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There’s a lot more to learning how to play the guitar than just playing the right notes at the right time and in the right order. To produce any sound at all requires learning how to do completely different things with your hands simultaneously, unless maybe you’re a direct descendant of Eddie Van Halen and thus born to do hammer ons. There’s a bunch of other stuff that comes with the territory, like stringing the thing, tuning it, and storing it properly, all of which can be frustrating and discouraging to new players. Add in the calluses, and it’s no wonder people like Guitar Hero so much.

[Jake] and [Jonah] have found a way to bridge the gap between pushing candy colored buttons and developing fireproof calluses and enough grip strength to crush a tin can. For their final project in [Bruce Land]’s embedded microcontroller design class, they made a guitar video game and a controller that’s much closer to the experience of actually playing a guitar. Whether you’re learning to play for real or just want to have fun, the game is a good introduction to the coordination required to make more than just noise.

In an interesting departure from standard stringed instrument construction, plucking is isolated from fretting.  The player fingers notes on four strings but plucks a special, fifth string with a conductive pick that closes the plucking circuit. By contrast, the fretting strings are normally high. When pressed, they contact the foil-covered fingerboard and the circuit goes low. All five strings are made of carbon-impregnated elastic and wrapped with 30AWG copper wire.

All five strings connect to an Arduino UNO and then a laptop. The laptop sends the signal to a Bluefruit friend to change Bluetooth to UART in order to satisfy the PIC32. From there, it goes out via 2-channel DAC to a pair of PC speakers. One channel has the string tones, which are generated by Karplus-Strong. To fill out the sound, the other DAC channel carries undertones for each note, which are produced by sine tables and direct digital synthesis. There’s no cover charge; just click past the break to check it out.

If you’d like to get into playing, but don’t want to spend a lot of money to get started, don’t pass up those $30-$40 acoustics for kids, or even a $25 ukulele from a toy store. You could wind your own pickup and go electric, or add a percussive solenoid to keep the beat.


Filed under: Arduino Hacks, Microcontrollers, Musical Hacks

[Mike Clifford] of [Modustrial Maker] had not one, not two, but five friends call him to announce that their first children were on the way, and he was inspired to build them a Bluetooth speaker with a unique LED matrix display as a fitting gift. Meant to not only entertain guests, but to audio-visually stimulate each of their children to promote neurological development.

Picking up and planing down rough maple planks, [Clifford] built a mitered box to house the components before applying wood finish. The brain inside the box is an Arduino Mega — or a suitable clone — controlling a Dayton Bluetooth audio and 2x15W amp board. In addition to the 19.7V power supply, there’s a step down converter for the Mega, and a mic to make the LED matrix sound-reactive. The LED matrix is on a moveable baffle to adjust the distance between it and a semi-transparent acrylic light diffuser. This shifts the light between sharp points or a softer, blended look — perfect for the scrolling Matrix text and fireplace effects! Check it out!

[Clifford]’s Arduino code is up on GitHub for anyone else out there with friends who are expecting. You never know when your own childhood Fisher-Price cassette players from back in the day might come in handy.


Filed under: Arduino Hacks, Musical Hacks

Fidget spinners are not only a fad, but pretty much useless. Sounds like a job for hacking to make the toys have some actual purpose. [D777k] took up the challenge and created a MIDI controller from a common spinner. You can see a video of the results, below.

The device uses a LightBlue Bean controller and Garage Band as the MIDI software. Granted, it might not be super useful, but it is better than just a plain old spinner. [D777k] calls it a “whirling dervish of sound making!

The Arduino code that drives the thing is very simple. It reads three axes of acceleration and uses that to drive the MIDI software. When the acceleration exceeds a threshold, the software creates a new note based on the sums and differences of the accelerations.

The Lightblue Bean isn’t anything new, but it is well suited for this kind of service. Certainly, making a toy into a MIDI controller isn’t an original idea, either. But it sure is fun.


Filed under: Arduino Hacks

Feel like taking a long walk, but can’t be bothered with carrying your drinks? Have no fear, this  “Follow Me” Cooler Bot is here!

Really just a mobile platform with a cooler on top, the robot connects to smartphone via Bluetooth, following it using GPS. Making the platform involves a little woodworking skill, and an aluminium hub with a 3D-printed hub adapter connects the motors to a pair 6″ rubber wheels with a swivel caster mounted at the rear. A pocket in the platform’s base houses the electronics.

The Arduino Uno — via an L298n motor driver — controls two 12V DC, brushed and geared motors mounted with 3D printed brackets, while a Parallax PAM-7Q GPS Module in conjunction with an HMC 5883L compass help the robot keep its bearing. A duo of batteries power the motors and the electronics separately to prevent  any malfunctions.

Controlling the platform is done on an Android smartphone using Blynk. Ease of use and the ability to set basic commands to be sent to the robot over a desired connection type made it ideal for this helpful little ‘bot.

There isn’t anything more complicated going on — like obstacle avoidance or sophisticated pathfinding — so you kinda need a clear line between you and the cooler. Still, beverage storage is a great feature to add to you tag-along robot companion. It seems to work just fine.


Filed under: Arduino Hacks, gps hacks, robots hacks

[IanMeyer123] should be working on his senior design project. Instead, he’s created a sound-reactive Bluetooth speaker that may not earn him an A grade but will at least keep the team entertained.

[Ian] started with the amp and power. The amp is a 15 watt, 12 volt model based on the popular TDA7297 chip. Power comes from a portable laptop battery rated at 185 Wh. [Ian] himself said that is absolute overkill for this project. While [Ian] hasn’t run any longevity tests on his setup, we’re guesstimating it would be rated in days.

Every Bluetooth speaker needs a sweet light show, right? [Ian] wrapped his 2″ full range speakers in Neopixel rings from Adafriut. The WS2812’s are driven by an Arduino. When music is playing, MSGEQ7 allows the Arduino to play a light show in time to the beat. When the stereo is off, a DS3231 real-time clock module allows the Arduino to display the time on the two rings. If you’re curious about the code for this project, [Ian] posted it on his Reddit thread. Reddit isn’t exactly a great code repository, so please, [Ian] setup a GitHub account, and/or drop your project on Hackaday.io!

[Ian] didn’t realize how many wires would be flying around inside the speaker. That may be why the wiring looks a bit scary. All the chaos is hidden away, underneath a well-built wooden case.

If you want to see another take on a Bluetooth speaker with a Neopixel display, check [Peter’s] project here. Interested in more portable power units? This one’s for you!


Filed under: Arduino Hacks, musical hacks

Instructables user [Roboro] had a Mad Catz Xbox steering wheel controller he hasn’t had much use for of late, so he decided to hack and use it as a controller for a robot instead.

Conceivably, you could use any RC car, but [Roboro] is reusing one he used for a robot sumo competition a few years back. Cracking open the controller revealed a warren of wires that were — surprise, surprise — grouped and labelled, making for a far less painful hacking process. Of course, [Roboro] is only using the Xbox button for power, the player-two LED to show the connection status, the wheel, and the pedals, but knowing which wires are which might come in handy later.

An Arduino Uno in the wheel and a Nano in the robot are connected via CC41-A Bluetooth modules which — despite having less functionality than the HM10 module they’re cloned from — perform admirably. A bit of code and integration of a SN754410 H-bridge motor driver — the Arduino doesn’t supply enough current to [Roboro]’s robot’s motors — and the little robot’s ready for its test drive.

[Roboro]’s suggested improvements are servo steering for the robot, upgrading to the HM10 module, more sensors to take advantage of the other buttons on the wheel, and a camera — because who doesn’t love some good ol’ fashioned FPV racing?


Filed under: Arduino Hacks, hardware, robots hacks

Finding a product that is everything you want isn’t always possible. Making your own that checks off all those boxes can be. [Peter Clough] took the latter route and built a small Bluetooth speaker with an LED visualization display that he calls Magic Box.

A beefy 20W, 4Ohm speaker was screwed to the lid of a wooden box converted to the purpose. [Clough] cut a clear plastic sheet to the dimensions of the box, notching it 2cm from the edge to glue what would become the sound reactive neopixel strip into place — made possible by an electret microphone amplifier. There ended up being plenty of room inside the speaker box to cram an Arduino Pro Mini 3.3V, the RN-52 Bluetooth receiver, and the rest of the components, with an aux cable running out the base of the speaker. As a neat touch, neodymium magnets hold the lid closed.

Magic Box Bluetooth Speaker ComponentsWe gotta say, a custom speaker with LED visualization makes for a tidy little package — aside from the satisfaction that comes from building it yourself.

Depending on your particular situation, you may even opt to design a speaker that attaches to a magnet implanted in your head.

[via /r/DIY]


Filed under: Arduino Hacks, hardware, led hacks, musical hacks

There’s an iconic scene from the movie Big where [Tom Hanks] and [Robert Loggia] play an enormous piano by dancing around on the floor-mounted keys. That was the first thing we thought of when we saw [jegatheesan.soundarapandian’s] PC joystick rug. His drum playing (see the video below) wasn’t as melodious as [Hanks] and [Loggia] but then again they probably had a musical director.

At the heart of the project is, of course, an Arduino. An HC-05 provides a Bluetooth connection back to the PC. We thought perhaps an Arduino with USB input capability like the Leonardo might be in use, but instead, [jegatheesan] has a custom Visual Basic program on the PC that uses SendKeys to do the dirty work.

The switches are more interesting made with old CDs, foil, and sponges. The sponge holds the CDs apart until you step on them and the foil makes the CDs conductive. He uses a lot of Fevicol in the project–as far as we can tell, that’s just an Indian brand of PVA glue, so Elmer’s or any other white glue should do just as well.

The glue also handles the fabric parts. When a project says “no sewing” we realize how some people feel about soldering. The CD/foil/sponge switches might be useful in other contexts. We’d be interested in how the sponges wear with prolonged use.

We’ve seen other giant controllers before. Of course, if you really want a big controller, you can’t beat a Nissan (the link is dead, but the video will give ou the idea).


Filed under: Arduino Hacks

Hardware hackers are always looking for devices to tear apart and scavenge from. It’s hardly a secret that purchasing components individually is significantly more expensive than the minuscule cost per unit that goes along with mass manufacturing. Bluetooth devices are no exception. Sure, they’re not exactly a luxury purchase anymore, but they’re still not dirt cheap either.

Luckily for [Troy Denton], it seems dollar stores have started carrying a Bluetooth camera shutter for just a few dollars (it was three bucks, perhaps the dollar store actually means divisible-by). The device is designed to pair with a smart phone, and has two buttons allowing you to control the camera from afar. The fact that it works at all at that price is a small miracle, but the device also has potential for hacking that adds to its appeal.

Inside is a Bluetooth chips with integrated ARM controller. It connects to an EEPROM via I2C. Using an oscilloscope, an Arduino, and a Bus Pirate, [Troy] has so far succeeded in dumping and deciphering the EEPROM and was successful in renaming the device. He has high hopes that he’ll be able to discover something juicy from his preliminary explorations of the USART on the Bluetooth chip.

Ultimately he plans to document his quest to rewrite which keys the device’s buttons emulate. Once that’s accomplished, this dollar store find will have a lot of potential for cheap Bluetooth control. If you’re a reverse engineering veteran we’d love to hear some suggestions of low hanging fruit for him to explore. If you’re eager to learn more about about what you can do with Bluetooth, check out our awesome BLE primer.


Filed under: Arduino Hacks, wireless hacks

If you have an old keyboard lying around and wish it were wireless, Maker DastardlyLabs has a solution.

The “HID Relay” is a small adapter that uses an Arduino Pro Mini, a Bluetooth module, a USB host shield, and a few other components to upgrade any USB keyboard to Bluetooth. DastardlyLabs has made three videos to explain the entire “Bluetooth-ification” process–which can be found below.

So far, the method has worked with all of the keyboards that DastardlyLabs has tested it on, as well as most mice (except for one “gamingish” USB mouse). The Arduino source code and build notes are available on GitHub. The HID Relay was inspired by a recent Arduino hack by Evan Kale. 



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