Playing the guitar is pretty difficult to do, physically speaking. It requires a lot of force with the fretting hand to produce clear notes, and that means pressing a thin piece of metal against a block of wood until the nerve endings in your fingertips die off and you grow calluses that yearn to be toughened even further. Even if you do get to this point of being broken in, it takes dexterity in both hands to actually make music. Honestly, the guitar is kind of an unwelcoming instrument, even if you don’t have any physical disabilities.
A Russian startup company called Noli Music wants to change all of that. They’re building a guitar that’s playable for everyone, regardless of physical or musical ability. Noli Music was founded by [Denis Goncharov] who has a form of muscular dystrophy. [Denis] has always wanted to rock out to his favorite songs, but struggles to play a standard guitar.
If you can touch the fretboard, it seems, you can whale away on this axe without trouble. It’s made to be easier to play all around. The strings aren’t fully tensioned, so they’re easy to pluck — the site says they only take 1.7oz of force to actuate.
Right now, the guitar is in the prototype stage. But when it’s ready to rock, it will do so a couple of ways. One uses embedded sensors in the fretboard detect finger positions and sound the appropriate note whether you pluck it or simply fret it. In another mode, the finger positions light up to help you learn new songs. The guitar will have a touchscreen interface, and Noli are planning on building a companion app to provide interactive lessons.
We have to wonder just how exactly this will be able to mimic the physics of guitar playing, especially since it’s designed with all players in mind. How satisfied will seasoned players be with this instrument? Can it do pull-offs and hammer-ons? What about slides? Do the sensors respond to bends? And most importantly, will the built-in speaker be loud enough to drown out the string vibrations? It seems to do just fine on that front, as you can see in the video below.
If the built-in speaker didn’t drown out the strings, it could make for some interesting sounds that stray outside the western chromatic scale, much like this LEGO microtonal guitar.
Continue reading “Smart Guitar Will Practically Play Itself”
Computers haven’t done much for the quality of our already poor handwriting. However, a man paralyzed by an accident can now feed input into a computer by simply thinking about handwriting, thanks to work by Stanford University researchers. Compared to more cumbersome systems based on eye motion or breath, the handwriting technique enables entry at up to 90 characters a minute.
Currently, the feat requires a lab’s worth of equipment, but it could be made practical for everyday use with some additional work and — hopefully — less invasive sensors. In particular, the sensor used two microelectrode arrays in the precentral gyrus portion of the brain. When the subject thinks about writing, recognizable patterns appear in the collected data. The rest is just math and classification using a neural network.
If you want to try your hand at processing this kind of data and don’t have a set of electrodes to implant, you can download nearly eleven hours of data already recorded. The code is out there, too. What we’d really like to see is some easier way to grab the data to start with. That could be a real game-changer.
More traditional input methods using your mouth have been around for a long time. We’ve also looked at work that involves moving your head.
We have so many options through which to communicate with our friends and relatives during the lockdown, thanks to our smartphones and the number of apps that serve all possible needs. Impressive as they are though, a smartphone is not suitable for everyone. In particular older people can find them less easy to use, and the consequent loss of communication ability is addressed by [Manu] with the Yayagram, described in a thread of Spanish-language Tweets and later the thread was translated into English.
On the top of the box is a microphone with push-to-talk switch, a small thermal printer, and a set of 1/4″ jack sockets with associated jump lead. Each socket corresponds to a relative, and an audio message to that relative can be posted via Telegram simply by speaking into the microphone with the button pressed. Replies are then printed through the thermal printer. Meanwhile behind the scenes is a Raspberry Pi holding it all together.
We like the simplicity of the interface, and who wouldn’t want to ensure that their older relatives were able to keep in touch! But while the jump lead is a neat touch, we hope it’s not too difficult for extremely frail hands. It’s certainly not the first accessibility project for older people that we’ve seen.
We don’t have many details from [dariocose] about his K-Ability Dev Kit yet, but there are enough clues on his HackadayPrize2020 entry that we can tease out the critical points. The plan is to supply a control module with Bluetooth HID capability to act as a mouse and keyboard. It will plug into a socket on user-specific boards. Each style will be suited to a patient with a neuromuscular disease and will allow them to interact with computers in a way that suits their needs. For example, if someone lacks fine motor control, they may need large buttons, while someone with weak muscles may need pads close to one another. From the video’s looks below, the prototype boards aren’t anything fancier than cardboard and wire. Developing the best device doesn’t mean a dozen iterative prints or wasted laser-cut acrylic sheets.
Example code supports three mouse movements, left, right, and down, but there are plans to develop a tool to reprogram them. Given the name and prominent LCD, we suspect there will be keyboard support in the future. Processing and Bluetooth rest on the capable shoulders of an ESP32, which also supports touch sensing, so customized pads can respond to a wispy graze or a blunt fist.
We’re not short on customized keyboards that range from glorious elements of comfort to befuddling tools of typing.
Continue reading “Accessibility Keyboard Is Modular And Practical”
A good instrument stays with its owner for a lifetime, becoming part of their essential trusted toolkit to be consulted as a matter of habit. If you use a caliper to measure dimensions you’ll know this, and a quick glance at its scale or digital display will be second nature. But if you aren’t fortunate enough to have the eyesight to see the caliper, then it’s off-limits, and that’s something [Naomi Wu] has addressed with her open-source accessible speaking caliper app. It’s an Android app that connects to digital calipers that contain Bluetooth connectivity, and as well as speaking aloud the caliper reading it also displays it in very large text on the device screen. As well as the source link from which you can build the app, it’s available for installation directly from the Google Play Store.
If you’re used to [Naomi] from her video tours of the electronics businesses in her native Shenzhen, her eye-catching wearable projects, or her exploits with an industrial CNC machine in her living room, you might be interested to know that aside from this app she’s been a long-time proponent of open-source in China. She was responsible among other projects for the Sino:bit educational computer board, which holds the distinction for her of having secured the first ever Chinese OSHWA certification.
You can see the caliper app in action below the break.
Continue reading “Digital Caliper Talks For Accessibility, With This App”
Getting a child’s attention can be difficult at the best of times. Add deafness into the picture, and it’s harder again. [Jake]’s daughter recently had to go without her cochlear implants, raising this issue. Naturally, he whipped up some hardware to solve the problem.
[Jake]’s solution was to devise a vibrating wristband that could be used to get his daughter’s attention. An Adafruit Trinket M0 is used to vibrate a pager motor, using a DRV2605 motor driver. This is paired with a Tile Bluetooth device, allowing the unit to interface with Google Assistant. This allows [Jake] to get his daughter’s attention with a simple voice command to a smartphone, tablet or smart speaker.
While [Jake]’s daughter will regain her cochlear implants soon, they do have limitations as far as hearing distant sounds and working in high-noise environments. It’s likely that this little gadget will prove useful well into the future, and could serve others well, too. Wearable notification devices are growing more popular; this OLED ring is a particularly good example. Video after the break.
Continue reading “Notification Wearable Helps Get Child’s Attention”
For some people, mowing the lawn is a dreaded chore that leads to thoughts of pouring a concrete slab over the yard and painting it green. Others see it as the perfect occasion to spend a sunny afternoon outside. And then there are those without the luxury of having a preference on the subject in the first place. [elliotmade] for example has a friend who’s sitting in a wheelchair, and would normally have to rely on others to maintain his lawn and form an opinion on the enjoyability of the task. So to retain his friend’s independence, he decided to build him a remote-controlled lawn mower.
After putting together an initial proof of concept that’s been successfully in use for a few years now, [elliotmade] saw some room for improvement and thought it was time for an upgrade. Liberating the drive section of an electric wheelchair, he welded a frame around it to house the battery and the mower itself, and added an alternator to charge the battery directly from the mower’s engine. An RC receiver that connects to the motor driver is controlled by an Arduino, as well as a pair of relays to switch both the ignition and an electric starter that eliminates the need for cord pulling. Topping it off with a camera, the garden chores are now comfortably tackled from a distance, without any issues of depth perception.
Remote-controlling a sharp-bladed machine most certainly requires a few additional safety considerations, and it seems that [elliotmade] thought this out pretty well, so failure on any of the involved parts won’t have fatal consequences. However, judging from the demo video embedded after break, the garden in question might not be the best environment to turn this into a GPS-assisted, autonomous mower in the future. But then again, RC vehicles are fun as they are, regardless of their shape or size.
Continue reading “RC Lawn Mower Keeps The Grass Greener On Your Side Of The Fence”