Simple MP3 Player Hides Home Automation Brilliance

Like bubble wrap or the corkscrew, plenty of everyday objects have lost almost all ties to their original purpose. It could be that the original product had no market but was able to find one in an unexpected place, or simply that the original use case disappeared. We think that this MP3 player for children might arrive at a similar fate as a home automation controller thanks to a recent project by [Sebastian].

The MP3 player is known as a Jooki and works by using small figurines (and a few buttons) to control the device. Different figurines cause the MP3 player to change playlists, for example, but it turns out that the device is capable of communicating over MQTT. This means that [Sebastian] was able to use the MQTT messages from the Jooki to do all kinds of things beyond its intended use with openHAB, an open-source home automation system, such as dimming the lights and closing the blinds when he puts his son to bed.

This platform has considerable potential for hacking thanks to the lightweight communications system it uses under the hood. The Jooki is a little pricey, but if you happen to have one around, it’s an impressive tool that can go well beyond its original intended use.

Teardown: Wonder Bible

Even the most secular among us can understand why somebody would want to have a digital version of the Bible. If you’re the sort of person who takes solace in reading from the “Good Book”, you’d probably like the ability to do so wherever and whenever possible. But as it so happens, a large number of people who would be interested in a more conveniently transportable version of the Bible may not have the technological wherewithal to operate a Kindle and download a copy.

Which is precisely the idea behind the Wonder Bible, a pocket-sized electronic device that allows the user to listen to the Bible read aloud at the press of a button. Its conservative design, high-contrast LED display, and large buttons makes it easy to operate even by users with limited eyesight or dexterity.

The commercial for the Wonder Bible shows people all of all ages using the device, but it’s not very difficult to read between the lines and see who the gadget is really aimed for. We catch a glimpse of a young businessman tucking a Wonder Bible into the center console of his expensive sports car, but in reality, the scenes of a retiree sitting pensively in her living room are far closer to the mark.

In truth, the functionality of the Wonder Bible could easily be replicated with a smartphone application. It would arguably even be an improvement by most standards. But not everyone is willing or able to go that route, which creates a market for an affordable stand-alone device. Is that market large enough to put a lot of expense and engineering time into the product? Let’s crack open one of these holy rolling personal companions and find out.

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Toddler-Friendly MP3 Player Navigates With Light

When designing this custom MP3 player for his grandson, [Luc Brun] ran into a unique problem. He wanted the boy to be able to operate the player on his own, but being only 2½ years old, the user interface would have to be exceedingly straightforward. Too many buttons would just be a distraction, and a display with text would be meaningless at his age.

In the end, [Luc] came up with a very interesting way of navigating through directories full of MP3 files using a few push buttons and a ring of WS2812 LEDs. The color of the LEDs indicate which directory or category is currently being selected: spoken nursery rhymes are red, music is orange, nature sounds are yellow, and so on. The number of LEDs lit indicate which file is selected, so in other words, three orange LEDs will indicate the third music track.

At his grandson’s age, we imagine at least a little bit of him navigating through this system is just luck. But as he gets older, he’ll start to form more solid connections between what he’s hearing and the color and number of the LEDs. So not only is this interface a way to help him operate the device himself, but it may serve as a valuable learning tool in these formative years.

On the other hand, if your goal is just to distract a youngster for as long as possible, an overwhelming number of LEDs, buttons, and switches might be exactly what you want.

Baby’s First Jukebox Is Fun For Parents, Too

Believe it or not, there’s a $400 toy mp3 player out there for kids. It looks pretty nice, with colorful buttons and a wood console and all, but those features don’t really justify the price tag. [DerThes] wanted one for his 2-year-old anyway, so he made his own ruggedized version for a whole lot less.

The simple and kid-friendly interface lets [DerThes Jr.] choose from one of nine albums to play by pushing one of the candy-colored buttons. The bottom row of buttons handle play/pause and moving through the track list. When mom and dad get tired of listening to whatever the kids are into these days, they can enter the special god mode code to access 99 of their favorite albums.

This baby boombox is built with an Arduino Uno and an Adafruit music maker shield. [DerThes] etched his own PCB to hold the buttons and the pair of shift registers needed to interface them with the Uno. If you’ve never etched before, here’s a good chance to dip your toe in the ferric chloride, because [DerThes] has the transparency in his repo and a line on a nice instructional video.

If you don’t think your toddler is ready to respect a field of momentaries, you could make a jukebox with NFC blocks.

[via Arduino blog]

Rise And Shine With This Japanese-Inspired Clock

On the Hackaday.io page for his gorgeous “Sunrise Alarm Clock”, [The Big One] is quick to point out that his design is only inspired by Japanese lanterns, and does not use authentic materials or traditional woodworking techniques. Perhaps that’s an important fact to some, but we’ll just say that the materials used seem far less important when the end result looks this good.

Unfortunately [The Big One] hasn’t provided any interior shots of his clock, as it sounds like the aesthetics of the internal wiring isn’t quite up to the standard set by the outside of it. But he has provided a concise parts list, a wiring diagram, and source code, so we’ve got a pretty good idea of what’s under the hood.

The clock is powered by the uBBB 32u4, an ATMega32u4 development board that [The Big One] developed in conjunction with [Warren Janssens]. It uses the popular MAX7219 LED matrix for the display, and a DS3231 RTC module to help keep the time. There’s also a DFPlayer Mini module onboard that allows him to play whatever sound effects or music he wants when the alarm goes off.

Of course the star of the show is the LED strips which illuminate the shōji-style column. These have apparently been wrapped around a coffee can of all things, which not only serves as a convenient way of holding the strips, but [The Big One] says actually makes the speaker sound a bit better. Hey, whatever works.

This isn’t the first “lantern” clock to grace these pages, but compared to the high-tech presentation of previous projects, we can’t help but be impressed by the grace and elegance of this wooden masterpiece.

Telephone Plays The Songs Of Its People

Music, food, and coding style have one thing in common: we all have our own preferences. On the other hand, there are arguably more people on this planet than there are varieties in any one of those categories, so we rarely fail to find like-minded folks sharing at least some of our taste. Well, in case your idea of a good time is calling a service hotline for some exquisite tunes, [Fuzzy Wobble] and his hold music jukebox, appropriately built into a telephone, is just your guy.

Built around an Arduino with an Adafruit Music Maker shield, [Fuzzy Wobble] uses the telephone’s keypad as input for selecting one of the predefined songs to play, and replaced the phone’s bell with a little speaker to turn it into a jukebox. For a more genuine experience, the audio is of course also routed to the handset, although the true hold music connoisseur might feel disappointed about the wide frequency range and lack of distortion the MP3s used in his example provide. Jokes aside, projects like these are a great reminder that often times, the journey really is the reward, and the end result doesn’t necessarily have to make sense for anyone to enjoy what you’re doing.

As these old-fashioned phones gradually disappear from our lives, and even the whole concept of landline telephony is virtually extinct in some parts of the world already, we can expect to see more and more new purposes for them. Case in point, this scavenger hunt puzzle solving device, or the rotary phone turned virtual assistant.

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Be Vewy Vewy Quiet, We’re Hunting Baofengs

In the world of ham radio, a “Fox Hunt” is a game where participants are tasked with finding a hidden transmitter through direction finding. Naturally, the game is more challenging when you’re on the hunt for something small and obscure, so the ideal candidate is a small automated beacon that can be tucked away someplace inconspicuous. Of course, cheap is also preferable so you don’t go broke trying to put a game together.

As you might expect, there’s no shortage of kits and turn-key transmitters that you can buy, but [WhiskeyTangoHotel] wanted to come up with something that could be put together cheaply and easily from hardware the average ham or hacker might already have laying around. The end result is a very capable “fox” that can be built in just a few minutes at a surprisingly low cost. He cautions that you’ll need a ham license to legally use this gadget, but we imagine most people familiar with this particular pastime will already have the necessary credentials.

The heart of this build is one of the fairly capable, but perhaps more importantly, incredibly cheap Baofeng handheld radios. These little gadgets are likely familiar to the average Hackaday reader, as we discussed their dubious legal status not so long ago. At the moment they are still readily available though, so if you need a second (or third…), you might want to pull the trigger sooner rather than later.

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