Posts with «featured» label

Constructing an hourglass lamp with Arduino

With the proliferation of all sorts of digital timers, the need for an hourglass to keep track of whatever activity you’re working on seems like a relic of the past. Still, the hourglass is an interesting form factor, so YouTuber Emiel Noorlander (aka The Practical Engineer) has decided to take it into the 21st century.

His device is about the size and shape of a rectangular picture frame, with the outline of an hourglass in wood attached to white polycarbonate. This diffuses programmable LEDs on the other side, controlled by Arduino Nano to simulate sand falling. The project is powered by a four AA battery pack, cleverly allowed to float in the internal structure, activating the on/off switch when positioned correctly.

In this week’s video I’m making an hourglass lamp with light effects that simulate the falling sand when you turn the lamp upside down.

Another cool feature I build into it is the on / off switch, this is hidden inside the lamp and turns on by putting the lamp on the right side. Turning it upside down then turns off the light.

The outside frame of the lamp is made of 40×6 mm metal strip that I cut to size and then welded as a frame. When this was done I went over to the bandsaw to cut the hourglass shape out of the wood. The semi-transparent panel where the light shines through is made from 3 mm opaque white polycarbonate sheet.

Salvaged Arduino powers animated House Party

What can you do with items that are destined for the dump? As seen here, if you’re Neil Mendoza, you transform furniture, an old TV, art, and even an Arduino Zero that somehow ended up in the trash into a musical installation.

His resulting “House Party” features decorations and control components that according to the project’s write-up are entirely salvaged. A MIDI interface, software written in openFrameworks, and a JSON file are used to coordinate sound and movements, which include spinning picture frames and flowers, tapping shoes, and a television that loops through a rather dreary weather report snippet. 

House Party is a musical installation that explores prized possessions in their native habitat. All the materials used to create this artwork, from the furniture to the computers, were scavenged from the discarded trash. The music is a mix of mechanical and synthesized sounds. The piece was created while an artist in residence at Recology SF.

The actuators in the installation are controlled by an Arduino Zero (also found in the trash) and each screen is connected to a computer running custom software written in openFrameworks (OF). Composition was done in Logic where a MIDI environment was set up to send MIDI data to the Arduino and an OF control program. The control program then sent the data to the other computers over ethernet as OSC. For the final installation, the control program read the data from a JSON file, triggered the screens and Arduino and played the synthesized parts of the music.

Be sure to see all the zany action in the video below!

Electrically assisted scooter senses forward kicks

Maker Bitluni wanted an electric scooter, but he lives in Germany, where electric vehicles of that type are illegal. Motor-assisted bicycles, however, are not. So he set to work making a sort of hybrid that is controlled not by a throttle directly, but provides assistance when the rider kicks the scooter forward.

The scooter uses an accelerometer to sense forward pushes, along with an Arduino Micro that regulates speed via PWM output. A brake assembly is also implemented as a secondary input, starting up the device and powering it down as needed. 

Bitluni’s build and testing process can be seen in the videos below, and Arduino code is available on GitHub.

Custom weather station enhances and modifies electronic music

While the environment is important for any musical performance, generally it’s not an active part of the show. Adrien Kaeser, though, has come up with a device called the “Weather Thingy that integrates weather directly into electronic music performances. It’s able to sense wind direction and speed, light intensity, and rain, translating this data into MIDI inputs.

The system, which was created at ECAL, consists of two parts: a compact weather station on top of a portable stand, as well as a small console with buttons and knobs to select and modify environmental effects on the music. 

Hardware for the project includes an Arduino Mega and Leonardo, a small TFT screen to display the element under control and its characteristics, an ESP32 module, a SparkFun ESP32 Thing Environment Sensor Shield, a SparkFun MIDI Shield, high speed optocouplers, rotary encoder knobs, and some buttons.

Be sure to see the demo in the video below, preferably with the sound on!

Turn an Atari 2600 into a MIDI drum machine

While not known for its musical prowess, John Sutley decided to turn an Atari 2600 into a simple four-note drum machine dubbed “SYNDRUM.”

While an interesting exercise in creating a custom cartridge out of repurposed components, pushing buttons to activate four tones and an onscreen VU meter can only keep one’s attention for so long.

To turn this project’s musical entertainment level up to 11, he programmed an Arduino Nano to take MIDI signals and translate them into the equivalent electrical signals that would normally come from a controller. 

The results, as seen in the video below, are spectacular. If you’d like to try something similar yourself, code for the SYNDRUM can be found here.

Communicate using your ear with Orecchio

When conversing face-to-face, there are a wide range of other emotions and inflections conveyed by our facial and body expressions. But what if you can’t express emotion this way, whether due to a physical impairment, or simply because of a covering—like a dust mask—temporarily hides your beautiful smile, and perhaps your hands are otherwise occupied?

As a solution to this dilemma, a team of researchers has been working on Orecchio, a robotic device that attaches to the ear and bends it to convey emotion. Three motors allow the ear to be bent in 22 distinct poses and movements, indicating 16 emotional states. Control is accomplished via an Arduino Due, linked up with a windows computer running a C# program. 

The prototype was implemented using off-the-shelf electronic components, miniature motors, and custom-made robotic arms. The device has a micro gear motor mounted on the bottom of a 3D-printed ear hook loop clip. The motor drives a plastic arm against the side of the helix, able to bend it towards the center of the ear. Rotating the plastic arm back to its rest position allows the helix to restore to its original form. Near the top of the earpiece is another motor that drives a one-joint robotic arm that is attached to the top of the helix, using a round ear clip. Rotating the motor extends the robotic arm from its resting position, to bend the top helix downwards the center of the ear. The motor together with the one-joint robotic arm is mounted on a linear track that can be moved vertically through a rack-and-pinion mechanism, driven by a third motor. Moving the rack upwards stretches the helix.

The prototype is demonstrated in the video below, and more info is available in the project’s research paper.

DualPanto is a non-visual gaming interface for the blind

While there are tools that allow the visually impaired to interact with computers, conveying spacial relationships, such as those needed for gaming, is certainly a challenge. To address this, researchers have come up with DualPanto.

As the name implies, the system uses two pantographs for location IO, and on the end of each is a handle that rotates to indicate direction. One pantograph acts as an output to indicate where the object is located, while the other acts as a player’s input interface. One device is positioned above the other, so the relative position of each in a plane can be gleaned. 

The game’s software runs on a MacBook Pro, and an Arduino Due is used to interface the physical hardware with this setup. 

DualPanto is a haptic device that enables blind users to track moving objects while acting in a virtual world.

The device features two handles. Users interact with DualPanto by actively moving the ‘me’ handle with one hand and passively holding on to the ‘it’ handle with the other. DualPanto applications generally use the me handle to represent the user’s avatar in the virtual world and the it handle to represent some other moving entity, such as the opponent in a soccer game.

Be sure to check it out in the video below, or read the full research paper here.

Create shapes over and over with the Dynablock 3D Printer

3D printing, while revolutionary in many aspects, generally means you’re stuck with what you print. Researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder and the University of Tokyo, however, have created a printing system called Dynablock, which attaches specialized magnetic blocks together that can used over and over.

The system uses an array of 24 x 16 motors to push the blocks into position one layer at a time, giving a possible “print” resolution of 384 blocks per layer. An Arduino Uno, along with shift registers and motor drivers are used to directly control the block placement motors, and user interface is handled by a JavaScript-based application.

Dynamic 3D Printing combines the capabilities of 3D printers and shape displays: Like conventional 3D printing, it can generate arbitrary and graspable three-dimensional shapes, while allowing shapes to be rapidly formed and reformed as in a shape display. To demonstrate the idea, we describe the design and implementation of Dynablock, a working prototype of a dynamic 3D printer. Dynablock can form a three-dimensional shape in seconds by assembling 3,000 9 mm blocks, leveraging a 24 x 16 pin-based shape display as a parallel assembler. Dynamic 3D printing is a step toward achieving our long-term vision in which 3D printing becomes an interactive medium, rather than the means for fabrication that it is today. In this paper, we explore possibilities for this vision by illustrating application scenarios that are difficult to achieve with conventional 3D printing or shape display systems.

More info can be found in the project’s research paper here, or check it out in action in the video below:

Animate a soda bottle structure with TrussFormer and Arduino

While you may not give soda bottles much thought beyond their intended use, researchers in Germany and the U.S. have been working on a way to turn empty bottles into kinetic art. 

The result of this work is a program called “TrussFormer,” which enables one to design a structure made out of soda bottles acting as structural beams. The structure can then be animated using an Arduino Nano to control a series of pneumatic actuators.

TrussFormer not only allows for animation design, but analyzes stresses on the moving assembly, and even generates 3D-printable files to form the proper joints.

TrussFormer is an integrated end-to-end system that allows users to 3D print large-scale kinetic structures, i.e., structures that involve motion and deal with dynamic forces.

TrussFormer builds on TrussFab, from which it inherits the ability to create large-scale static truss structures from 3D printed hubs and PET bottles. TrussFormer adds movement to these structures by placing linear actuators and hinges into them.

TrussFormer incorporates linear actuators into rigid truss structures in a way that they move “organically”, i.e., hinge around multiple points at the same time. These structures are also known as variable geometry trusses. This is illustrated on the on the example of a static tetrahedron that is converted into a moving structure by swapping one edge with a linear actuator. The only required change is to introduce connections at the nodes that enable rotation, i.e. hinges.

As for what you can build with it, be sure to check out the bottle-dinosaur in the video below! 

A linear actuator that won’t break the bank

Extremely good linear actuators can be expensive and heavy, but what if you need something for relatively light applications? In the video below, James Bruton explains how you can make one using parts including a DC motor with a quadrature encoder, 3D-printed mounting, and a lead screw assembly.

His device uses an Arduino Uno for control, using pins 2 and 3 as interrupts to ensure correct rotation—and thus linear travel—sensing. Proper movement is facilitated with a pair of PID loops to regulate both the position and velocity, even under differing load and battery conditions. 

Arduino code and CAD information can be found on GitHub, while an explanation of the project is seen in the video below. 

Arduino Blog 19 Oct 15:32