There’s nothing new, ever. It’s all been done. But that doesn’t mean you can’t invent something interesting. A case in point is the Motor Synth, a crowdfunding project from Gamechanger Audio. It’s what you get when you combine advanced quadcopter technology with the market for modular and semi-modular synthesizers.
The core feature of the Motor Synth is an octet of brushless motors tucked behind a plexiglass window. These (either through an electromagnetic pickup or something slightly more clever) produce a tone, giving the Motor Synth four-note polyphony with two voices per key. On top of these motors are reflective optical discs sensed with infrared detectors. These are mixed as harmonics to the fundamental frequency. The result? Well, they got an endorsement from [Jean-Michel Jarre] at Superbooth earlier this month (see video below). That’s pretty impressive. Continue reading “The Motor Synth Is What You Get When You Forget Hammond Organs Exist”
Cruising through the children’s hands-on activity zone at Maker Faire Bay Area, we see kids building a cardboard enclosure for the Chatterbox smart speaker kit. It would be tempting to dismiss the little smiling box as “just for kids” but doing so would overlook something more interesting: an alternative to data-mining corporations who dominate the smart speaker market. People are rightly concerned about Amazon Echo and Google Home, always-listening devices for online retail sending data back to their corporate data centers. In order to be appropriate for children, Chatterbox is none of those things. It only listens when a button is pressed, and its online model is designed to support the mission of CCFC (Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood.)
Getting started with a Chatterbox is much like other products designed to encourage young makers. The hardware — Raspberry Pi, custom HAT, speaker and button inside a cardboard enclosure — is conceptually similar to a Google AIY Voice kit but paired with an entirely different software experience. Instead of signing in to a Google developer account, children create their own voice interaction behavior with a block-based programming environment resembling MIT Scratch. Moving online, Chatterbox interactions draw upon resources of similarly privacy-minded entities like DuckDuckGo web search. Voice interaction foundation is built upon a fork of Mycroft with changes focused on education and child-friendliness. If a Chatterbox is unsure whether a query was for “Moana” or “Marijuana”, it will decide in favor of the Disney movie.
Many of these privacy-conscious pieces are open source or freely available, but Chatterbox pulls them all together into a single package that’s an appealing alternative to the big brand options. Based on conversations during Hackaday’s Maker Faire meetup, there’s a market beyond parents of young children. From technically aware adults who lack web API coding skills, to senior citizens unaware of dark corners of the web. Chatterbox Kickstarter campaign has a few more weeks to run but has already reached funding goals. We look forward to having a privacy-minded option in voice assistants.
The future of the music instrument industry lies in synthesizers, and nowhere is this more apparent than the suite of tiny, pocket-sized synths more than capable of making bleeps and bloops. You’ve got tiny Korgs and Pocket Operators, and the time is ripe for people to wake up to tiny, pocket-sized synths.
The latest in a wide, diverse range of pocketable synthesizers is the Bitty. It’s a pocket-sized drum machine that’s the closest we’ve seen to a pocketable MPC to date. It’s a Kickstarter project that’s already completely funded only a day into the campaign.
The core of the Bitty is built around the Arduino, and for good reason. The last few years have seen some incredible advances in Arduino audio libraries, and this is no exception. The Bitty is built around the Mozzi library that gives it actual oscillators and ready-made wavetables. The Bitty comes with ‘software packs’ that include the Theremin Bitty, Techno Bitty, Basement Bitty, Trap Bitty, Lofi Bitty Bitty, and Beach Bitty. All of these are different sounds and samples, turning this tiny device into an all-in-one sampling solution. Seriously: look at how many Pocket Operators there are, how much they sell for, and realize this is a device that can download new samples and sounds. There’s a market here.
The Arduino-compatible Bitty is available on Kickstarter right now, with the base reward starting at under $100, with delivery in February, 2020. You can check out the video demo below.
Continue reading “The Sampler That Fits In Your Pocket”
A few years ago, new, innovative pico projectors, influenced by one of the TI development kits, started appearing in Kickstarter projects and other various DIY endeavours. Those projects fizzled out, most likely due to the cost of the projectors, but we got a few laughs out of it: that wearable smartphone that projected a screen onto your wrist used the same technology.
But there’s a need for a small projector, a pico projector, or in this case a femto projector. It’s the Nebra Anybeam, and it’s a small projector that uses lasers, and it comes in the form of a Raspberry Pi hat. We would like to congratulate the team for shipping the ideal use case of their product first.
The key features of this pico projector address the shortcomings of existing projectors that can fit in your pocket. This uses a laser, and there’s no bulb, and the power consumption can be as low as 3 Watts. Power is provided over a micro USB cable. The resolution of this projector is 720p, which is sufficient for a quick setup for watching a movie, but the brightness is listed as equivalent to 150 ANSI lumens, about the same as small projectors from a few years ago.
But of course the big selling point isn’t the brightness or resolution, it’s all about the smallness of the projector itself. There is a developer’s kit, a Pi Hat, a fit-in-your-pocket version with an enclosure, and a ‘monster ball’ version of the Anybeam.
One of the vast untapped potentials of medicine is the access to imaging equipment. A billion people have difficulty getting access to an x-ray, and that says nothing about access to MRIs or CAT scans. Over the past few years, [Jean Rintoul] has been working on a low-cost way to image the inside of a human body using nothing more than a few electrodes. It can be done cheaply and easily, and it’s one of the most innovative ways of bringing medical imaging to the masses. Now, this is a crowdfunding project, aiming to provide safe, accessible medical imaging to everyone.
It’s called Spectra, and uses electrical impedance tomography to image the inside of a chest cavity, the dielectric spectrum of a bone, or the interior of a strawberry. Spectra does this by wrapping an electrode around a part of the body and sending out small AC currents. These small currents are reconstructed using tomographic techniques, imaging a cross-section of a body.
[Jean] gave a talk about Spectra at last year’s Hackaday Superconference, and if you want to look at the forefront of affordable medical technology, you needn’t look any further. Simply by sending an AC wave of around 10kHz through a body, software can reconstruct the internals. Everything from lung volume to muscle and fat mass to cancers can be detected with this equipment. You still need a tech or MD to interpret the data, but this is a great way to bring medical imaging technology to the people who need it.
Right now, the Spectra is up on Crowd Supply, with a board that can be configured to use 32 electrodes. Measurements are taken at 160,000 samples/sec, and these samples have 16-bit resolution. This is just the acquisition hardware, though, but the software to do tomographic reconstruction is open source and also readily available.
In terms of bringing medical imaging to the masses, this is a very impressive piece of work, and is probably the project from last year’s Hackaday Prize that has the best chance of changing the world.
Based on the WiFi / Bluetooth wunderchip, clad in a polycarbonate frame, and looking like something that would be an amazing cell phone for 2005, the WiPhone is now available on Kickstarter.
We’ve seen the WiPhone before, and it’s an interesting set of features for what is effectively an ESP32 board with some buttons and a screen. It’s become something of a platform, with expansion daughterboards for LTE, LoRa, a camera, a Bus Pirate, and a programmable NFC/RFID doohickey. If you’ve longed for the day of big ‘ol Nokia brick phones, want to hack your phone, but don’t really care about actually having cellular connectivity, this is something that’s right up your alley.
Although the WiPhone looks like a usable product that was designed by someone with a sense of design, it still is Open Source. You can build your own, and there are dozens of expansion boards that will plug into the back of the WiPhone for prototyping, experimentation, and RGB Gaming LEDs. There’s no cellular modem on the WiPhone, though; for calls you’ll have to turn to SIP or VoIP apps.
Considering how difficult it is to source a cellular modem in small quantities and the desire for a cell phone that respects your Right to Repair, we’ve got to hand it to the WiPhone for creating something people want. It gets even better when you consider this looks more like a product than the 3D printed pieces of electronic cruft we usually see, and we’re happy to see this crowdfunding campaign just passed its goal and is completely funded.
Next year we’re arguably coming up on the centennial of electronic music, depending on whether you count the invention or the patent for the theremin its creation. Either way, this observation is early, so start arguing about it now. If you want to celebrate the century of the theremin, how about you do it just like grandpa Leon and build one out of tubes? That’s what this crowdfunding campaign is all about. It’s a theremin, and it’s made out of tubes.
Theremins are a dime a dozen around these parts, and yes, if you walk into a Guitar Center you can walk out the door with one. They’re pretty common. But being almost a hundred years old, the first theremin wasn’t made made with only silicon, this one had some dioxide thrown in. The first theremin was a tube device, which we all know has a warmer sound when connected to oxygen free cables in an oxygen free room. In any event, messing around with tubes is fun, so here’s a tube theremin.
The circuit for this theremin is constructed around two EF95 tubes and two ECF80 tubes with a heater voltage of 12 V, with 40 V used as the the rest of the circuitry. Unlike virtually every other crowdfunding campaign we’ve ever seen, there are pages of documentation, written down in text, with actual words, and no ominous clapping ukulele glockenspiel hipster music. It’s in German (Google Translatrix with the save) but we’ll take what we can get. It’s really great to see the development of this theremin, and now we’re wondering where we too can get a breadboard that’s just a piece of copper being used as a ground plane.