Make An Arduino Talk To You


One of the highlights from the Music Hack Day in Berlin was the Arduino singing “Daisy Bell”. If you don’t know, this is an homage to the HAL 9000 in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey; an artificial intelligence that was taught the song in its first steps toward self awareness culminating in an attempt to kill its masters.

It’s unlikely an Arduino will every make it to the point of attempted homicide but with the available code you can find out. Sample code and an explanation of human synthesis is now available through the Cantarino project. The project facilitates the use of phonemes from the SAM Apple II synthesizer to build wave forms that make up recognizable speech on the Arduino platform. The code illustrates how to select and link together speech sounds from the library. Check out the video after the break and then get to work on your own speech synthesis. We’re waiting for someone to put together the theme song from the 1980’s Transformers cartoon. Good luck![vimeo=]

[picture: jeanbaptistparis]

27 thoughts on “Make An Arduino Talk To You

  1. I dont understand all the arduino hate. This is a cool hack using easily available hardware. If you want to program your own chips with a custom boot loader and instruction set, great. But nobody in their right mind would prototype with a custom circuit.

  2. @sjc: YES! That is indeed what I’d like to hear as well.

    @Timothy: You’re right, HAL singing was an homage to the IBM 704. But for me, hearing a microcontroller singing drums up the man-vs-machine movie memories despite knowing the facts.

  3. “It’s unlikely an Arduino will every make it to the point of attempted homicide,” What? No KAH (Kill All Humans) opcode!?
    I always love when a computer of some kind sings “Daisy Bell” ever since I watched 2001: A Space Odyssey…

  4. @chris

    try playing the video again and listen closley for the “I’m” in “daisy, daisy, give me your answer true, I’m half crazy over the love of you”

    ps: i heard that when the ibm 704 “sang” daisy bell, it left a subliminal message in the song if so, does anyone know what the message is?

  5. Also, FWIW, the “robot” voices in the Transformers theme were probably done with either a vocoder or “talk box” (

    In fact, Hasbro sold a Transformers “voice changer” back in the 80’s. It was basically a battery-powered aquarium pump. You put the vinyl tube under your tongue and your voice modulated the hum (or vice versa?). I don’t remember it being all that fun :P

  6. The motor would be the carrier, your voice the modulator. That’s how vocoders usually work (synth is the carrier).

    That said, you can always flip that around if that’s the sound you want.

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