens are great, but big touchscreens are expensive and irregular touchscreens are not easy to make at all. Electrik is a method developed by several researchers at Carnegie Mellon University that makes almost any solid object into a touch surface using tomography. The catch is that a conductive coating — in the form of conductive sheets, 3D plastic, or paint — is necessary. You can see a demonstration and many unique applications in the video below. They’ve even made a touch-sensitive brain out of Jell-O and a touchable snowman out of Play-Doh.

The concept is simple. Multiple electrodes surround the surface. The system injects a current using a pair of electrodes and then senses the output at the other terminals. A finger touch will change the output of several of the electrodes. Upon detection, the system will change the injection electrodes and repeat the sensing. By using multiple electrode pairs and tomography techniques, the system can determine the location of touch and even do rough motion tracking like a low-resolution touch pad mouse.

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Colorful, Touch-Sensitive Light Table is Ready for Gaming

It’s an ambitious build for sure — you don’t start with $500 worth of wood if you don’t intend for the finished product to dazzle. And this 240-pixel touch-sensitive light box coffee table does indeed dazzle.

Sometimes when we see such builds as these, fit and finish take a back seat to function. [dasdingo89] bucks that trend with a nicely detailed build, starting with the choice of zebrawood for the table frame. The bold grain and the frosted glass top make for a handsome table, but what lurks beneath the glass is pretty special too. The 240 WS2812 modules live on custom PCBs, each thoughtfully provided with connectors for easy service. There’s also an IR transmitter-receiver pair on each board to detect when something is placed over the pixel. The pixel boards are connected to custom-built shift register boards for the touch sensors, and an Arduino with Bluetooth runs the whole thing. Right now the table just flashes and responds to hand gestures, but you can easily see this forming the basis of a beautiful Tetris or Pong table.

This build reminds us a little of this pressure-sensitive light floor we featured recently, which also has some gaming possibilities. Maybe [dasdingo89] and  [creed_bratton_] should compare notes and see who can come up with the best games for their platform.

[via r/DIY and a tip from emptycanister]

Tap On! Tap Off! The Backlight!

We recently covered [TechnologyCatalyst’s] excellent $50 multimeter shoot out, and we weren’t surprised when the winner was the Uni-T UT61E. It’s jam packed with features, and has a lot of bang for your buck. But one thing that it’s missing is a backlight.

The 61E uses a chip form CyrusTek called the ES51922A. This chip has a back light features built into it, but Uni-T simply didn’t add the supporting circuitry and LEDs. This was done either to keep cost down, or to not take away sales from their higher end models – your guess is as good as ours. Even though several people have tried carefully soldering to this fine pitch chip package to add back lights, the backlight timer is set to turn off in 60 seconds.

[Nisei] on the EEVBlog forum came up with an elegant capacitive touch solution that we could see being used in many other applications. The mod centers around a using a TTP223 touch sensor module that you can find on eBay for $1 instead of tapping into the meter’s dormant backlight controller. Add in a voltage regulator, a resistor, 2 leds and some foil tape, and that’s about all you need. [Nisei] did a great job documenting the mod with graphics rather than pictures (that can be a bit ambiguous at times.) Also, in case you missed the $50 DMM review you can find it here.

With all that said, we’re thinking the next multimeter mod might just need to be the “Clap-On, Clap-off” meter.

Sleek Desk Lamp Changes Colors Based on Sun Position

[Connor] was working on a project for his college manufacturing class when he came up with the idea for this sleek desk lamp. As a college student, he’s not fond of having his papers glowing brightly in front of him at night. This lamp takes care of the problem by adjusting the color temperature based on the position of the sun. It also contains a capacitive touch sensor to adjust the brightness without the need for buttons with moving parts.

The base is made from two sheets of aluminum and a bar of aluminum. These were cut and milled to the final shape. [Connor] found a nice DC barrel jack from Jameco that fits nicely with this design. The head of the lamp was made from another piece of aluminum bar stock. All of the aluminum pieces are held together with brass screws.

A slot was milled out of the bottom of the head-piece to make room for an LED strip and a piece of 1/8″ acrylic. This piece of acrylic acts as a light diffuser.  Another piece of acrylic was cut and added to the bottom of the base of the lamp. This makes for a nice glowing outline around the bottom that gives it an almost futuristic look.

The capacitive touch sensor is a pretty simple circuit. [Connor] used the Arduino capacitive touch sensor library to make his life a bit easier. The electronic circuit really only requires a single resistor between two Arduino pins. One of the pins is also attached to the aluminum body of the lamp. Now simply touching the lamp body allows [Connor] to adjust the brightness of the lamp.

[Connor] ended up using an Electric Imp to track the sun. The Imp uses the wunderground API to connect to the weather site and track the sun’s location. In the earlier parts of the day, the LED colors are cooler and have more blues. In the evening when the sun is setting or has already set, the lights turn more red and warm. This is easier on the eyes when you are hunched over your desk studying for your next exam. The end result is not only functional, but also looks like something you might find at that fancy gadget store in your local shopping mall.

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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