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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A Transistor-less Sound Synthesizer

A synthesizer without transistors could almost be the basis of a trick question, surely without transistors it must be using a vacuum tube or similar. Not [Dr. Cockroach]’s synth though, instead of transistors it uses coupled pairs of LEDs and light-dependent resistors as its active components. Its oscillator circuit comes courtesy of [Patrick Flett], and uses a pair of LED/LDR combinations to alternately charge and discharge a capacitor. This feeds another LDR/LED pair that appears to act as a buffer to drive a bridge rectifier, with a final amplifier following it.

The result oscillates, though at frequencies in the low audio range with a cluster of harmonics thrown in. Its sound is best described as something akin to a small single-cylinder motorcycle engine at the lower frequencies, and is something we see could have all sorts of interesting possibilities.

This approach of using LDR-based active devices may be something of a dead end that could have had its day back in the 1930s, but it’s nevertheless an entertaining field to explore. It’s not the first time we’ve followed [Dr. Cockroach] at it, in the past we’ve seen the same technique applied to logic gates.

Have a listen to the synth in the video below the break. Continue reading “A Transistor-less Sound Synthesizer”

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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Mimicking Exoplanet Exploration At Home

Mankind will always wonder whether we’re alone in the universe. What is out there? Sure, these past weeks we’ve been increasingly wondering the same about our own, direct proximity, but that’s a different story. Up until two years ago, we had the Kepler space telescope aiding us in our quest for answers by exploring exoplanets within our galaxy. [poblocki1982], who’s been fascinated by space since childhood times, and has recently discovered 3D printing as his new thing, figured there is nothing better than finding a way to combine your hobbies, and built a simplified model version simulating the telescope’s main concept.

The general idea is to detect the slight variation of a star’s brightness when one of its planets passes by it, and use that variation to analyze each planet’s characteristics. He achieves this with an LDR connected to an Arduino, allowing both live reading and logging the data on an SD card. Unfortunately, rocket science isn’t on his list of hobbies yet, so [poblocki1982] has to bring outer space to his home. Using a DC motor to rotate two “planets” of different size, rotation speed, and distance around their “star”, he has the perfect model planetary system that can easily double as a decorative lamp.

Obviously, this isn’t meant to detect actual planets as the real Kepler space telescope did, but to demonstrate the general concept of it, and as such makes this a nice little science experiment. For a more pragmatic use of our own Solar System, [poblocki1982] has recently built this self-calibrating sundial. And if you like rotating models of planets, check out some previous projects on that.

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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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Weather Station Can Rock You Like A Hurricane

People love to talk about the weather. It’s the perfect small talk, whether you’re trying to start a conversation or keep one going by avoiding an awkward silence. In the same fashion, weather stations are an ideal starting point for any sort of sensor-related project ideas. You get to familiarizing yourself with communication buses, ADCs, general data acquisition, and you learn a lot in figuring out how to visualize it all.

What if your weather station didn’t visualize anything? [OttoNL] is answering that question with a MIDI-generating Weather Station that uses the mood of the music to convey the condition of the elements outside.

Using an ESP8266 programmed via the Arduino IDE, [OttoNL] hooked up a light dependent resistor, a rain sensor, and the all-round workhorse BME280 for temperature, barometric pressure, and humidity to it. Reading the sensors, the ESP will generate MIDI notes that are sent to a connected synthesizer, with each sensor influencing a different aspect of the generated MIDI signals. A sadder, slow tune will play during rain and a fast upbeat one during sunshine. While it doesn’t use the ESP’s WiFi functionality at all at this point, a future version could easily retrieve some weather forecast data from the internet and add it into the mix as well.

Connect this to your alarm clock, and you can start your day off in the appropriate mood. You can even customize your breakfast toast to really immerse your morning routine in abstract weather cues.

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DIY Vactrols Give MIDI-Controlled Video Distortion

It’s one thing to assemble your own circuits from scratch using off the shelf components. It’s quite another to build the components first, and then build the circuit.

That’s the path [Joris Wegner] took with this video distortion effects box, dubbed PHOSPHOR. One might wonder why you’d want a box that makes a video stream look like playback from a 1980s VHS player with tracking problems, but then again, audio distortion for artistic effect is a thing, so why not video? PHOSPHOR is a USB MIDI device, and therein lies the need for custom components. [Joris] had a tough time finding resistive optoisolators, commonly known as Vactrols and which are used to control the distortion effects. He needed something with a wide dynamic range, so he paired up a bright white LED and a cadmium sulfide photoresistor inside a piece of heat shrink tubing. A total of 20 Vactrols were fabricated and installed on a PCB with one of the coolest silkscreens we’ve ever seen, along with the Sparkfun Pro Micro that takes care of MIDI chores. Now, distortions of the video can be saved as presets and played back in sync with music for artistic effects.

This isn’t the first time Vactrols have made an appearance here, of course. We saw them a while back with this Arduinofied electric guitar, and more recently with a triple-555 timer synth.

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