While many Makers have musical skill, others attempt to compensate for their lack of it by producing automatic instruments that play themselves. One such attempt started in 2015 as a collaborative project between three University of Delaware professors as part of an initiative known as “Artgineering.” This was meant to “create a public spectacle… to demonstrate that engineering and art can work together harmoniously.”
Although many would consider engineering to be an art in itself, if you’d like to create your own robotic band, this Instructables write-up for the GuitarBot is a great place to start.
The guitar-playing robot is comprised of three major components: the brains, a strummer, and a chord mechanism. An Arduino Mega, a specially-ordered PCB and several shields are used for control, and a series of solenoids press down frets as needed. Finally, strumming is handled by a pick that is pulled by a DC motor and belt assembly, all of which is held up by an aluminum frame.
Most people support their school or favorite sports team by buying a shirt or tuning into games. Jacob Thompson, however, took things one step further and created his own Arduino-powered, backlit Clemson Tiger Paw.
Thompson’s “WallPaw,” as he calls it, uses an Arduino Uno to receive signals from an infrared remote and to pick up sounds with a small microphone. This information is passed on to an Arduino Mega, which controls a five-meter-long strip of WS2812 LEDs to provide lighting effects.
He notes that it would be possible to use only one Arduino board for everything, but patterned his code after this tutorial that included two. The paw itself is cut out of wood and clear acrylic, allowing the lights underneath to shine through nicely.
In addition to controlling the lasers, his device can sense hand motion on top of it using an array of 12 ultrasonic sensors, and can even coordinate music through a built-in MIDI output.
As seen in the demonstration video, Bumstead’s project–which was constructed with the help of a CNC router–looks like a cross between a coffee table and a test fixture for a space vehicle. When activated, a brushless motor spins the two lasers at a high speed, while the Mega controls the laser angles via two servos, creating a unique vortex-like light show!
I included distance sensors in the device so that the laser sheets could be manipulated by moving your hand towards them. As the person interacts with the sensors, the device also plays music through a MIDI output. It incorporates ideas from laser harps, laser vortexes, and POV displays. The instrument is controlled with an Arduino Mega that takes in the inputs of ultrasonic sensors and outputs the type of laser sheet formed and music generated. Due to the many degrees of freedom of the spinning lasers, there are tons of different laser sheet patterns that can be created.
While using a metal detector to find valuable jewelry, and less valuable aluminum cans, can be interesting, the more accurately you can pinpoint the “treasure,” the easier it is. For excellent accuracy while maintaining a wide sensing field, Maker “TechKiwiGadgets” built a detector with not one, but four sets of sensing coils, all controlled using an Arduino Mega.
The device generates and senses a magnetic pulse from each set of coils, which is modified if there is a metallic object present. In search mode, the four signals are combined into a single display, and once an object is located, the four sensors can be shown in a split-screen. You can then dig where, and only where, it’s needed, minimizing work and your environmental impact!
As seen here, artist Tijuana Rick’s father-in-law received a 1969 Wurlitzer 3100 jukebox for free, with one small catch. It didn’t come with any records. Of course, Rick could have purchased vintage records from a number of sources, but instead decided to transform it into an amazing retro music streaming device.
In order to take input from the jukebox’s 40+ interface buttons, he turned to the Arduino Mega. After the Mega receives these on/off signals, it then pushes selection information to a Raspberry Pi, which does the actual streaming.
Luckily, he had stumbled upon this GitHub repository from Thomas Sprinkmeier, which became the foundation for the project’s software. You can find more details and images of Tijuana Rick’s restoration on his website, including how he cast replacement buttons that he needed for the jukebox in silicon molds!
If you have even a passing familiarity with how to play a piano, you know that there are a bunch of long white keys, with a lesser number of black keys in a nearly-universal arrangement. On the other hand, like the standard and much lesser-known Dvorak keyboard for typing, there are alternatives. One such alternative is the Jankó keyboard, which Ben Bradley decided to reconstruct for the Moog Werkstatt using a capacitive touch sensor setup.
His new instrument, which as of his write-up only had 13 keys connected, was constructed for the 2017 Moog Hackathon at Georgia Tech. It uses an Arduino Mega for control along with four MPR121 capacitive touch breakout boards, and as seen in the video below, can be played quite well after only one day of practice!