Heya! Quick shout-out to my buddy Moldover, whose Kickstarter — an album on a USB stick, embedded into his “Voice Crusher” audio filter circuit – wraps up in five days. I would highly recommend picking up one of these things; the circuit is great fun to play with, and it’s built to resemble an old-school cassette tape… and oh, I guess it may also be filled with awesome music. Super cool!
On the subject, here’s a quick-and-dirty video experiment I did with a voice changer last summer. The second half is a lot easier to hear. (Guitar! Mutant Édith Piaf! Terrible sound quality! It’s everything you’ve dreamed of) (and you can do this stuff with the Voice Crusher as well!)
Also, my badass friend Ari – below, with belt sander — helped me over the weekend with a project that’s been on hiatus since January. I’m not allowed to have an acoustic guitar until I finish the Dark Star Carbon (Fiber) Guitar, which grew out of TechShop’s “6 Guitars in 6 Days” workshop. Mine will have a fiber soundboard as well, sandwiched around Nomex honeycomb and maple.
Here’s a beautiful instructable on the process, by the talented Seth! He added many of his own touches and created a really gorgeous instrument.
It was Ari’s idea to use the belt sander for a much flatter top edge on the body. This is why I assume somebody pays her the big bucks.
There will be more of the actual guitar process in a dedicated post. For now, you really should check out Seth’s instructable!
Don’t put steel strings on a cheap Mahalo ukulele. They’ll pull the bridge off. This started happening with the Punkulele, and I had to epoxy it back on:
Lastly, a paisley tie makes a pretty great strap for a mandolin. I’ve been using this strap for about six years now, and it’s never failed me. And I do stupid stuff like playing it while biking (which involves swinging the thing around my body into a playable position).
I hand-sewed this on, in what I thought would be the most durable fashion — basically, a million tiny stitches — and it’s not even showing signs of wear.
Haha, here you can see the scar on my finger from that quadcopter. Good times…
Here‘s Drix’s code for the Teensyduino powering the four micro servos! I built most of the player, using servos, guitar picks, wooden dowels, and copper and steel wire. (There are also pennies between the servos, to space them correctly.)
Inspiration: Music and robots, of course :)
I recently acquired a new uke (a $40 Makala Dolphin) because this one’s action is too high, meaning that the strings are too high off the fingerboard. So, you can tune the strings to one another, but when you try to play other notes using the frets, it all goes sideways. The tension changes too much, and everything you play is sharp (but not in an even way, and the strings are still normally tuned). So, we use only a metal slide to change the pitch of the notes (as suggested by Ken, who was sitting in on the Science Box team).
Durability: I chose “thin” Fender picks, because the servos are small and I didn’t want to strip them out with too much physical resistance. This was good, because we have only a scratcher/engraver and not a Dremel to make holes in the picks; however, this also made them flimsy, and they’re cracking.
Stabilization: I used wooden dowels for much of the structure, because it doesn’t require specialized tools to work with. However, metal would have been much better for stability. The structure started moving away from the strings around 3:30am, and I decided to go to bed, so Cédric used some silver armature wire to secure it to the body as a whole. I added some more dowels and wire in the morning, and it seems stable for now…
We were originally going to 3d-print a robot hand (probably this one) and modify that to use picks for the fingernails. Drix wisely reminded me that for hackathons, simpler is better, and building stuff always takes longer than you expect. Thanks to this sage counsel, I’m sitting here writing this instead of frantically scrambling to finish before our deadline at 13:37.
I attached the servos to each other, and to the uke, before attaching the picks, so that I could position them well. Lots of learning here; the picks on one side seem slightly higher than the others, and that’s not factoring in the ones that have been crudely trimmed down with clippers so that they’ll play.
This process brought the power of iteration into full focus. My best solution secures the pick to the servo with wire around the little fastening screw, which is then wound around the servo arm and through these holes (made with a tungsten scratcher-engraver thingy).
Let’s talk servos for a second!
A servo is like a rotary motor; however, instead of sending it on/off and power level information, you give it a heading in degrees. Most servos can only rotate 360º, then must stop or return the other way. They generally come with a variety of little heads; as you can see here, the rotating part itself is a little white plastic toothed nubbin that the heads fit onto. Here, we’re using a one-sided arm attachment. You can secure the heads on using a little screw that comes with the servo, and there may also be two or more larger screws, which can be used to fasten the servo to your support structure. (In this case, we’ve used wire instead.)
And another side note: wire is a great structural material for prototyping because you can add tension easily at arbitrary points; just grab it with the pliers and give it a twist. I’ve just used this to pull one side of the servo bank closer to the strings, by adding a copper wire connection between a tension dowel and Drix’s silver structural wire. We turned it on, and I added twists to the wire until the pick sounded loud and clear. I also like this method because it adds cool little lightning bolt shapes to the project. :)
By the way, this is Cosmo Punk, the official mascot of the Space Team (Punkulele and ScienceBox):
Making us proud!
p.s. I SLEPT IN THE AQUARIUM (Drix did not sleep)
Special thanks to Nic Weidinger (for servos and more!) and Ken Fujimoto (for suggesting the slide method of playing).
The official time designations for the SF/London split time zone (Between Standard Time).
Noonlight: 12pm/8pm – 1pm/9pm
Midlight: 1pm/9pm – 2pm/10pm
Afterlight: 3pm/11pm – 5pm/1am
Evennight: 5pm/1am – 7pm/3am
Twinight: 7pm/3am – 8pm/4am
Nightning: 8pm/4am – 4am/12pm
Nawn: 4am/12pm – 5am/1pm
Morfternoon: 5am/1pm – 9am/5pm
Mevening: 9am/5pm – 12pm/8pm
Also: Andy and I went out to Cambridge to visit Eireann and Ali, last weekend. They took us punting!
These are delightful, tech-savvy humans whom I met last year at EMF Camp, and Andy has met separately through God knows what unholy means. Eireann taught us a bit about security (and punting!), and Alison showed us her rad silversmithing tools and the jewelry she makes with them.
And of course, Andy is my talented and prolific sibling, who creates a comic called Unfortunate Circumstances (see sidebar!) – as well as a “more than” bad-music blog, Malbona Muziko. (Ze also took the above photo.)
Also also, Sun in a Glass: a few drops of Scotch in 8 ounces of club soda. Really lovely and cool, for these summery days.
Six months ago, I presented a couple of brainwave accessories at Hot Couture, a “fashion sculpture” show at the Crucible in Oakland. It was unforgettable. As I wrote to Kristy Alfieri, the chief producer: the whole thing was stressful and took up much of my life for the time I was working on it, and I’m glad it’s over… but WHAT an experience! I joined the crowd whenever I could, goggling at the artistry of my colleagues, the swagger of the models, the mind-blowing production quality, and the sheer overwhelming excitement of the entire weekend. I’ve rarely (if ever) been so intimidated by a project, nor so proud to take part in an event. I couldn’t believe my own work was up on a runway alongside the others’, flanked by fire, being flaunted by such cool and talented women.
I proposed two sets of brainwave-reactive accessories, including a set of horns and one of wings. There’s so much to say about their construction, I’ll break it down into a couple of chunks. This part covers most of the wings, while the next will cover the remainder of those and their companion hat, and the third will explain the horns and their harness.
Many thanks to my good man Stephen Aghaulor for taking video!
To start off with, both of my pieces were based on Necomimi. I’ve posted a full teardown here, which shows the bulk of the electronic/soldering process I went through to pull off the servos and extend them on wires for my wings. Caveat modder, though: the servos don’t hold a lot of weight, which caused issues that I’ll complain about later. So, where I last left off, we had two servos removed from their plastic headband-rails. I snipped the wires at each end of the rails, so I could come back and reattach them later, if need be. Inside the servo mounts, I wound the wires around the posts (where the screws go), then hot-glued them in sturdily, to insulate and reduce strain on the soldered joints.
On the other end, I cut the cables from the rails to the circuit board, and patched mine in.
The next order of business: attaching the servos to a harness. I made the structure out of a pair of black leather pants from a thrift shop – always a great source for inexpensive leather, and it’s almost too ethical. (If it’s real leather, it may have the shiny side out, but the other side should be good, usable suede. The lining usually isn’t attached at the bottom, so you can check before buying.)
I built a couple of prototypes, before settling on one that looked good, felt sturdy, and wouldn’t be a nightmare to put on or take off.
To be honest, I started out with totally the wrong idea. From my robotics days, I remembered how easy and satisfying it was to use pop-rivets. You make a hole in each piece of flat material, shove the stubby end of the rivet through, then insert the long, thin end into your rivet gun. When you separate the legs of the gun, the aperture around the rivet opens up. When you press them together, the aperture clamps down and also pulls on the long end. This causes the stubby part of the rivet (which actually stays in the hole) to shorten, which in turn makes the end bulge out on the other side of your material. Once the rivet gun can pull no more, it clips off the long end, leaving a fairly smooth dome on the outside.
Ready for the gun! (This would be the outside.)
However, I forgot one thing: These rivets aren’t for fabric – or for anything that has noticeable stretch. I thought I could get away with it, having used pop rivets before on my steampunk Leeloo harness. Mais non! I was horribly wrong. This leather was plenty thin enough to deform around the rivet as it bulged out, meaning that there was no friction fit, and they pulled out easily. Turns out, they have ones for fabric, and they are called cap rivets, and they are not available near TechShop on a weeknight. :(
In the last few days before the show, I scrambled to find an alternative. Casting about at the local Blick Art, I lit on a box of silver thumbtacks. Lightbulb!
These, it turns out, are a godsend for the desperate leather crafter. Functionally, they’re like paper clips! They’re easy to put in, are super-cheap and ubiquitous, hold well enough, and don’t require a premade hole (or leave much of one when removed). Plus, they look surprisingly polished!
How do you affix them, you say? First, as the designer, you must undergo the requisite investment of pain. Just stick ‘em through the leather and try on your piece. Once you’re satisfied with the placement and fit, turn over your joint and bash down on the points with a hammer. Continue until the point of the pin actually enters the leather; the visible side will still look great. And aim the point away from the direction of tension, like a hook holding the two pieces together. (These joints have withstood dancing at DNA Lounge, so I’d say they’re sufficiently durable!)
I tried a couple of different harness configurations before settling on the final design. These considerations went into the design:
Strength of joints
Lengths of leather available
Ability to support the wings and keep them from sagging
Adjustability (since these would be worn by other people)
Here’s what those looked like (from Ryan’s tablet camera, used in place of a mirror):
The overlapping kinda worked, but was not easy enough to put on / take off.
Even less practical, but way cooler!
Final design! Tired designer.
Checking the back, before adding further pins for reinforcement.
The arms go through first, and then you wrap the bottom strap around and fasten it in back.
The next step was mounting the servos, so that they would be sturdily in place before wing-ification. But first, I had to do something about that mangled, tangled handful of wires. I decided to employ a technique I’d learned at Spanish camp in 9th grade.
That’s right: my cable-control techniques are secretly friendship bracelets!
This one is pretty simple to learn, and takes a while, but is mindless enough to easily complete while watching a movie. Plus, it looks a hell of a lot better than heat-shrink: this technique produces a gorgeous, organic, tactile spiral ridge around the wires. In a nutshell:
Take a single length of yarn, perhaps 3 times the length of your project – though this depends upon the thickness of whatever you’re wrapping. You can always tie on more length later. Tie this around the top of your project (in this case, inside the battery case, so that the end wouldn’t show).
I’ve also placed a twist tie at the place where the cables will split to either side for the wings.
Next, take the yarn and loop it around your core: Hold the yarn in your left hand, and move the free end over to the right, over the cables. With the middle part still held to the left, and the vertical core, this will look something like a number “4″.
Take the free end and pass it *under* the core, and through the loop you’ve been holding open with your left hand.
If you’re working with a long strand of yarn, roll up the free end into a bundle to make this easier.
Pull it tight, yanking to the right and to the left to secure the knot and snug it up against your previous work.
As you practice, you’ll grow adept at doing this with one hand, so you can use the other to put food in your face, start the next episode of Cowboy Bebop, or… well, I’m sure you can come up with some ideas.
Perhaps this will be more comprehensible in video form:
About an inch before I got to the split in the cable, I stuck another piece of yarn in with the central core and began wrapping around that as well. At the fork, I separated it again. This gave me a sturdy base so that I could complete the right side with the original piece of yarn, then use this new length to wrap the cables from the joint to the left servo.
Finally, I attached the servos to the harness with wire (passed through where the headband-rails used to go). Since the wings are animatronic, I was extra-scrupulous about aligning them correctly, such that they would flap alluringly and not get all janked up when somebody called my name.
And that’s where we’re gonna leave off for tonight, as this is already growing gigantic… Parts 2 and 3 coming soon! I’m excited to finally have this written up. :)
This is an incredibly easy, and quite cheap, hardware hack. It does some weird shit and I love it to bits.
Acquire cheap webcam. (While many say they require Windows, most these days are cross-platform.)
Dismantle it as far as possible with a screwdriver.
Unscrew the focusing lens, on the front, until it comes off completely.
Locate the little iridescent square of glass on the back, which may be held in place by tabs of melted plastic. It reflects red in some directions, green in others.
Pry it out.
The fiddly bit: Replace this glass piece with equally-sized squares cut from an exposed, developed photographic negative. (The black rectangles at the ends of the roll are perfect for this.) Use a couple of layers, and press some plastic back into place over the edges, so that they stay in place. These layers block the visible spectrum, so you can leave them out if you want – but the effect won’t be as pronounced.
The entire job takes about ten or twenty minutes, once you’ve done it a couple of times. It works equally well with webcams and standalone digital cameras, and doesn’t affect the camera’s other workings at all.
In our human world, this is nearly opaque black photo negative, and the computer screen is set to full brightness.
A couple more effects:
It takes out the freckles, mole, hair dye, and chlorophyll-green, and adds some weird eye effects, which I’ve shown before. Also, the blue hair is normally darker than my natural color, but in (near)IR-world, those bits turn up lighter. It can see that the hair was bleached, but not the blue dye.
These cams are always fun to play with; I’ve used them as a hook at events, routing the video feed to my screen and adding some dot-map motion-tracing with Quartz Composer. If I can find the patch, I’ll put it up later. I also made one that sticks two video feeds side-by-side, and at some point I’m planning to build a cyborg head with swivelly webcam eyes (one regular and one near-IR) that mashes them together.
The only trouble is that, with the rise of CFLs and LED lights, there’s less “warm” light around at night. So build yourself an IR headlamp and hit the town! :)
Alex Glowaski (aka Merlin) is a curious person who works at Sauce Labs. I inhabit hackerspaces (from AHA to Noisebridge) and makerspaces (currently TechShop, with my comrades at ProtoTank). You can catch me as the_merlin on freenode.
Everything on this blog is licensed Creative Commons, Attribution & Share-Alike. In other words, I'm delighted if you want to share it; just include a link back to here. And if you want to adapt it, your creation should bear the same license. Thanks!