Hackaday Prize Entry: Dementia-Friendly Music Player

The loss of memory is an extremely difficult situation, not just for those afflicted, but also for immediate family, close friends, and care givers. With no cure available for dementia, providing care is an extremely demanding task for everyone involved – both mentally and physically. Patients are unable to retain recent events and information, but will most likely be able to recall some amount of past memories. This presents serious challenges when they encounter “modern” technology and cannot figure out how to use and operate everyday devices that normal people take for granted.

[rosswesleyporter]’s Dad had trouble using modern iPods and CD players, so he built DQMusicBox — a Dementia friendly music player. It’s very simple interface resembling a radio from half a century ago. There are just two large, clearly marked rotary dials — one for Volume, the other for Songs, and a headphone socket. The inspiration came from a very moving documentary called “Alive Inside” which explores how music brings extreme joy to people with dementia.

The device is built around a Raspberry Pi, enclosed in a laser cut enclosure and requires no soldering — making it easy for anyone to build one for themselves using easily available parts. The Raspberry Pi runs on a lightweight, optimized version of Raspbian called DietPi. The music playback is handled by VLC ensuring support for a large number of music formats. A Python script looks for music files, sets up the VLC-NOX player and handles knob and button events. A bundled image file for the software includes everything needed to get it running, making setup easy and quick. Since Raspberry Pi’s are prone to OS corruption when power is disconnected without performing a proper shutdown, [Ross] uses write protection on the SD-card and walks you through the process of how it works.

Between his Project page, Github and DQMusicBox website, you will be able to get all the information needed to replicate this excellent project. And for his next version, he already has a few ideas for improvement and would like to hear if other hackers have suggestions.

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Music-Loving BeagleBone

Robotic control can get very complicated when multiple actuators need to work in coordination with each other. A simple robotic arm will require each joint to be controlled in sequence to attain a particular position. The BeagleBone Blue comes armed with motor drivers, sensor inputs, and wireless and is built for robotics.

[Andy] has prepared a musical robot called the BeagleBone Blue Electro-Mechanical Glockenspiel using the single board computer. The hardware consists of eight servo motors each with a mallet stick attached to them. The motors themselves are mounted on 3D-printed brackets allowing them to be mounted at the correct height. The servos connect to the main board for position control, however, an external supply had to be used to supply the necessary current to all the motors.

The software side has programs to translate notes into servo positions as well as connect to a web brower via MQTT and websockets. The basic user interface is simple and has buttons to connect to and send the keystrokes. The code, as well as the OpenSCAD designs, can be downloaded from GitHub. Check out the video below for a demo.

This project could be extended to an autonomous robot that plays tunes from the Internet. We are reminded of the rock throwing glockenspiel which was pretty cool and hope there are some permutations to come from both. Continue reading “Music-Loving BeagleBone”

Music Reading for Machines

“Dammit Jim, I’m a hacker, not a musician!”, to paraphrase McCoy Scotty from the original Star Trek series. Well, some of us are also musicians, some, like me, are also hack-musicians, and some wouldn’t know a whole note from a treble clef. But every now and then the music you want is in the form of sheet music and you need to convert that to something your hack can play. If you’re lucky, you can find software that will read the sheet music for you and spit out a MIDI or WAV file. Or, as with my hand-cranked music player, you may have to read just enough of the music yourself to convert musical notes to frequencies for something like a 555 timer chip. We’ll dive into both cases here.

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A Sound and LED-tastic Tricycle Shopping Cart

What do you get when you take a massive number of LEDs and combine them with a shopping cart and a bicycle? An awesome rave-mobile created by [kramerr]. He’s even taking it one step further by making the electronics solar powered.

[Kramerr] controls the LEDs with multiple WS2803 LED drivers. Three PIC18F4550s control the WS2803s over SPI. He devised a neat way of exciting the LEDs from music by using a pair of graphic equalizer display filter chips, MSGEQ7s, to drive the PICs to create patterns. A USB input also allows the PICs to display song titles or other information.

leds and boards

The mechanical design is as impressive as the electronics. The rear half of a bicycle is welded to the frame of the shopping cart with the cart’s handle used for steering. The shopping cart’s rear wheels are replaced by small bicycle wheels.

But [Kramerr] wasn’t done. He built his own solar panel since he couldn’t find one to fit the size requirements. The panel consists of 26 cells connected in series to provide 1A at 13V on a sunny day. A solar charge controller keeps a standard 12v lead acid battery ready to power the tricycle cart.

And there is still more! There is a sound system driven by a Raspberry Pi. The Pi also drives the USB inputs when [Krameer] wants to display song titles or artists instead of the audio patterns.

There are at least four hacks in this project each worthy of applause. [Karmeer] deserves an ovation for doing all of them in one project. If you are looking for less bling and less pedaling may we direct you to this powered, riding shopping cart.

Some rave music and lights via video after the break.

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