Curious Inventor Blog

  • Each Stribe1 has a touch strip and double column of LEDs that can display and control music and video programs. Multiple Stribe1's can be daisy-chained together to form a low-res, multi-touch display. Use with Max/MSP or other software to adjust track volumes with VU meters, make a sequencer, control synth params and pitch, "scratch" through sounds, etc. Designed by Josh Boughey as a modular version of his original 8 strip Stribe (which won two editor's choice awards at the Austin maker faire!). The Stribe1 kit page

    Stribe1: Touchstrip + LED Bargraph Display from CuriousInventor on Vimeo.

  • If you're in Atlanta, we'll be demoing some kits at the launch event for Georgia Tech's new Center for Music Technology. We'll have all the music related kits, including the Voice of Saturn line, MIDIATOR and a soon to be released Stribe. There will also be some other interesting technology, including a robotic drummer and marimba player, some other modular synths, and some computer assisted / generated performances. The event goes from 4 to 6:30pm.

  • We'll be at the Austin Maker Faire doing all sorts of surface mount soldering demos, including toaster ovens, skillets, a $24 hot air tool , fine pitch, QFN (leadless chips), inexpensive solder paste stencils (from ohararp.com), chipquik, schmartboards and more... all without microscopes. Some new kits will be used in the demos, including some blinking "fireflies" that sync with each other and a bread-board module that acts as a power supply and USB serial port. We'll also have a bunch of our music kits there to play with. Travis will be there with his Voice of Saturn kits, and Josh, a new collaborator, will be demoing a new affordable version of his stribe. There will be a drum machine that you can play with a playstation 2 controller and our MIDIATOR.

  • The new firmware version of our MIDIATOR Kit lets you map any button or joystick to any note or controller, including button pressures. For instance, you could make the vertical axis of the left joystick go from 89 at the bottom to 34 at the spring-returned center, to 5 at the top. We made a new video showcasing this along with the Jomox XBase09 drum module, which is just insanely fun to play with.

    Some practice wouldn't hurt...

  • This set of tutorials will cover some essentials to designing circuits and pcb layouts using kicad(link goes to author's site + download), an open-source tool for circuit (board) design that's freeand has no restrictions on number of layers or size (like Eagle). We'll focus more on the unintuitive things as well as tips & tricks rather than re-write the manual.kicad tutorial

  • We got our hands on one of the $3500 Bioloid Expert Kits and took it for a gentle test ride. This post goes over some of the notable features as well as some of the drawbacks. We're also giving it away as a promotion for the new inventors section of our website. Here are the contest rules.

    The Bioloid kit by Robotis offers an impressive combination of hardware and software to create robots that put the quite capable NXT platform to shame. I had the opportunity to play with the $3500 Expert Kit for a few days. I barely scratched the surface on the hardware and software capabilities of this kit.

    Hardware:

    To start, the kit comes in a ridiculous aluminum case that looks like it'd be better suited for jewelry or weapons.

    bioloid expert kit case

    bioloid expert kit case opened

    The module that powers your robot is based around the venerable Atmega 128 microcontroller housed in what is known as the CM-5. Programming and communication is carried out through a serial port interface. To reduce size, the serial cable features a 1/4" audio jack on the CM-5 end. If you don't have a serial port, the USB2Dynamixel can act as a USB-Serial adapter in addition to allowing direct control of the servos from a PC. The CM-5 can also communicate with another CM-5 or a PC via an optional Zigbee module that plugs into the CM-5 or IR communication through the AX-S1 modules. The kit comes with two CM-5's.

    Servos and sensors are connected to the CM-5 through a three-wire daisy chain bus. This brilliant design reduces the clutter of cabling sprouting from your typical microcontroller, and can run at 1mbps speeds. The AX-12+ is much more than a basic servo. It can be spun continuously for use as a wheel and offers full feedback to the CM-5 (temperature, voltage, load, etc). The AX-S1 looks nearly identical to the AX-12+, but is a sensor module that gives the capability of distance, brightness, and sound sensing, as well as IR communication to other AX-S1s, to the CM-5.

    bioloid servos

    The coolest piece of hardware is a wireless camera. This transmits a decent 320x240 color image at around 30 fps. This 1" cube will still provide a live feed up to ~100' feet through walls (I wasn't able to test a free-space range). The image data transmits to a USB receive that looks like a wireless router. This allows the heavy image processing to be offloaded to a PC.

    bioloid camera

    Software:

    The CM-5 can be programmed by C or a graphical language akin to NXT-G. Also there exists software for motion-capture type programming. I didn't get to delve too much into any custom programming, but some of the demo CM-5 and Windows binaries that did image processing were impressive. It can do lots of standard operations out of the box, including edge, motion and blob detection.

    bioloid zigbee adapter

    Documentation, especially about the wireless camera and Zigbee modules is a little sparse, and sometimes in somewhat poor English. Since they don't sell the vision software separately, there isn't going to be a large community of people from which to get support ($3500!). Assembly of brackets and servos can be a bit tedious. The brackets have integrated nuts to make assembly a little easier, though inserting the nuts into the AX-12+'s and the AX-S1's can be quite frustrating. There might be a trick, but it took me a few hours just to put a couple servos together. The AX-12+'s and the AX-S1's serve as joints and provide the majority of the length to an appendage. No long structural pieces are included in the kit, so don't expect to be able to create any long and light-weight arms, since balancing your design could get tricky.

    Overall, the kit is very impressive. I'm anxious to see what people are able to design with this, especially outside of the standard creature bot. A lot of potential exists for use in prototyping automation and assembly lines.

    bioloid expert kit parts

    bioloid expert kit parts

    One more video:

  • We now have some monome faceplates and cases available. We used the t-nut solution to make the case assemble-able straight from the laser cutter without tapping or machining (idea came from David at uChobby.com.

  • Scroll or hack sawing through acrylic can leave a cloudy edge, but a few passes from a butane torch will quickly clear it up. Click the post title to see before and after close-ups. Laser cutting guru Ryan at ohararp.com gave us this tip.

    Before:


    After:

  • Oliver [of wire to the ear] sent in this pic... where's the video?

  • recompas's new kit lets you add tremelo, chopping, and AM (amplitude modulation) effects to audio. It's got a VCA (voltage controlled amplifier), function generator that can produce and warp triangle waves, and an Attack / Release envelope generator.

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