Tag Archives: ATmega328 MCU

Makers bring some iconic 1980s tech back to life


Warning: This blog post will cause some serious nostalgia.


Ah, the 1980s. A time when indispensable devices like the personal computer, the Walkman and the portable gaming console hit critical mass and found their way into the heart of pop culture. After being challenged by one of our social followers to do a “Throwback Thursday” post around this iconic period, we decided to highlight some of the most memorable innovations from the decade along with their reincarnations by Makers today. Let’s take a look!

The Walkman

Long before the days of the iPod and MP3 player, there was the Sony Walkman. With one still in his possession, Maker Robot Swans had taken his malfunctioning device and transformed it into a new instrument for his band. Using an Arduino Uno (ATmega328) to drive the Walkman’s motor, it can now play a pre-recorded note at different speeds to complement his drum machine quite nicely.

Nintendo NES

The ’80s introduced a new era of video gaming with the debut of NES. Duck Hunt, Blades of Steel, Donkey Kong… the list goes on and on. Inspired by these classics, the Uzebox is a homebrew console based on an ATmega644 MCU that was designed to serve as the simplest device possible with decent enough sound and graphics to implement interesting games. Mission accomplished! For those interested in similar hacks, there’s plenty more, ranging from a Maker who decided to play NES inside a cartridge to another who crafted Super Mario Bros. musical LED sprite pieces.

The Power Glove

While on the topic of Nintendo, who can ever forget the Power Glove? Equipped with traditional NES controller buttons on the forearm, the wearable gaming device failed to catch on in terms of popularity. However, that didn’t stop Maker Greg Sowell from rigging the obsolete NES Power Glove into a psychedelic light suit using addressable LED strips and an Arduino Pro Mini (ATmega328).

Omnibot

The motorized bot managed to carry out a variety of functions such as transporting light objects, rovering across the carpet, playing cassette tapes and even speaking in robotic fashion via a remote microphone. While reminiscing about his childhood desire to attain an Omnibot of his own, a Maker dubbed “pinter75” decided to teardown the gizmo and give it a full makeover with new paint, stickers, and Arduino control gear. Then, there’s DIYer DJ Sures, who modded a fully-operational Omnibot that he got off of eBay with voice recognition, camera, color tracking, servos and Bluetooth.

The ZX Spectrum

Credited as one of the first mainstream home computers, ol’ Speccy featured classics like Atic Atac, Elite and Manic Miner. Looking to spark up some 8-bit nostalgia, Alistair MacDonald took a broken ZX Spectrum and repurposed it as a fully-usable keyboard that could function with a PC, Raspberry Pi or an Android device supporting HID via a USB host adapter. The project is based on an Arduino Pro Mini (ATmega328).

Armatron

Manufactured by RadioShack, the crane-like robot seemed pretty high-tech at the time. In hopes of giving the arm a modern-day update, Maker “ckung0400” embedded an Arduino Nano (ATmega328) and used an IR remote to enable its six-motor control.

Teddy Ruxpin

This endearing, animatronic stuffed bear was every child’s favorite storyteller. Thanks to a Portland-based DIYer and self-proclaimed geek father Sean Gallagher, BearDuino is a hardware-hacked Teddy Ruxpin that has been turned into a kit using either an Arduino Leonardo (ATmega32u4) or Uno (ATmega328).

Dot Matrix Printers

Back in the ’80s, these dot matrix machines were considered quite the combination of expense and versatility before they were gradually succeeded by inkjet printers. Well, a hacker by the name of MIDIDesaster has made a habit of turning these dot matrix printers into MIDI-compatible sound generators capable of emitting tunes such as the Macarena and Eye of the Tiger. The DMP is equipped with a stalwart ATmega8 MCU and an FPGA connected to various sectors of the original printer’s circuit board.

The Boombox

Boombastic, very fantastic! Boomboxes became quite the status symbol of the 1980s — whether it was being held in the air by John Cusack in Say Anything to being lugged on the shoulders of hip-hoppers at the park. In order to bring the antiquated gadget into the 21st century, David Watts pieced together one of his own packed with an Arduino, Bluetooth, FM radio and line-in connectivity. It made use of an MSGEQ7 IC for the spectrum visualizer, a Nokia 5110 display, and ran off six AA batteries.

Atari 2600

This system is credited with popularizing the use of microprocessor-based hardware and ROM cartridges containing game code. Maker “jolt527” managed to get his hands on a vintage Atari 2600 joystick and used an Arduino Duemilanove (ATmega328) as its input/output controller. The makeshift piece is tasked with directing the output to a seven-segment display to show what is being done with the joystick.

The Clapper

Clap on, clap off… Need we say more? The Clapper was a sound activated electrical switch, which became incredibly popular halfway through the ’80s. MAKE: Magazine’s Jason Poel Smith recently showed off a DIY version of the gadget, not only capable of evoking your lights but appliances as well.

Lazer Tag

Also known as “laser tag,” the game was first introduced by Worlds of Wonder in 1986, while the Lazer Tag brand is now currently a subsidiary of Hasbro’s NERF toy line. A fresh take on the classic activity, Skirmos is an open-source, versatile laser tag system that features an ATmega328P, an Arduino bootloader, a color LCD screen (that acts as a real-time HUD), and an infrared LED.

Simon

Think of it as HORSE yet in digital form. The flash game made for some fun and frustrating times depending on how great your photographic memory and timing were. To combat its tediousness, Maker Ben North and his 7-year-old daughter have built a Simon-playing robot. To detect the lights, the Maker duo connected four phototransistors to an Arduino Duemilanove (ATmega328), while the Arduino recorded the pattern of lights on the Simon and activated the LEGO arms in response to that pattern.

Shoulder Pads

Don’t ask us why, but it was surely a wardrobe staple of the time. Here’s a new spin on a trend most of us would hope never to see again! These glitteriffic shoulder pads shine bright with 50 LEDs that are controlled by an Arduino Micro (ATmega32U4).

Apple II

Let’s just say that had the Apple Watch came out in the 1980s, it would’ve looked just like this. Instructables user “Aleator777”  packed a Teensy MCU, a 1.8″ LCD screen, a rechargeable battery, and a tiny 2W speaker for emitting alerts, all inside a 3D-printed shell.

Space Invaders

Originally released in 1978, the laser cannon shooting game led the way for the industry in migrating from just Pong-inspired sports games towards action-packed ones involving fantastical scenarios. However, the pixelated blocky graphic graphics always seemed a little unrealistic. That’s why one engineer has made a real-world version with real-world lasers using the hardware of a modified Whitetooth A1 laser cutter along with a laptop keyboard to serve as its gamepad. Meanwhile, an Arduino Nano (ATmega328) was mounted to a custom 80W laser controller to enable side-to-side movement to help shoot the paper invaders, each clipped to a plate and driven by stepper motors.

Pac-Man

This arcade game was a fixture at ice cream shops and pizza parlors throughout the ‘80s. And today, it can even be found at bus stops throughout Trondheim, Norway. That’s because a group of Makers created interactive stops consisting of pre-cut sheet of plywood, old computer screens, a Raspberry Pi installed with Pac-Man, and MaKey MaKey (ATMega32U4) controlled by aluminum foil tape on the glass front of the poster box.

Arduweenie and Linweenie have entered a new era


Tenaya Hurst offers some words of wisdom for Makers around overcoming failures. 


Even in the Maker world, successes are celebrated sometimes more often than the failures. The wins are documented more than the short-comings. It is because of this that I would like to discuss publically my epic continual failures with my favorite project Arduweenie. And of course, on the eve of the epic success!

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Arduweenie started out so successful. I had my Arduino Uno. I knew exactly which pins to connect following the succinct but sufficient explanation from Andrew Milmoe of the Make SF meetup group. Then using a photo from Rebekah Nelson, Prinda started a Twitter feed, thanks Tech Museum Open Make 2014! I had confidence and all my students loved Arduweenie. He was a big attraction at Maker Faires, and it appeared everything was going great.

I wanted to make a second ‘weenie for World Maker Faire 2014, and when I ordered the new LED strip, I assumed it would come with the power supply and female adaptor required (but didn’t). As it turned out, I just didn’t have the physical pieces needed. The sweetest and most knowledgeable maker, Paul Posner of Long Island’s LiTimeClocks, totally helped me to at least power both LED strips from the same Arduino Uno (ATmega328). Even this was a revelation to me. As a next step though, all that was necessary was to make four Y junctions with the four wires that are needed for each LED strip. Red, green, black, and blue – all matched up with their equal and then proceeding to the same connections for power and to the Arduino to make both work. I was impressed, grateful, and SAVED as double ‘weenies at Maker Faire New York made quite a splash. It was a close call — thanks to Paul!

I was determined to solve this LED strip problem and use my Arduino Yún (ATmega32U4) for Arduweenie and my Linino ONE for Linweenie. We had the instructions posted at Maker Faire as to how how to connect to these boards wirelessly. Yet, I admit that I was really nervous to get started. Luckily, I was beckoned to dog hunter’s headquarters in Boston (the dog house!) and had the opportunity to work one-on-one with our talented engineer, Adriano from Sicily. (Not only do I love your name — because it’s one of the words my spellcheck suggests when I’m trying to spell Arduino — but I appreciated it so much to have you show me how easygoing Wi-Fi really is!)

My plans to create a step-by-step progression for our Maker was becoming a reality. It turns out it all came down to a special number. 192.168.240.1. If you know that number, you’ve already got it figured out! Just type that into your web browser and give your board power for 1 minute and 10 seconds, and then you can configure the board on your wireless network and get back to Arduino IDE where you can still upload code wirelessly!

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Adriano also started to show me the Linux side of Linino ONE using the Qualcomm Atheros AR9331 chip. I hope to learn more about Linux and how to use other programming languages on the Linino ONE, but for now, Arduino IDE is my best software tool. There is a bridge between AR9331 and the Atmel ATmega32U4, and I’m sure I’ll be glad the hardware was designed that way since using the Atmel side of the board is most comfortable for me.

The failures still seemed to present themselves as I tried to do in repetition what Adriano had taught me. I really believe that for making, the best way to learn how to do something is to do it over and over again. As I started configuring all my dog hunter hardware, I realized the 1 minute 10 second rule! You just need to give it that time twice in the process and then everything is great and working. It is a long time to wait, but do something that takes 1:10 like go to the kitchen and back, or see how many sit-ups you can do!

The final frontier was the power issues, and I didn’t solve it alone. Making is a team sport and though making alone in your apartment can be the most fun ever, it’s important to have some group time and some mentors available for consultation. First, my very good friend who is a maker and breaker at Apple helped me to do math… yes, MATH to find out what kind of power pack my LED strip needed. I had a different power pack for a different LED strip and he said, “Wait! That is not enough power and could damage your LED strip!” He pointed out that one LED strip I had purchased was just NeoPixels, or blocky RGB LEDs, whereas my official LPD8806 strip has chips in it, allowing each LED to be individually programmed. It was an “aha” moment. Buying stuff as a Maker can be hard too! Sometimes you buy the wrong thing, think you buy the right thing, buy the right thing but it breaks, etc.

Next, my good friend J.D. of Workshop Weekend — where we teach Arduino workshops to adults and private workshops in schools — agreed to help me. He also echoed much of what my maker-breaker friend had educated me about, and confirmed that the power pack I recently purchased should do the job. This time I got the right one! Based on the math!) J.D. also helped me do a basic internet search for some tips. He saw that for the Arduino Yun, instead of using the 5V power input, I should actually use the “vin” which is nearby and I had never considered or questioned what that pin was for. Beyond that, J.D. revealed if I did indeed use pins 11 and 13, as Andrew had originally taught me, that maybe the pattern would run faster.

One final revisit with my Maker-breaker friend found total success… and yet, is it really total success? Well, Arduweenie is working, but the patterns are waaaaaay too slow! So, now I’m left with a software issue, or maybe I still need more power. All in all, Arduweenie and Linweenie are totally, completely, absolutely worth it for the struggle because the rewards are great. I will achieve this new roadblock. I will consult with my brother Dakoder (okay, his name is Dakota, but he’s a coder!) because he helped me to write the code in Arduino IDE. And on my own time, alone in my apartment, I’ll certainly try to adjust the delays and anything to do with timing in the code. Also, I may have to try another power pack and see if that speeds up my blinking, rainbonic lights! Ohhh, I just found a library called FastLED…

An open-source PLC to control the Internet of Things


Controllino is the first software open-source, Arduino-compatible PLC. 


Designed by the SG-Tronic team, the Controllino is an open-source programmable logic controller (PLC) built around Atmel’s ATmega328 and ATmega2560 microcontrollers (MCUs). Recently funded on Kickstarter, the Arduino-compatible PLC allows Makers to produce and control their next Internet of Things project, ranging from industrial to home automation applications.

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“When I was at electronic school, I would have loved Arduino. But back then, microcontroller programming wasn’t that easy. When I became aware of Arduino, I thought… What a great idea for young people and those who are not hardcore microcontroller programmers,” creator Marco Riedesser explained. “The only problem with Arduino is [that] when you don’t really know so much about electronic hardware, driving more than a LED can become difficult. And using an Arduino board in a professional project or even a product that you want to sell is quasi impossible if you want to get certification.”

Now fully UL and CE-certified, Makers can begin creating and actually shipping gadgets such as drones, home appliances, or any other electronic project that comes to mind. The Atmel powered PLC is currently being presented in three models: Mini, Maxi and Mega.

“I had to repair the coffee machine for my brother-in-law. I thought it would be easy to use Arduino but there was nothing on the market that could handle switching high voltage and high current. So I thought I had to come forward with a product,” Riedesser revealed to TechCrunch earlier this year.

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All Controllino PLCs are equipped with an internal RTC using SPI, which can be switched on/off and allow for the use of SPI for other purposes via pin header. With built-in processor contact, Makers have a direct link to a number of boards (like Arduino). All pins are also 4000V ESD protected. What’s more, both the Controllino Maxi and Mega let users select between internal RTC and Ethernet using SPI, as well as turn it off so they can use the SPI for other purposes via pin header.

The versatile device works in altitudes up to 2,000m above sea level, in temperatures ranging between 5°C to 55°C, and in maximum relative humidity 80% for temperatures up to 31°C decreasing linearly to 50% relative humidity at 55°C. Each Controllino features an automatic input voltage range selection. This internal function changes voltage dividers ratio on the processor input, and enables the use of one input for analog and digital and for 12V or 24V input voltage range without user action. In addition, the Controllino’s main supply voltage fluctuates up to ±10% of the nominal voltage

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Key Mini specs:

  • MCU: ATmega328 MCU
  • RTC
  • Clock speed: 16 MHz
  • 1x RS232 interface
  • 1x SPI interface
  • 6x relay outputs (230V/6A)
  • 8x digital outputs (2A @12V or 24V)
  • 8x analog/digital inputs
  • 10A input current max

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Key Maxi specs:

  • MCU: ATmega2560
  • RTC
  • Clock speed: 16 MHz
  • Ethernet connection
  • 2x RS232 interface
  • 1x RS485 interface
  • 1x I2C interface
  • 1x SPI interface
  • 10x relay outputs (230V/6A)
  • 12x digital outputs ( 2A @12V or 24V)
  • 12x analog/digital inputs
  • 20A input current max

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Key Mega specs:

  • MCU: ATmega2560 MCU
  • RTC
  • Clock speed: 16 MHz
  • Ethernet connection
  • 2x RS232 interface
  • 1x RS485 interface
  • 1x I2C interface
  • 1x SPI interface
  • 16x relay outputs (230V/6A)
  • 24x analog/digital inputs
  • 12x digital outputs – high side switch (2A @12V or 24V)
  • 12x digital outputs – half-bridge (2A @12V or 24V)
  • 20A input current max

Interested in learning more? You can check out Controllino’s official page here. Those wishing to purchase the Mini, Maxi and Mega can now do so for € 119.00, € 199.00 and € 269.00, respectively.

Wake up and smell the bacon with this DIY alarm clock


Sorry Folgers, apparently coffee doesn’t work for everyone! 


In an episode of The Office, Michael Scott said he wanted to wake up to the smell of bacon each morning. So each night before going to bed, he would lay strips of bacon onto his George Foreman Grill and set a timer for it to turn on as he awoke from his slumber.

Well, an Instructables user by the name of “llopez2005” has taken it upon herself to devise a bacon alarm clock for those of us who need an extra incentive to get out of bed in the morning, using an Arduino Uno (ATmega328). Not to mention, it’s much safer than Scott’s method.

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“With the help of an Arduino, the alarm clock will already have the bacon aroma filling the room to wake you up before the alarm, or it will make you just want some bacon when the alarm goes off,” the Maker writes.

Aside from the ATmega328 based Arduino, other key project components include:

  • RTC (Real Time Clock) shield with Bluetooth
  • An Android device with Blueterm app
  • Mini dual LED matrix shield
  • Bacon scented oil
  • A 5″ mini frying pan
  • Unscented candle wax
  • Oven bake clay (for the bacon)
  • Sink strainer set
  • 
Electric candle warmer
  • USB and AC receptacle outlet combo – 120v / 15 amp
  • 3~32VDC SSr-25 DA solid state relay
  • Wood to build box; plexiglass to construct display box
  • Spray paint (optional)

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On the software side of things, llopez2005 used a sketch she found in another unique Instructable project, The Illy Clock, which transformed an ordinary coffee can into an alarm device as well.

“Once I was able to get all of my parts for the Arduino and had the sketch uploaded, it was just a matter of tweaking the code. Because the RTC shield had Buetooth, I was able to control the clock wirelessly with the Android app Blueterm. This can only be done with an Android device and will not work with anything [else].”

Basic alarm commands are as follows:

  • ALARM TIME=00:00
  • TIME=00:00
  • ALARM ON
  • ALARM OFF
  • STOP ALARM
  • SHOW ALARM

The alarm clock was also programmed to emit colors. For instance, three hours before wake-up, the time color changes from green to orange, while an hour before wake-up, red displays the final countdown.

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“Once you set your alarm time, the relay can be set in the sketch to switch on the heating pad before your alarm goes off. Once the alarm does go off, the relay will switch back to off and the heating pad will no longer be active.”

Rounding out the design, llopez2005 modded a heating pad, prepared the bacon, wired the components, built the box, constructed the display and tested the clock.

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Pretty cool, eh? For the next iteration, we propose that llopez2005 add an Arduino-based coffee maker, juicer and toaster, all while throwing in a couple of eggs for a more complete breakfast experience. In the meantime, though, we’ll happily make do with bacon! Interested in wakin’ with bacon? You can check out the project’s official page here.

Build your own self-monitoring device with BITalino

As the potential for smart wearable devices continues to draw new entrants into the market, it appears that a new health and fitness tracker emerges every week. While each of them are equipped with some sort of unique feature — such as food intake to running — a vast majority of them are intended for the mass market. But, what if you were seeking a device that could monitor something entirely catered to just you? Though building your activity tracker may seem like a tedious task, BITalino is hoping to expedite the process for Makers.

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Developed the Boston-based startup, BITalino is a low-cost, easy-to-use toolkit designed for anyone looking to build self-tracking applications based on information from their body. Based on an ATmega328 MCU, the platform enables Makers to quickly bring projects entailing body signals and quantified self wearable devices to life, as well as learn how to create actual medical devices — which otherwise can cost upwards of $10,000.

BITalino is described by its creators out-of-the-box solution that offers an array of Arduino-compatible software and hardware blocks equipped with sensors for electrocardiography (ECG), electromyography (EMG), electrodermal Activity (EDA), accelerometry (ACC), and ambient light (LUX).

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“Our vision is to make them available for anyone, and harness the power and creative thinking of the open-source movement to boost innovation in biosignal-based applications in unprecedented ways,” a company rep explains.

Recently launched on Kickstarter, the unique DIY biosensor kit can be used by Makers of all levels (from students to researchers) interested in devising projects, which can range from anyone interested in creating projects ranging from muscle activated air drones and heart-rate monitoring bicycle handlebars to interactive installations and personal diagnostics apps.

A few examples of what this little fellow is capable of:

If able to achieve its funding goal of $50,000, the team plans on producing future boards with a smaller form factor, improved signal quality, built-in Bluetooth Low Energy, and additional sensors, among a number of other features. BITalino hopes to launch more affordable, simpler-to-use application-specific kits as well.

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“You know all too well how stiff PCBs and body curves don’t always add up, and that’s where your pledge come in… BIG TIME!” the team writes. As a result, BITalino is even looking to bring flexy back! The team has already joined forces with Printoo — a lineup of paper-thin, Atmel embedded boards and modules that offer Makers and devs new levels of creative flexibility. If able to garner enough funding, the Arduino-compatible kit will create a version of BITalino based on the flexible, paper-like technology. As you can see, the possibilities are truly endless!

Interested in learning more or backing the ATmega328 powered project? BITalino can currently be found over on Kickstarter.

 

Turning playgrounds into video games with ATmega328P

In today’s age of non-stop stimulation, it seems old schoolyard mainstays like the see-saw and jungle gym may not get as much love as they used to. In a way to reinvigorate these activities, the Hybrid Play system — which recently made its Indiegogo debut — uses an Atmel powered, clip-on sensor to transform any playground into an interactive virtual game.

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Making setup super easy and intuitive, the Hybrid Play clip can easily be affixed to nearly any feature on a playset. The sturdy, weather-resistant “clothespin” features a collaboration of an ATmega328P MCU, IR sensors, gyroscopes, and accelerometers that precisely track motion data and transmit it back to a paired smartphone application via Bluetooth LE.

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“A wireless sensor transforms the playground elements into physical interfaces controlling video games on Android or iOS devices (such as smartphones and tablets). Hybrid Play is specifically designed for recreational equipment that rotates around an axis, such as swings or seesaws, or static elements such a slides,” the team writes.

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Once clipped to the play set, the Arduino-based sensor registers movement while a custom software transforms this data into actions in the digital game, such as walking, jumping, running or turning. Hybrid Play bridges the gap between the physical and digital worlds to create open-air fun experiences, and comes equipped with pre-installed entertainment like Puzzle City and Space Kids. However, since it’s open source, everyone can design their own games as well!

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According to its creators, the actual functionality of the Hybrid Play is designed to promote communication, collaboration and group-play with children and parents. Usually, a parent or friend will operate the smartphone, as kids work together to solve the smartphone applications tasks and objectives. The phone could assign kids to swing in a pattern that collects space trash to clean the galaxy or to navigate the playscape in a reworked version of the arcade classics Pac-Man and TRON.

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“You can also try hybrid version of classic games. Give a new life to old games on the playground or even better: you can create your own games. Your creations, your rules!” Given its open-source nature, the fun possibilities are endless.

The accessible iOS and Android platform even allows for kids and families to design their own games to be acted out and solved upon the playground. Hybrid Play’s intersection of physical activity, virtual stimulation, and relationship building makes it an ideal tool for the modern-day, on-the-go family.

Currently seeking $140,000 in its recently-launched crowdfunding campaign, the team hopes to use the pledges for hardware production, as well as software and gaming development. Shipments are expected to begin April 2015 — perfect time for some spring!

Do you have children between the ages of 6 and 12 and want to learn more about Hybrid Play?  You can explore the wide range of possibilities on its official site and back the team on its Indiegogo page here.

A wearable machine turns tattoos into music


This device reads tattoos and translates them into electronic sounds.


Moscow-based artist Dmitry Morozov — commonly referred to as ::vtol:: — has created a unique sound controller to read musical scores implanted in tattoos.

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“This is a special instrument that combines [the] human body and [a] robotic system into a single entity that is designed to automate [the] creative process in an attempt to represent the artist and his instrument as a creative hybrid,” Morzov explained in a recent blog post.

The scanning instrument — which is aptly called Reading My Body is comprised of a metal railing, hand controllers and parallel black line sensors that move along the arm using a stepper motor. In addition, it includes a Nintendo Wii controller that uses an Open Sound Control mechanism to add more sounds when moved by the hand. A stepper motor guides the device along the inked lines, while the length of each bar coincides with the duration of an emitted tune.

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On the hardware side, the musical creation is built around an Arduino Nano (ATmega328), a Nord Modular G2, a Symbolic Sound Kyma X, and a six-channel PVC pipe sound system.

According to ::vtol::, the tattoo is specifically designed to contain the maximum number of variable time slots between triggers. The Maker reveals it is possible to manually drive the velocity of the sensors’ movement, direction and step length so that, when combined, gives an infinite number of variations of reading patterns from hand. However, controlling the parameters and sensors’ movements can also be programmed to operate autonomously.

Interested in learning more? You can check out the project’s official page as well as a number of the Maker’s other projects here.