The Magic Flute Of Rat Mind Control Aims To Mix Magic And Science

Well this is unusual. Behold the Magic Flute of Rat Mind Control, and as a project it is all about altering the response to the instrument, rather than being about hacking the musical instrument itself. It’s [Kurt White]’s entry to the Musical Instrument Challenge portion of The Hackaday Prize, and it’s as intriguing as it is different.

The Raspberry-Pi controlled, IoT Skinner box for rats, named Nicodemus.

[Kurt] has created a portable, internet-connected, automated food dispenser with a live streaming video feed and the ability to play recorded sounds. That device (named Nicodemus) is used as a Skinner Box to train rats — anywhere rats may be found — using operant conditioning to make them expect food when they hear a few bars of Black Sabbath’s Iron Man played on a small recorder (which is a type of flute.)

In short, the flute would allow one to summon hordes of rats as if by magic, because they have been trained by Nicodemus to associate Iron Man with food.

Many of the system’s elements are informed by the results of research into sound preference in rats, as well as their ability to discriminate between different melodies, so long as the right frequencies are present. The summoning part is all about science, but what about how to protect oneself from the hordes of hungry rodents who arrive with sharp teeth and high expectations of being fed? According to [Kurt], that’s where the magic comes in. He seems very certain that a ritual to convert a wooden recorder into a magic flute is all the protection one would need.

Embedded below is something I’m comfortable calling the strangest use case video we’ve ever seen. Well, we think it’s a dramatized use case. Perhaps it’s more correctly a mood piece or motivational assist. Outsider Art? You decide.

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Sharpening Drills Bits The Hard Way

Drill bits are so cheap that when one is too chowdered up to keep working, we generally just toss it out. So you might expect a video on sharpening drill bits to be somewhat irrelevant, but [This Old Tony] makes it work.

The reason this video is worth watching is not just that you get to learn how to sharpen your bits, although that’s an essential metalworker’s skill. Where [This Old Tony]’s video shines is by explaining why a drill bit is shaped the way it is, which he does by fabricating a rudimentary twist drill bit from scratch. Seeing how the flutes and the web are formed and how all the different angles interact to cut material and transport the swarf away is fascinating. And as a bonus, knowing what the angles do allows you to customize a grind for a special job.

[This Old Tony] may be just a guy messing around in his shop, but he’s got a wealth of machine shop knowledge and we always look forward to seeing what he’s working on, whether it’s a homemade fly cutter or a full-blown CNC machine.

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Robo-Flute Whistles MIDI

We aren’t sure this technically qualifies as music synthesis, but what else do you call a computer playing music? In this case, the computer is a Teensy, and the music comes from a common classroom instrument: a plastic recorder. The mistaken “flute” label comes from the original project. The contraption uses solenoids to operate 3D printed “fingers” and an air pump — this is much easier with a recorder since (unlike a flute) it just needs reasonable air pressure to generate sound.

automated-recorder-solenoid-driverA Teensy 3.2 programmed using the Teensyduino IDE drives the solenoids. The board reads MIDI command sent over USB from a PC and translates them into the commands for this excellent driver board. It connects TIP31C transistors, along with flyback diodes, to the solenoids via a terminal strip.

On the PC, a program called Ableton sends the MIDI messages to the Teensy. MIDI message have three parts: one sets the message type and channel, another sets the velocity, and one sets the pitch. The code here only looks at the pitch.

This is one of those projects that would be a lot harder without a 3D printer. There are other ways to actuate the finger holes, but being able to make an exact-fitting bracket is very useful. Alas, we couldn’t find a video demo. If you know of one, please drop the link in the comments below.

We have seen bagpipe robots (in fact, we’ve seen several). We’ve also seen hammering shotguns into flutes, which is certainly more melodious than plowshares.

Mechano-Robotic Flute Made From An Old Shotgun

If you take an object and turn it into something else, does that constitute a hack?  Can a musical robot call to question the ethics of firearms exports? If you take a disabled shotgun and turn it into a flute, does it become an art piece? Deep questions indeed — and deliberately posed by [Constantine Zlatev] along with his collaborators [Kostadin Ilov] and [Velina Ruseva].

The Last Gun — a mechano-robotic flute, as [Zlatev] calls it — is built from recovered industrial parts, played using compressed air, and controlled by an Arduino and Raspberry Pi. After graphing the annual arms exports from the United States, the installation plays a mournful tune for each year that they rise, and a jubilant theme for each year they fall.

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Pan Flute Hero

panflutehero

The latest creation in the never-ending collection of “____ Hero” instruments is this Raspi-infused pan flute, built by [Sven Andersson] and his team at the 2013 WOW Hackathon. The flute itself consists of varying lengths of bamboo from a local flower shop, cut short enough to be hand-held while still hiding the Pi from the front side. In the spirit of other ‘Hero’ instruments, the pan flute has no real musical functionality. Each pipe houses what appears to be an electret microphone breakout board, which they kept in place by sealing off the end of the pipe with glue.

The sensors connect to the GPIO connector on the Raspi, which communicates to a local TCP/IP server the team ran as a controller hub. The game is also their original creation, written entirely in LUA. They turned to Spotify to find suitable material for the player to experience, creating playlists with actual pan flute songs and using the libspotify SDK to access the music. You can see the end result of the project in a short demo video below.

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Steam Fife

This auto-flute does it with steam. Well, electricity gets its piece of the action too as the tone holes are opened and closed using a set of solenoids.

We’re at a loss on how the sound is actually produced. We would think that a penny whistle has been used here, except if that were the case the solenoid nearest the kettle would have no use. Then again, after watching the demo after the break we’re not sure that it does have much of an effect. It may be meant to stop the sound but it doesn’t really work all that well.

At any rate we’d love to see some spin-off hacks. Assuming the plastic can stand up to the steam heat this would be a perfect robot controller for recorder controlled snake. You can get a recorder for a buck at the right dollar store, and solenoids can be made out of simple materials. If you know of a way to produce the sound yourself, all it takes are a few careful calculations to place the tone holes.

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Electronic Recorder Conversion

As we wrote the title to this feature we can see why [Jeff Ledger] calls it an electronic flute and not a recorder; this is a musical instrument and not something for archiving audio. Confusion aside, we’re all familiar with these plastic ‘musical’ instruments. Many elementary schools in our area require students to buy one as part of music class. So it shouldn’t be hard to find one if you want to try this for yourself (heck, [Jeff] grabbed his a the dollar store).

Basically, he’s replaced the finger holes with momentary press switches, then uses a Propeller dev board to turn the button presses into music. It’s simple and quick, but what does it for us is the breath actuator. Sure, you can set this up to play whenever a button is depressed, but [Jeff] went that extra mile and added a piezoelectric element to the bottom. When you blow through the instrument it flexes slightly, generating a tiny current that can be measured by the microcontroller. Check out the short clip after the break.

Do a little more work and you could turn this into some type of musical game controller. We’re thinking Zelda!

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