Tag Archives: Twitter

This instrument creates music based on the emotional status of Twitter users

“We’re pickin’ up good (social) vibe-rations.”

Initially designed as a Master’s degree project at the University of Limerick in Ireland by Cian McLysaght, Social Vibes is a unique installation that creates music based the emotional expressions of Twitter users.


The harmonic tunes are derived from a continuous stream of input by multiple Twitter users as well as the explicit interaction from those tweeting the steampunk-esque machine via its @vibe_experiment handle. Data associated with the emotional status of those online is mined from the social network via its open-source API. Meanwhile, Vibe adopts fundamental sound mechanisms used in a vibraphone (hence its name) and is powered by an Arduino Uno (ATmega328).

How it works is simple. When a user sends a post to Vibe directly, they are given instant remote control over the instrument. At that moment, their emotional state is shown on the device’s built-in LCD display as their tweet/musical composition is ambiently shared. A user can tweet using their Twitter account or by Twitcam, where the Vibe streams live video and audio online of the instrument being played.


“For example if a user tweets ‘The sun is out, I’m happy,’ the code I’ve written will strip out key words and strings associated with the user’s emotional state, within the tweets, i.e. ‘I’m happy,’ and translate this to a musical notation. Mining Twitter’s API, allows a continuous stream of data. These emotional states are then mapped to specific notes on the physical musical instrument, located in a public space. The tempo of the musical expression will be entirely based upon the speed and volume of the incoming tweets on the Twitter API,” McLysaght writes.


The instrument itself is comprised of a dozen musical tones of varying pitches, which are created by striking any one of 12 keys using the ATmega328-driven solenoids. What’s fun is that this enables users to hijack the instrument in a playful manner, as well as provides those with musical knowledge the opportunity to compose simple musical arrangements. When users are not tweeting the instrument directly, the Vibe will revert to mining the Twitter API.

Interested? Head over to its official page to learn more, or watch it in action below!

This old-school telegraph sounder can tap out tweets

This project connects 19th century technology with today’s cellular networks.

Long distance telegraphy first appeared back in 1792 in the form of semaphore lines, which sent messages to a distant observer through line-of-sight signals. Commercial electrical telegraphs were later introduced in 1837. These devices were physically connected by wires between stations, and operators tapped out messages in Morse code on a small, paddle-like device called a key.


Fast forward 178 years and one Maker is breathing new life into the old-fashioned mechanism. Devon Elliot recently outfitted an old telegraph sounder seated in a wooden resonator with some modern-day electronics so that it could tap out tweets.

“This project was an attempt to connect technology rooted in the 19th- and early 20th-centuries with 21st-century networks,” Elliot writes. “The results bridge those time periods through the technologies used. The telegraph sounder was used as the starting point and is the output of the device.”


To start, the Maker connected an Arduino Uno (ATmega328) to the machine, which was tasked with controlling the sounder by triggering the coils — turning them on and off via one of the board’s digital I/O ports. Elliot used the Arduinomorse library to translate messages into Morse code and activate the sounder. Meanwhile, a handful of other components including a resistor, diode, and transistor were added to protect the digital pin of the Arduino by separating the activation signals from the powering of the coils.

The other main component is a FONA board. This device from Adafruit is an all-in-one cellular phone module that enables Makers to add voice, text, SMS and data to projects in an adorable little package. In this case, Elliot connected the FONA to the Arduino, and programmed the ATmega328 based board to check for SMS messages periodically. If an inbox message was found, it would then translate it into Morse code and tap them out on the sounder.


Rounding out the design, the Maker mounted the electronics onto a piece of black acrylic and attached it to telegraph. “This was convenient as nothing had to be permanently altered to the historic device. Wires were attached to it via the provided screw terminals, so those can be detached and the base unscrewed to remove the electronics,” he adds.

Upon completion, Elliot was left with a standalone telegraph sounder that was not only connected to cellular phone networks, but equipped to receive SMS messages and tap them out in Morse code. The modded device can operate off batteries if necessary, allowing it to work anywhere with cell reception. The machine’s cellphone number is paired with a Twitter account, which was also set up to send an SMS to that number whenever the account is mentioned. If you’d like to activate the telegraph with a Twitter message, go ahead and tweet @ldntelegraphco.

Interested? Head over to the project’s official page here. If you enjoyed this retrofitted device, you may also want to check out this 1930s typewriter social networking machine.

Controlling a Christmas tree with tweets

In just 140 characters or less, anyone with a Twitter account can illuminate the lights on this interactive Christmas tree, developed by New Jersey-based Oxford Communications.


Simply tweeting any of a pre-defined set of hashtags to the aptly dubbed @Oxmas_Tree will not only activate 1,000 LED lights on the nine-foot installation, but will turn on both its star topper and accompanying menorah. For instance, using the hashtag #snow will trigger a white light, #comfort red, #wish blue, and #joy green. Looking for an extra tree-t? Tweeting #secret will provoke a special light embedded inside a reindeer ornament, while #brilliant will enable all of its features at once.


In an effort to spur even more engagement, the team has been unveiling a new hashtag each day, which is configured to control additional portions of the tree. Each of the 1,000 lights are strung around on the installation and are connected to an [Atmel based] Arduino housed inside a wooden box at its base. The Arduino communicates to the web through CAT 5, and pulls responses based on what users are saying on Twitter. A customized code then transforms these tweets and hashtags into electronic impulses, which emit each of the respective lights on the tree.

Watch it in action below!

Atmel AVR Man is live on Twitter!

We all know that with great Making there is also great obligation, which is why AVR Man has taken to Twitter, courtesy of Atmel!

Indeed, AVR Man will be assuming a more active role by acting as an official Maker liaison to the global DIY community.

Have a question? Simply tweet @TheAVRMan for an answer and follow along as he travels the world looking to bring ease-of-use, low power and high integration to Makers.

How Makers are conquering the classroom

Writing for The Journal, Greg Thompson notes that many educators are channeling a natural urge to build with help from Makers – a burgeoning movement that has prompted the establishment of annual Maker Faires and the creation of Maker spaces in classrooms across the country.

According to Pam Moran, superintendent of the Albemarle County Public Schools in Virginia, American classrooms of yore regularly fueled a DIY Maker spirit of creativity. “I see the Maker Movement as being a reconnect, both inside schools, as well as in communities, to redevelop the idea that we are creative individuals,” said Moran.

“We are analytical problem-solvers, and we are people who, in working with our hands and minds, are able to create and construct. We are Makers by nature.”

As an example, Moran highlighted a recent 3D printing project, with a student designing a new and interesting case for her iPhone, which the school’s principal promptly posted on Twitter.

“When kids and teachers are given an opportunity to make, to create, all of a sudden you see people becoming passionate about who they are as learners.”

Glen Bull, a professor of STEM Education at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, expressed similar sentiments. “[The current Maker Movement] is buttressed by accessible technology, both in terms of cost and ease of use,” he explained.

“You can go all the way back to the 1950s and find that they had numerically controlled milling machines, but they were expensive. Now you can get reasonably priced 3D printers and computers.”

Meanwhile, Gary Stager, co-author (with Sylvia Martinez) of Invent to Learn: Making, Tinkering and Engineering in the Classroom, emphasized that Maker projects don’t necessarily demand that schools buy expensive machines.

“We see teachers and students working with traditional materials combined with new materials — even cardboard construction. There are new conductive materials, conductive tapes where you can paint a picture that actually does something, such as lighting up,” he noted.

“These materials draw people in in ways they don’t expect. One person might be interested in building a robot, but another might be interested in building a glove with a sensor on it.”

According to Thompson, Charlottesville City Schools, also in Virginia, has invested in creating spaces and purchasing equipment such as 3D printers that support Maker activities for middle- and high-school students.

“We renovated our science lab at the middle school, and we are renovating an atrium space. In our high school, we took a portion of the media center,” Gertrude Ivory, associate superintendent for curriculum and instruction in the nine-school district, told The Journal.

“We’ve taken about one third of the library space, carved that out, and added two levels with the classroom — plus spaces for collaboration between students and teachers… We have other projects where students publish or print their artwork and sell postcards. We have something for students with disabilities that exemplifies the Maker concept. They make pastries and sell them throughout the school.”

Interested in learning more? You can check out the full text of Greg Thompson’s “The Maker Movement Conquers the Classroom” here on The Journal.

Open source aquaponics with APDuino

Aquaponics is a food production system that combines conventional aquaculture (raising aquatic animals) with hydroponics (cultivating plants in water) in a symbiotic environment.

Essentially, water from an aquaculture system is fed to a hydroponic system where by-products are broken down by nitrogen-fixing bacteria into nitrates and nitrites, which are used by the plants as nutrients. The water is then recirculated back to the aquaculture system.

Recently, a farmer by the name of Rik Kretzinger decided to mesh aquaponics with open source technology by creating an automated garden using an Atmel-based Arduino Mega, Ethernet shield, along with various sensors and valves.

According to CNX Software, Kretzinger’s firmware is based on the popular APduino, an open source project designed to run on an Atmel-based Arduino Mega (ATmega1280). The open source aquaponics platform is tasked with processing and analyzing a comprehensive data feed from numerous sensors including those that monitor humidity, temperature, pH balance and light levels.

In addition, Rik’s aquaponics system is designed to automatically upload data to the cloud via Xively, post emergency SMS alerts as well as stream updates over Facebook and Twitter. 

Kretzinger says his open source aquaponics system is quite versatile, vertical (optional) and can be set up in both urban and suburban locations.

Interested in learning more? You can check out Rik’s Aquaponic DIY Automation blog here. Readers may also want to browse through some of our previous stories on automated farming including “The Internet of Things, Stalk by Stalk,” “Smart Urban Aquaponics in West Oakland” and “DIY Farming with Atmel and Arduino.”

Projected capacity with the Atmel-powered Ootsidebox

Jean-Noël says projected capacity is the primary principle behind his Atmel-powered Ootsidebox.

“An electric field projected in front of the existing touch surface is [affected] by movements of the hand,” he recently told Elektor.

“By measuring the perturbations of an oscillator caused by the movement of the user’s fingers (or any object, for that matter) at several centimeters from the control surface it is possible to calculate 3D coordinates and recognize certain gestures.”

According to Jean-Noël, the underlying technology is based on e-field analysis, which offers “touchless” gesture-based interaction for a wide range applications, including mobile devices such as tablets, along with portable game consoles, electronic cookbooks and healthcare equipment.

Jean-Noël says his goal is to raise funds for Ootsidebox with a crowdfunding campaign on either Kickstarter or Indiegogo later this year.

“As potential customers for this innovation, we are addressing the DIY community of Makers, hackers, modders and independent game developers,” he told Bits & Pieces in an interview conducted via e-mail.

“This is really an open source and open hardware project that is compatible with the Arduino IDE. Even the mechanical parts will be designed in a way that they will be easy to print in 3D. This way you will be free to make your own custom version.”

Jean-Noël also noted that he specifically chose the versatile AT90USB1286 Atmel microcontroller (MCU) to power his invention.

“The main benefits will be the easy integration in Arduino’s ecosystem, along with the existence of a great and powerful community,” he explained. “One of the [primary] keys to [ensuring] success in a crowdfunding campaign is building a fan community that will help us spread the word.”

Jean-Noël has already presented the Atmel-powered Ootsidebox at a wide range of hacker and maker venues, including the San Francisco HackerSpace and various Fablabs in France. Jean-Noël has also clinched a partnership with the Elektor/CircuitCellar Group.

“As I said, this project is 100% open and we invite everyone to participate on Twitter. Just post your questions and suggestions here: @OOTSIDEBOX, while including the hashtag #AtmelBlog. I’ll answer you personally,” he added.

White House to host upcoming Maker Faire

The Obama Administration has announced that the White House will be hosting its very first Maker Faire later this year.

According to administration officials Tom Kalil and Jason Miller, the event will be an opportunity to highlight both the remarkable stories of Makers and commitments by leading organizations to help more students and entrepreneurs get involved in making things.

“By democratizing the tools and skills necessary to design and make just about anything, Maker Faires and similar events can inspire more people to become entrepreneurs and to pursue careers in design, advanced manufacturing, and the related fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM),” Kalil and Miller explained in an official White House blog post.

“The Administration is already partnering with companies, non-profits, and communities to make the most of this emerging movement. The Defense Advanced Projects Agency, or DARPA, collaborated with the Veteran’s Administration to support the creation of a TechShop in Pittsburgh, where members can access cutting-edge tools for making, and provided memberships for thousands of veterans.”

Meanwhile, with funding from the Department of Labor, the AFL-CIO and Carnegie Mellon University are partnering with TechShop Pittsburgh to create an apprenticeship program for 21st-century manufacturing and encourage startups to manufacture domestically. 

Similarly, with support from Americorps and leading companies and foundations, the Maker Education Initiative is working with schools and youth-serving organizations to provide students with access to Making.

“Later this year, the Administration will launch an all-hands-on-deck effort to provide even more students and entrepreneurs access to the tools, spaces, and mentors needed to Make,” Kalil and Miller continued. 

”There are many ways in which, in addition to the contributions of thousands of individual Makers, companies, universities, mayors and communities, and foundations, and philanthropists can get involved… Working together, we can prove that in America, the future really is what we make of it.”

Interested in learning more? You can get involved in President Obama’s initiative by sending pictures or videos of your creations or a description of how you are working to advance the Maker Movement to maker@ostp.gov, or on Twitter using the hashtag #IMadeThis.

Smart urban aquaponics in West Oakland

We recently took a close look at how an organic aquaponic farmer living in South Carolina uses custom-built sensors based on Arduino boards to monitor the delicate balance between water and soil.

Living in West Oakland, Eric Maundu may be quite a distance from the Carolinas, but he is also a farmer, albeit in a landscape covered with freeways, roads, light rail and parking lots. There isn’t much arable land in West Oakland and empty lots are often filled with contaminated soil. So Maundu, who is also trained in industrial robotics, has turned to smart aquaponics.

Specifically, Maundu employs Arduino-based sensors to monitor water levels, pH and temperature, along with social media networks like Twitter and Facebook to provide alerts and updates in real time.

“I feel knowledge of electronics and software programming makes me a better farmer than just having a hoe. Gardens that can communicate for themselves using the Internet can lead to exchanging of ideas in ways that were not possible before,” Maundu told FairCompanies.

“I can test, for instance, whether the same tomato grows better in Oakland or the Sahara Desert given the same conditions. Then I can share the same information with farmers in Iceland and China.”

Maundu also runs Kijani Grows (“Kijani” is Swahili for green), a small startup that designs and sells custom smart aquaponics systems for growing food. According to Maundu, putting gardens online in cities is the only way to ensure farming remains viable to future generations of urban youth.

“The next generation; honestly I don’t see them having access to traditional farms so we have to start arming them with technologies where they can go colonize places like in West Oakland that no one uses, rooftops,” he explained.

“We [also] want them to start thinking about them from when they’re kids so as they use their computers, as they use their phones as they write those little ‘Hello [World!]’ programs to know that I can write ‘Hello Garden’ programs, to know that hey, I’m using my device to create food for me.”

As previously discussed on Bits and Pieces, Atmel microcontrollers are the silicon of choice for the Arduino platform, both in their AVR flavor and ARM varieties. Clearly, Arduino is continuing to democratize hardware in a way that allows anyone – young or old, engineer or not, rich or poor – to design anything they can imagine.

DIY farming with Arduino and Atmel

Steve Spence – an organic aquaponic farmer living in South Carolina – uses pond water to irrigate his vegetables. Monitoring the delicate balance between water and soil is absolutely critical, and often requires real-time readings.

So Spence decided to build custom sensors based on Arduino boards to keep an eye on the water’s pH, temperature and ammonia levels – along with soil temperature, moisture
levels and barometric pressure.

Photo Credit: ModernFarmer.com

“From aquaponics to weather stations, farmers are starting to embrace the modern trends of DIY tech,” writes Caleb Garling of the Modern Farmer. “Arduino boards are creeping into amateur and professional agriculture to streamline and cheapen operations.”

Indeed, Spence is hardly alone in employing a DIY tech strategy for agriculture, amateur or otherwise. For example, Luke Iseman of San Francisco designed a “growerbot,” a sensor array that monitors a garden’s health and updates followers via Twitter. Meanwhile, Ben Shute, who runs Hearty Roots Community Farm, worked with a Boston-based engineer to build an Arduino-based sensor system dubbed “Fido” which sends text message whenever greenhouse temperatures hit dangerous thresholds. Inspired by the success of Fido, Shute founded Farm Hack in an effort to meld farming and engineering – with Arduino as a common denominator.

“Sharing data from DIY sensors can also add real value to the overall farming community,” notes Garling.

Photo Credit: Scott Bauer, Wikipedia

“Websites like OpenWeatherMap.org and HabitatMap.org have taken [this] on, dedicating themselves to aggregating information so farmers — or anyone for that matter — can drill down to the weather patterns for their tiny corner of the world for future planting and harvesting.”

As we’ve previously discussed on Bits and Pieces, the Maker Movement is steadily growing and making its mark on business, the economy and everyday life. The fundamentally social nature of the Maker space is inspiring individuals to launch innovative products easily and cheaply. In so doing, it is empowering a new generation of small/medium businesses and entrepreneurs – with Arduino capturing the hearts and minds of people all over the world.

Atmel microcontrollers are the chips of choice for the Arduino platform, both in their AVR flavor and ARM varieties. Clearly, Arduino has democratized hardware in a way that allows anyone – young or old, engineer or not, rich or poor – to design anything they can imagine. As Arduino’s founder, Massimo Banzi puts it, “You don’t need anyone’s permission to create something great.”