Hacked Prosthesis Leads To Mind-Controlled Electronic Music

As amazing as prosthetic limbs have become, and as life-changing as they can be for the wearer, they’re still far from perfect. Prosthetic hands, for instance, often lack the precise control needed for fine tasks. That’s a problem for [Bertolt Meyer], an electronic musician with a passion for synthesizers with tiny knobs, a problem he solved by hacking his prosthetic arm to control synthesizers with his mind. (Video, embedded below.)

If that sounds overwrought, it’s not; [Bertolt]’s lower arm prosthesis is electromyographically (EMG) controlled through electrodes placed on the skin of his residual limb. In normal use, he can control the servos inside the hand simply by thinking about moving muscles. After experimenting a bit with an old hand, he discovered that the amplifiers in the prosthesis could produce a proportional control signal based on his inputs, and with a little help from synthesizer manufacturer KOMA Electronik, he came up with a circuit that can replace his hand and generate multiple control voltage channels. Plugged into any of the CV jacks on his Eurorack modular synths, he now has direct mind control of his music.

We have to say this is a pretty slick hack, and hats off to [Bertolt] for being willing to do the experiments and for enlisting the right expertise to get the job done. Interested in the potential for EMG control? Of course there’s a dev board for that, and [Bil Herd]’s EMG signal processing primer should prove helpful as well.

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Build Your Own Selfie Drone With Computer Vision

In late 2013 and early 2014, in the heady days of the drone revolution, there was one killer app — the selfie drone. Selfie sticks themselves had already become a joke, but a selfie drone injected a breath of fresh air into the world of tech. Fidget spinners had yet to be invented, so this is really all we had. It wasn’t quite time for the age of the selfie drone, though, and the Lily camera drone — in spite of $40 Million in preorders — became the subject of lawsuits, and not fines from the FAA.

Technology marches ever forward, and now you can build your own selfie drone. That’s exactly what [geaxgx] did, although this build uses a an off-the-shelf drone with custom software instead of building everything from scratch.

For hardware, this is a Ryze Tello, a small, $100 quadcopter with a front-facing camera. With the right libraries, you can stream images to a computer and send flight commands back to the drone. Yes, all the processing for the selfie drone happens on a non-flying computer, because computer vision takes processing power and battery life.

The software comes from CMU’s OpenPose library, a real-time solution for detecting a body, face, or hands. With this, [geaxgx] was able to hover the drone and keep his face in the middle of the camera’s frame. While there’s no movement of the drone involved — the drone is just hovering and rotating to the left and right — it is a flying selfie stick without the stick. You can check out the video below and check out all the code on [geaxgx]’s GitHub here.

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MIDI To CV The DIY Way

MIDI has been a remarkably popular interface since its inception way back in 1983. Based on existing serial interfaces, and with a broad enough set of features, it remains the defacto standard for communication between musical gear. However, older gear and many modular synths simply don’t grok digital data, instead using analog control voltages to get the job done. Never fear, though – you can convert from one to the other with the goMIDI2CV.

It’s a simple device, hewn from an ATTINY microcontroller. MIDI signals are received at TTL voltage levels, and converted to output voltages by the ATTINY via use of the PWM hardware. A lowpass filter is added to remove the high-frequency content from the output signal.  A 6N138 optocoupler completes the project, to comply with the MIDI standard and ensure the device is not subject to any dangerous voltages from the hardware plugged in.

It’s a simple way to control older non-MIDI compliant hardware, and might make an old modular rig just that much more useful in the studio of today. We’ve seen similar builds before, like this combined CV and Gate converter. 

Alexa, Attack Intruders

If our doom at the hands of our robot overlords is coming, I for one welcome the chance to get a preview of how they might go about it. That’s the idea behind Project Icarus, an Alexa-enabled face-tracking Nerf turret. Designed by [Nick Engmann],  this impressive (or terrifying) project is built around a Nerf Vulcan, a foam dart firing machine gun mounted on a panning turret that is hidden behind a drop-down cabinet door. This is connected to a Pi Zero equipped with a Pi camera. The Zero is running OpenCV and Google Firebase, which connects it with Amazon’s Alexa service.

It works like this: you say “Alexa, open Project Icarus”. Through the Alexa skill that [Nick] created, this connects to the Pi and starts the system. If you then say “Alexa, activate alpha”, it triggers a relay to open the cabinet and the Nerf gun starts panning around, while the camera mounted on the top of it searches for faces. The command “Alexa, activate beta” triggers the Nerf to open fire.

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Mechanisms: Couplings

I was splitting wood one day a few years back, getting next winter’s firewood ready on my hydraulic splitter. It normally handled my ash and oak with ease, but I had a particularly gnarly piece of birch queued up, and the splitter was struggling. The 20-ton cylinder slowed as the wedge jammed in the twisted grain, the engine started to bog down, then BANG! I jumped back as something gave way and the engine revved out of control; I figured a hydraulic hose gave out. Whatever it was, I was done for the day.

I later discovered that a coupler between the engine shaft and the hydraulic pump failed dramatically. It was an easy fix once I ordered the right part, and I’ve since learned to keep extras in stock. Couplings are useful things, and they’re the next up in our series on mechanisms.

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Pop Goes The Haunted Jack-in-the-Box

Is Halloween sneaking up on you, too?  It’s less than two weeks away, but there is still plenty of time to build something that will scare the pants off trick-or-treaters and party guests alike. This year, Hackaday regular [Sean Hodgins] hacked his favorite holiday by taking something that ships with a base level of scariness and making it autonomous. What could be more frightening than a haunted toy?

The (decades-old) jack-in-the-box mechanism is simple. Turning the crank operates a mechanical music box that plays the traditional “Pop Goes the Weasel”. When the music box hits the high note, a jutting piece of plastic on the barrel of music box disturbs the other end of the latch, which frees the scary clown inside. [Sean] used a 100:1 DC motor to turn the crank from the inside, and a Pi camera to detect victims in the vicinity. Once the camera locks on to a face, the box cranks itself and eventually ejects the jester. Since most of the space inside is already taken up by the spring, [Sean] housed the electronics in a custom 3D-printed base with a hole cut out for the camera’s eye.

Many modifications are possible with a project like this. [Sean] is now in complete control of the latch operation, so he could make the clown pop appear instantly, or randomly, or sometimes not at all. Check out [Sean]’s entertaining build video after the break.

Want to make your own fright machine from scratch? We’ve got all the inspiration you need, from tabletop to trash can-sized monsters. Continue reading “Pop Goes The Haunted Jack-in-the-Box”

MIDI To CV/Gate The Easy Way

Let’s say you’ve got a modular synthesizer. You’re probably a pretty cool person. But all your cool laptop DJ friends keep showing off their MIDI-controlled hardware, and you’re getting jealous. Well, [little-scale] has the build for you.

The Teensy 3.6 is the current top-of-the-line Teensy from PJRC, and it’s [little-scale]’s weapon of choice here. With USB-MIDI and two 12-bit DACs on board, it’s made creating an interface between the worlds of analog and digital music into a remarkably simple job. Control voltages for pitch and velocity are pushed out over the analog pins, while pin 29 is used for gate signals.

It’s a testament to the amount of development that has gone into the Teensy platform that such projects can be built with virtually no off-board components. The build is a further step forward in simplicity from [little-scale]’s previous work, using a Teensy 2 with an offboard DAC to generate the output voltages.

Here at Hackaday, we’ve always been big fans of adding computer control to analog hardware. This CNC mod to a guitar pickup winding machine is a great example.