Mattress-made MIDI Device Plays Exotic Tunes

Ever heard of a handpan? If not, imagine a steel drum turned inside out, and in case that doesn’t help either, just think of a big metal pan you play music with by tapping your hands on its differently pitched tone fields. But as with pretty much any musical instrument, the people around you may not appreciate your enthusiasm to practice playing it at any time of the day, and being an acoustic instrument, it gets difficult to just plug in your headphones. Good news for the aspiring practitioners of Caribbean music though, as [Deepsoul77] created a MIDI version of this rather young and exotic instrument.

Using the foam salvaged from an old mattress as the core of the handpan, [Deepsoul77] cut a couple of plywood pads as tone fields that will be attached to the foam. Each plywood tone field will then have a piezo element mounted in between to pick up the hand tapping. Picking up the tapping itself and turning it into MIDI signals is then handled by an Alesis trigger interface, which is something you would usually find in electronic drums. From here on forward, it all becomes just a simple USB MIDI device, with all the perks that brings along — like headphone usage or changing MIDI instruments to make anything sound like a trumpet.

Turning what’s essentially a drum kit into a melodic instrument is definitely neat, and to no surprise, we’ve also seen the actual home made drum kit with piezo elements. Of course, using MIDI to quiet down an acoustic instrument isn’t new either, though it also works somewhat the other way around. But then again, it doesn’t always have to be MIDI either.


FabricKeyboard Is Piano, Theremin And More

Two researchers of Responsive Environments, MIT Media Lab, have put to together a device that is an amazing array of musical instruments squeezed into one flexible package. Made using seven layers of fabrics with different electrical properties, the result can be played using touch, proximity, pressure, stretch, or with combinations of them. Using a fabric-based keyboard, ribbon-controller, and trackpad, it can be played as a one-octave keyboard, a theremin, and in ways that have no words, such as stretching while pressing keys. It can also be folded up and stuffed into a case along with your laptop, and care has even been taken to make it washable.

The FabricKeyboard layers
The FabricKeyboard layers

Layer one, the top layer, is a conductive fabric for detecting proximity and touch. The twelve keys can work independently with a MPR121 proximity touch controller or the controller can treat them all as one, extending the distance the hand can be and have it still work. Layer two is just a knit fabric but layers three to six detect pressure, consisting to two conductive layers with a mesh fabric and a piezo-resistive fabric in between. The piezo-resistive fabric is LTT-SPLA from eeonyx, a knit fabric coated with the conductive polymer, polypyrrole (PPy). Layer seven consists of two strips of knitted spandex fabric, also coated with PPy, and detects stretching. Two strips of this are sewn on the bottom, one horizontal and one vertical. You can see and hear the amazing sound this all produces in the video below.

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Sonic 3D Printer Auto Bed Leveling Makes A Swoosh

3D Printering: the final frontier. These are the voyages of another 3D printer hack. Its mission: to explore strange new ways of leveling a print bed.

So far, we’ve had servo probes, Allen key probes, Z-sled probes, inductive and capacitive contactless switches, just to name a few. All of them allow a 3D printer to probe its print bed, calculate a correction plane or mesh, and compensate for its own inherent, time variant, inaccuracies.

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Papydoo Is Watching You!

Papydoo spends most of its time sleeping, but if startled by vibration it will wake up and stare you down with a cold and unnerving robo-gaze like you have not seen before. Or it might just do something crazy like display a scrolling Space Invaders character marquee.  That’s the thing with Papydoo, you just never know.

Vibration sensing is accomplished with a piezo element harvested from an old horn speaker that is simply sandwiched between the project enclosure and the surface it is sitting on. A MCP601 op-amp is used to amplify the weak potentials from the piezo element and feed them to the ADC of a Zilog Z8F083A microcontroller. When sufficient vibration is detected, the MCU wakes up and displays one of a number of different animations on the front panel 32X8 LED matrix. The various display modes can also be manually selected using a small button on the back of the enclosure.

Power consumption is reduced to 150uA while sleeping by only briefly waking the MCU once per second to check the current vibration level. Nearly all of this power draw can be attributed to the op-amp, and although there are much more efficient models available, sometimes the best choice is just the one you already have on hand in your parts bin. Regardless, the power consumption is low enough to run the device off of a set of AA batteries.

We could imagine that similar setup could be used for a number of different low-powered messaging applications that would only “wake up” when someone was near enough to read and interact with. Add a loud speaker and this might even make a good alarm to keep pesky coworkers out of your “cube”. What would you do with a Papydoo?

Thanks for the tip [Laurence]! If you happen to read this, we are dying to know: why “Papydoo”?

Short video after the break.

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