When tasked with converting an antique pump organ—sort of a miniature version of a full-sized pipe organ—into part of an escape room puzzle, hacker Alec Smecher decided to turn it into a vocal MIDI device.
To accomplish this, he embedded switches in each of the keys, then wired them into an Arduino Leonardo embedded in the 100-year-old organ to act as input to a desktop computer. Information is translated into browser commands using the Web MIDI API, which controls the Pink Trombone application in order to imitate a human vocal tract.
A common stop on an organ is called “Vox Humana”, or “Human Voice” in Latin. This is supposed to somehow sound like a choir or soloist, generally by adding a tremolo effect. It’s not effective — all pump organ stops sound like pump organ stops. I wanted to modify this stop so that engaging it would sound like a human voice — and not at all like a musical instrument.
The results–shown in the first video below–sound almost but not quite human, certainly adding to the tension and mystery of the escape room. Be sure to read more about Smecher’s project here.
While keyboards are great, and custom shortcuts can make things even better, why not do away with buttons and knobs altogether, controlling your computer instead via simple gestures? Maker Ben James has done just this, creating a unique interface using a Skywriter device to pick up finger movements, along with an Arduino Leonardo to emulate a keyboard on his laptop.
Since the Skywriter can detect a number of gestures, James assigned various swipes, taps and circular motions to keyboard commands. As you can see in the video here, the results are pretty neat.
If you’re faced with a closet that doesn’t have any lights inside, you simply could go and find puck lights at most retail stores. But, if you’re Dillon Nichols, you buy a set of lights, and enhance them with a wired power supply and automatic Arduino control.
To accomplish this, Nichols decoded the infrared remote control signal to his puck lights using an Arduino Leonardo, then set up things up to sense the door’s opening via a physical switch and signal the lights accordingly. Now when he opens the closet, lights automatically shine down and fade out when it’s closed.
Mechanical typewriters are, for the most part, a thing of the past. Though the tactile feedback of these machines is interesting, as is the ability to directly mark on a piece of paper, they lack the important ability to input instructions into a modern computer. Konstantin Schauwecker, not satisfied with this analog-only output, decided to retrofit a German Olympia Monica typewriter as a unique digital user input device.
To accomplish this, he created a PCB with phototransistors that sense when the linkages for each key are pushed down. The result is a keyboard that functions perfectly well as a manual typewriter, and pushes this data to a computer using an Arduino Leonardo.
I modified a vintage type writer to function as a USB keyboard using an Arduino and 50 phototransistors. The typewriter is a German Olympia Monica that I bought at a local flea market. For this project I created a simple PCB that carries the phototransistors and several multiplexers and decoders. The PCB is connected to the Arduino through a ribbon cable. I used an Arduino Leonardo, which can function as a USB input device.
RubberArms is an experimental rubber band game, created by Robin Baumgarten at the Global Game Jam 2017 in Yverdon-les-Bains, Switzerland.
The controller uses a conductive rubber cord from Adafruit that changes resistance as it’s stretched. This resistance is measured by an Arduino Micro/Leonardo (or a Teensy 3.2), which acts as a USB joystick sending signals to Unity3D. (The game is coded in Unity3D using Spring Joints and Line Renderers.)
Alex of the YouTube channel “Super Make Something” is a huge fan of Dance Dance Revolution (DDR), and still has to play the game whenever he steps foot into an arcade. However, with the number of arcades slowly declining, the Maker has decided to bring that experience into his living room with a USB DDR dance pad.
And yes, you could always buy a metal dance pad but rather than spend $300, why not build your own? That is exactly what Alex has done using some easy-to-find materials: a 35″ x 35” slab of plywood for the base, four 1” x 35” pieces of wood for the border, five 11” x 11” pieces of MDF for the stationary panels, four 9″ x 9” pieces of cardboard for the riser panels, 12 metal button contacts out of aluminum, four 11” x 11” MDF button pads, acrylic sheets for the dance surface, and plenty of paint and graphics for the finishing touch.
The dance pad itself is based on pull-up resistors and an Arduino Leonardo, which is housed inside a 3D-printed enclosure. The Arduino includes an ATmega32U4 chip that can be programmed to act as a USB input device. The working principle here is that the MCU sends out a keystroke every time a button panel is stepped on. Alex provides a more in-depth breakdown of how it works in the video below! Meanwhile, the Arduino code can be downloaded here.