Four Servo Fingers Play Simon Better Than You Ever Could

Remember Simon? We sure do. Simon — as in “Simon says…” — from the leading edge of electronic games in the 1970s, which used four buttons, colored lights, and simple tones as the basis for a memory game. Players had to remember the specific sequence of lights and replay the pattern in order to advance to the next round. It was surprisingly addictive, at least for the era.

For those who never quite got into the Simon groove, fear not — the classic game has now been fully automated. While there were plenty of approaches that could have taken to interfacing to the game, [ido roseman] went with the obvious — and best, in our opinion — technique and simulated a human player’s finger presses with servo-controlled arms. Each arm carries a light-dependent resistor that registers the light coming from the key it’s poised above; the sequence of lights is sensed and recorded by an Arduino, which then drives the servo fingers’ replay attack. The fingers aren’t exactly snappy in their response, which might cause problems — if we recall correctly, Simon is somewhat picky about the speed with which the keys are pressed, at least at higher levels of play.

On the whole, we really like this one, not least for the nostalgia factor. We’ve had a lot of recreations of Simon over the years, including a Dance Dance Revolution version, but few attempts to automate it. And a crazy idea: wouldn’t it be fun to replace the replay attack with a machine learning system that figures out how to play Simon by randomly pressing keys and observing the results?

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Auto Strummer Can Plectrum The Whole Flat-Strumming Spectrum

Playing the guitar requires speed, strength, and dexterity in both hands. Depending on your mobility level, rocking out with your axe might be impossible unless you could somehow hold down the strings and have a robot do the strumming for you.

[Jacob Stambaugh]’s Auto Strummer uses six lighted buttons to tell the hidden internal pick which string(s) to strum, which it does with the help of an Arduino Pro Mini and a stepper motor. If two or more buttons are pressed, all the strings between the outermost pair selected will be strummed. That little golden knob near the top is a pot that controls the strumming tempo.

[Jacob]’s impressive 3D-printed enclosure attaches to the guitar with a pair of spring-loaded clamps that grasp the edge of the sound hole. But don’t fret — there’s plenty of foam padding under every point that touches the soundboard.

We were worried that the enclosure would block or muffle the sound, even though it sits about an inch above the hole. But as you can hear in the video after the break, that doesn’t seem to be the case — it sounds fantastic.

Never touched a real guitar, but love to play Guitar Hero? There’s a robot for that, too.

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ECG Project With All The Messy Safety Details

We’ve seen a number of heart rate monitoring projects on Hackaday, but [Peter’s] electrocardiography (ECG) Instructable really caught out attention.

If you’ve followed Hackaday for any period of time, you’re probably already somewhat familiar with the hardware needed to record the ECG. First, you need a high input impedance instrumentation amplifier to pick up the millivolt signal from electrical leads carefully placed on the willing subject’s body. To accomplish this, he used an AD8232 single-lead ECG module (we’ve actually seen this part used to make a soundcard-based ECG). This chip has a built-in instrumentation amplifier as well as an optional secondary amplifier for additional gain and low-pass filtering. The ECG signal is riddled with noise from mains that can be partially attenuated with a simple low-pass filter. Then, [Peter] uses an Arduino Nano to sample the output of the AD8232, implement a digital notch filter for added mains noise reduction, and display the output on a 2.8″ TFT display.

Other than the circuit itself, two things about his project really caught our attention. [Peter] walks the reader through all the different safety considerations for a commercial ECG device and applies these principles to his simple DIY setup to ensure his own safety. As [Peter] put it, professional medical electronics should follow IEC 60601. It’s a pretty bulky document, but the main tenets quoted from [Peter’s] write-up are:

  1. limiting how much current can pass through the patient
  2. how much current can I pass through the patient?
  3. what electrical isolation is required?
  4. what happens if a “component” fails?
  5. how much electromagnetic interference can I produce?
  6. what about a defibrillator?

[Peter] mentions that his circuit itself does not fully conform to the standard (though he makes some honest attempts), but lays out a crude plan for doing so. These include using high-valued input resistors for the connections to the electrodes and also adding a few protection diodes to the electrode inputs so that the device can withstand a defibrillator. And of course, two simple strategies you always want to follow are using battery power and placing the device in a properly shielded enclosure.

[Peter] also does a great job breaking down the electrophysiology of the heart and relates it to terms maybe a bit more familiar to non-medical professionals. Understanding the human heart might be a little less intimidating if we relate the heart to a simple voltage source like a battery or maybe even a function generator. You can imagine the ions in our cells as charger carriers that generate electrical potential energy and nerve fibers as electrical wires along which electrical pulses travel through the body.

Honestly, [Peter] has a wealth of information and tools presented in his project that are sure to help you in your next build. You might also find his ECG simulator code really handy and his low-memory display driver code helpful as well. Cool project, [Peter]!

Measuring ECG is something that is near and dear to my heart (sorry, couldn’t resist). Two of my own projects that were featured on Hackaday before I became a writer here include a biomedical sensor suite in Arduino shield form factor, and a simple ECG built around an AD623 instrumentation amplifier.

An Arduino With A Floppy Drive

For many of us the passing of the floppy disk is unlamented, but there remains a corps of experimenters for whom the classic removable storage format still holds some fascination. The interface for a floppy drive might have required some complexity back in the days of 8-bit microcomputers, but even for today’s less accomplished microcontrollers it’s a surprisingly straightforward hardware prospect. [David Hansel] shows us this in style, with a floppy interface, software library, and even a rudimentary DOS, for the humble Arduino Uno.

The library provides functions to allow low level work with floppy disks, to read them sector by sector. In addition it incorporates the FatFS library for MS-DOS FAT file-level access, and finally the ArduDOS environment which allows browsing of files on a floppy. The pictures show a 3.5″ drive, but it also supports 5.25″ units and both DD and HD drives. We can see that it will be extremely useful to anyone working with retrocomputer software who is trying to retrieve old disks, and we look forward to seeing it incorporated in some retrocomputer projects.

Of course, Arduino owners needn’t have all the fun when it comes to floppy disks, the Raspberry Pi gets a look-in too.

Ooohhh, That Smell: Arduino Monitors Air Quality

According to [Dr. Tom Lehrer’s] song Pollution, “Wear a gas mask and a veil. Then you can breathe, long as you don’t inhale!” While the air quality in most of the world hasn’t gotten that bad, there is a lot of concern about long-term exposure to particulates in the air causing health problems. [Ashish Choudhary] married an Arduino with a display and a pollution sensor to give readings of the PM2.5 and PM10 levels in the air.

The sensor uses a laser diode and a photodiode to detect and count particles, while a fan moves air through the system. If you aren’t up on pollution metrics, PM2.5 is a count of very fine particles (under 2.5 microns) and PM10 is a count of particles for 10 microns. You can find a datasheet for the device online.

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AVR Reverse Engineering Hack Chat

Join us on Wednesday, April 21 at noon Pacific for the AVR Reverse Engineering Hack Chat with Uri Shaked!

We’ve all become familiar with the Arduino ecosystem by now, to the point where it’s almost trivially easy to whip up a quick project that implements almost every aspect of its functionality strictly in code. It’s incredibly useful, but we tend to lose sight of the fact that our Arduino sketches represent a virtual world where the IDE and a vast selection of libraries abstract away a lot of the complexity of what’s going on inside the AVR microcontroller.

While it’s certainly handy to have an environment that lets you stand up a system in a matter of minutes, it’s hardly the end of the story. There’s a lot to be gained by tapping into the power of assembly programming on the AVR, and learning how to read the datasheet and really run the thing. That was the focus of Uri Shaked’s recent well-received HackadayU course on AVR internals, and it’ll form the basis of this Hack Chat. Then again, since Uri is also leading a Raspberry Pi Pico and RP2040 course on HackadayU in a couple of weeks, we may end up talking about that too. Or we may end up chatting about something else entirely! It’s really hard to where this Hack Chat will go, given Uri’s breadth of interests and expertise, but we’re pretty sure of one thing: it won’t be boring. Make sure you log in and join the chat — where it goes is largely up to you.

join-hack-chatOur Hack Chats are live community events in the Hack Chat group messaging. This week we’ll be sitting down on Wednesday, April 21 at 12:00 PM Pacific time. If time zones have you tied up, we have a handy time zone converter.

Click that speech bubble to the right, and you’ll be taken directly to the Hack Chat group on You don’t have to wait until Wednesday; join whenever you want and you can see what the community is talking about.
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Portrait Of A Digital Weapon

Over the years, artists have been creating art depicting weapons of mass destruction, war and human conflict. But the weapons of war, and the theatres of operation are changing in the 21st century. The outcome of many future conflicts will surely depend on digital warriors, huddled over their computer screens, punching on their keyboards and maneuvering joysticks, or using devious methods to infect computers to disable or destroy infrastructure. How does an artist give physical form to an unseen, virtual digital weapon? That is the question which inspired [Mac Pierce] to create his latest Portrait of a Digital Weapon.

[Mac]’s art piece is a physical depiction of a virtual digital weapon, a nation-state cyber attack. When activated, this piece displays the full code of the Stuxnet virus, a worm that partially disabled Iran’s nuclear fuel production facility at Natanz around 2008. Continue reading “Portrait Of A Digital Weapon”