Co41D 2020 MIDI Theremin Sounds Pretty Sick

As the pandemic rages on, so does the desire to spend the idle hours tinkering. [knaylor1] spent the second UK lockdown making a sweet Theremin-inspired noise machine with a low parts count that looks like a ton of fun.

It works like this: either shine some light on the photocells, cover them up, or find some middle ground between the two. No matter what you do, you’re going to get cool sounds out of this thing.

The photocells behave like potentiometers that are set up in a voltage divider. An Arduino UNO takes readings in from the photocells, does some MIDI math, and sends the serial data to a program called Hairless MIDI, which in turn sends it to Ableton live.

[knaylor1] is using a plugin called TAL Noisemaker on top of that to produce the dulcet acid house tones that you can hear in the video after the break.

If you’ve never played with light-dependent resistors before, do yourself a favor and spend a little bit of that Christmas cash on a variety pack of these things. You don’t even need an Arduino to make noise, you can use them as the pots in an Atari Punk console or make farty square waves with a hex inverting oscillator chip like the CD40106. Our own [Elliot Williams] once devoted an entire column to making chiptunes.

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Tiny Circuit Sculpture Keeps The Night Watch

If you’re planning to get into circuit sculpture one of these days, it would probably be best to start with something small and simple, instead of trying to make a crazy light-up spaceship or something with a lot of curves on the first go. A small form factor doesn’t necessarily mean it can’t also be useful. Why not start by making a small automatic night light?

The circuit itself is quite simple, especially because it uses an Arduino. You could accomplish the same thing with a 555, but that’s going to complicate the circuit sculpture part of things a bit. As long as the ambient light level coming in from the light-dependent resistor is low enough, then the two LEDs will be lit.

We love the frosted acrylic panels that [akshar1101] connected together with what looks like right angle header pins. If you wanted to expose the electronics, localize the light diffusion with a little acrylic cover that slips over the LEDs. Check it out in the demo after the break.

There’s more than one way to build a glowing cuboid night light. The Rubik’s way, for instance.

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Score Big Against Boredom With Tabletop Bowling

Bowling has been around since ancient Egypt and continues to entertain people of all ages, especially once they roll out the fog machine and hit the blacklights. But why pay all that money to don used shoes and drink watered-down beer? Just build a tabletop bowling alley in your spare time and you can bowl barefoot if you want.

Those glowing pins aren’t just for looks — the LEDs underneath them are part of the scoring system. Whenever a pin is knocked out of its countersunk hole, the LED underneath is exposed and shines its light on a corresponding light-dependent resistor positioned overhead. An Arduino Uno keeps track of of the frame, ball number, and score, and displays it on an LCD.

The lane is nearly six feet long, so this is more like medium-format bowling or maybe even skee-bowling. There are probably a number of things one could use for balls, but [lainealison] is using large ball bearings. Roll past the break to see it in action, but don’t go over the line!

Can’t keep your balls out of the gutter? Build a magic ball and make all wishful leaning more meaningful as you steer it down the lane with your body.

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Lovebox Gives Infinite Treats Sweeter Than Chocolate

Want to make a special Valentine’s Day gift that keeps on giving well past the holiday? We do too, especially if it’s something as cute as [Marcel Stör]’s Lovebox. This is a relatively simple build, but it’s the kind that lets you make someone’s day over and over again.

The sender composes their love note in a secret GitHub gist, either as a text message or a binary image, and updates the gist. Whenever the Wemos D1 mini inside the box receives a new message, a micro servo slowly wiggles the hearts up and down to notify the recipient.

Once they remove the lid to read it, a light-dependent resistor senses the flood of light on its face and tells the servo it can stop wiggling. We think it’s neat that the heart nudges upwardly at the box lid a bit as it moves, because it increases the cuteness factor.

Everybody loves to hear from that special someone throughout the day. The idea of sending an intimate message remotely is quite romantic, and there’s something thrilling and urgent about a physical notification. Show the break button a little love, and you’ll see a truffle-sized demo featuring both an incoming image and a text message.

[Marcel] was happy to ply his woodworking skills rather than use a laser cutter. If you have neither of these, hit up a craft store or two and you’ll find unfinished wooden boxes and pre-cut hearts galore. Or, you could just say it with copper.

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Make A Mean-Sounding Synth From Average Components

A while back, [lonesoulsurfer] stumbled upon a mind-blowing little DIY synth on YouTube and had to make one of his own. We don’t blame him one bit for that, ’cause we’ve been down that cavernous rabbit hole ourselves. You might want to build one too, after you hear the deliciously fat and guttural sounds waiting inside those chips and passives. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

The main synth is built on five LM358 op-amps that route PWM through a pair of light-dependent resistors installed near the top. There are two more oscillators courtesy of a 40106 hex inverting Schmitt trigger, which leaves four more oscillators to play with should you take the plunge and build your own.

He didn’t just copy the guy’s schematic and call it good. He added [a 555-based arpeggiator that’s controlled with two homebrew optocouplers. These sound fancy and expensive, but can be bred easily at home by sealing an LED and an LDR inside a piece of black heat shrink tubing and applying a bit of PWM. With the flick of a toggle, he can bypass the momentary buttons and use the yellow knob at the top to sweep through the pitch range with a single input.

Although he doesn’t hold your hand through the build, [lonesoulsurfer] has plenty of nice, clear pictures of the process that nearly give a step-by-step guide. That plus the video demo and walk-through should get you well on your way to DIY synthville.

If this all seems very cool, but you’d really like to understand what’s happening as you descend into the rabbit hole, our own [Elliot Williams]’s Logic Noise series is an excellent start.

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Shedding A Bit Of Light On Some Logic

When it comes to logic technologies, we like to think we’ve seen them all here at Hackaday. But our community never ceases to surprise us with its variety and ingenuity, so it should be a surprise that [Dr Cockroach] has delivered one we’ve not seen before. Light logic doesn’t use the conventional active devices you’d expect such as transistors, tubes, or even relays. Instead, it uses LEDs and CdS cells to make rudimentary switches. So far there is a NAND, a NOR, and a set-reset latch that appears in the video below the break, and it is not inconceivable that much more complex devices could be crafted.

The CdS cell switch is not too far different in operation to a transistor, with the CdS cell forming half of a potential divider as a rough equivalent of a collector-emitter circuit, and the LED feeding its light to the cell and forming a rough equivalent of a base circuit. It would probably not form a very good analog of a transistor and it seems likely that is will not be the fastest of devices, but we applaud the ingenuity in coming up with it.

CdS cells are a component that seems almost to come from another era, redolent of childhood electronic kits from days of yore. It’s no surprise we don’t see them too often, though, they pop up in the occasional automatic sunglasses.

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Intuitive Musical Books Accompany Alzheimer’s Patients’ Memories

If you have a loved one with Alzheimer’s, you know how difficult it can be to hold a conversation with them that doesn’t constantly go in circles. A good way to keep them focused is to use conversation pieces like pictures and familiar objects from their past. Something particularly poignant might uncork a flood of memories.

Adding familiar music to these images can be doubly beneficial. [Annelle] found this out when she showed her mother a musical children’s book that plays nursery rhymes. Her mother’s face lit up with joy when she heard those well-known tunes, and her reaction inspired [Annelle] to explore the idea.  After a fruitless search for more mature musical books, [Annelle] and her husband [Mike] got to work making their own using hymns, spirituals, and pictures from [Annelle]’s travels with her mother.

Alzheimer’s is a pretty tough test for intuitive interfaces. Because of this, [Annelle] and [Mike] designed around the constraints of buttons and switches. Instead, the book uses light-dependent resistors mounted inside the back cover, and an increasing number of holes in each page. These photo cells are all wired to an Adafruit sound board, which figures out the active page based on the input voltage and plays the corresponding song.

Tilt switches inside the 3D-printed enclosure negate the need for a power button. The book is turned off when lying flat on a table, but it’s ready to rock in any other position. Turn past the break for an overview video and another that covers the page detection scheme.

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