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Hardware Hacking Input Devices Media Music Hardware

An Audio Sampler Rube Goldberg Would Love 141

Posted by timothy
from the let's-test-ourmedia dept.
Thiago writes "Here is an audio sampler I made with 4 IR LEDs and 4 IR sensors. When something reflective goes by one of the sensor/LED combos, it triggers an event on the computer. On the videos, I mount the device on a turntable and use coins to trigger sound samples of my choice. I'd also like to make the project open-source (or whatever applies to hardware) but know nothing about licenses for this."
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An Audio Sampler Rube Goldberg Would Love

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  • Video Links... (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 13, 2005 @08:51AM (#12222317)
    Just in case site is ./'ed c/o Archive.Org Video 1 [archive.org] Video 2 [archive.org]
  • Prior art (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 13, 2005 @08:52AM (#12222323)
    I made something similar, consisting of several metres of wire, a video camera, a microphone, loudspeaker, a hammer, some heavy duty duct tape, and several cats.

    Worked fantastically well, until the damn RSPCA turned up.

    Told me it would have been fine if I'd only used poodles.
  • by troon (724114) on Wednesday April 13, 2005 @08:52AM (#12222326)

    So this is like a physical version of the curiously addictive BallDroppings [balldroppings.com], then?

    • I hadn't seen BallDroppings before. That is mad fun, yo. I'm going to be showing this to a friend of mine who teaches music; this type of visual sound organization takes music creation to an instinctual level that can help teach the essential relationship between timing, spacial distance, musicality and visual anticipation. Damn cool program.
  • interesting (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mmkkbb (816035) on Wednesday April 13, 2005 @08:56AM (#12222353) Homepage Journal
    A friend of mine did something similar for a project using IR sensors. In that case, he had a break in the beam trigger a sample, so he could have a LASER HARP
    • Uhm... Actually, they have just such a device at COSI [cosi.org].

      Sure, it's something of a triviality, but kinda neat nonetheless...

      By the way, I highly recomend COSI if you're ever in the area. It's a great place to teach kids about engineering, science, and the like...

      [Disclaimer: They couldn't pay me enough to work there every day with all those anoying little kids though]
    • Re:interesting (Score:5, Interesting)

      by shaka (13165) on Wednesday April 13, 2005 @09:17AM (#12222460)
      I went to a show here in Sweden a couple of months ago. It was 5 guys who were all awesome drummers. They made music using glasses, bowls of water, and different drums and rhythmic instruments.

      Anyway, they had this great setup with basically what you are describing, except that the samples were controlled by some 10-15 laser beams that shot right out from the back of the stage. When you broke a beam, a sample started or stopped. They could control it either by having the sample playing while the beam was broken, or start/stop the sample by quickly breaking the beam and "let it through" again.

      It made for an extremely good show.

      They also had a giant kind of a marimba [wikipedia.org], that was perhaps 8 meters tall and 15 meters wide, with two guys standing by the ceiling and playing.

      The last number of the show was all 5 guys playing in sync with Gene Krupa (perhaps the greatest drummer ever) showing him doing the number on a projector at the back of the stage.

      All in all, a great show.
    • A friend of mine did something similar for a project using IR sensors. In that case, he had a break in the beam trigger a sample, so he could have a LASER HARP

      Well, that's pretty cool, but I doubt it would wow the crowds at a Jean-Michel Jarre light show. I thought the whole point of a laser-harp was that you could *see* the beams.

      On the other hand....
      "Man, Jarre's new stuff really sucks!"
      "I don't think he's actually playing anything; he looks like he's warming up his hands on the laser harp"

      BTW,
    • 's nothing new. I helped a friend build a working laser harp back when I was at school (in the late '80s).

      We bought a helium-neon laser (this was when they were new), used an array of microscope slides to split the beam into 8, set up a large frame with 8 optical sensors mounted at the top, lined it all up, and fed the signals into a BBC Micro's parallel port, which then triggered a Music 500 synth module.

      It wasn't terribly bright, and we had to use a smoke machine to make it more visible, but it worke

    • Well, that wouldn't be a LASER harp, but it's certainly possible to build an infrared harp.

      A company called Interactive Light (now defunct) used to sell an infrared MIDI instrument called the Dimension Beam, sometimes referred-to as the "D-Beam".

      The D-Beam emitted an egg-shaped infrared field which could consist of up to three distinct regions radiating from the core outward; one could define distinct MIDI parameters for each region. I believe Roland licensed the technology for the HPD-15 HandSonic [rolandus.com].

      Need
    • Wandering off the actual topic... LASER HARP brought this back to memory.

      There was a program for the Amiga back in the "Workbench 1.2 is pretty cool" days that could be hooked into one of the then-new (and incredibly expensive) real-time video digitizers. (Not something like DigiView.)

      I think the digitizer was a precursor to the NewTek Video Toaster; it was an Amiga 1000 expansion block; there was nothing for the new 500 or 2000 machines to match it for a while.

      Anyway; the program... I seem to recall

  • Awesome (Score:5, Interesting)

    by skurk (78980) * on Wednesday April 13, 2005 @09:02AM (#12222377) Homepage Journal
    This is bloody awesome!

    Now, I'm not sure that this is something your local DJ Sixpack would use, but I'm pretty sure you could turn this into a toy for children:

    Imagine a record with holes you can fill with plastic pins - spin the record, and hear what you just made! It would exercise the children's sense of rythm and logic. Hell, make it a standalone unit while you're at it, and make cardridges that hold the samples. Drums, guitars, voices, bird sounds, car sounds, etc.

    As for the license, it depends on what you want in return. Good karma or money? Or both?
    • Re:Awesome (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Yeah, giving children access to small plastic pins is a great idea......
    • I think your idea actually could be used for an entirely new musical instrument, it's like adding another dimension to a synthesizer, with variable speed and length. It would be a great puzzle game as well, kind of a simon says game that is analog in it's complexity. I'd also think it would be interesting to watch two people attempt to, within a limited amount of time create the best music from the same elements. Could be really neat to watch on tv in an iron chef format. The educational aspect of it is
    • by sczimme (603413) on Wednesday April 13, 2005 @09:25AM (#12222516)

      Imagine a record with holes you can fill with plastic pins - spin the record, and hear what you just made! It would exercise the children's sense of rythm and logic.

      The first thing that popped into my head was that gadget/toy that consists of a rectangular frame filled with small parallel metal rods; the rods can move in Y (but not in X) to make 3-D images of objects. Often they are used to make replicas of people's faces. What the heck are they called?? Grrr.

      Anyway, picture a record-like disc of these movable rods. The child can move the rods, fix them in place and then play the creation. This fits with your idea: the disc would be heavier but the rods would be captive (and thus much harder for the child to lose them)

      Hell, make it a standalone unit while you're at it, and make cardridges that hold the samples. Drums, guitars, voices, bird sounds, car sounds, etc.

      With a simple process for converting the audio to a sound file and a USB port for exporting the child's music. :-)
      • The first thing that popped into my head was that gadget/toy that consists of a rectangular frame filled with small parallel metal rods; the rods can move in Y (but not in X) to make 3-D images of objects. Often they are used to make replicas of people's faces. What the heck are they called?? Grrr.

        "Zem", usually. Or am I thinking of mattresses?

    • What a great idea! You don't even need electronics. Fisher-Price used to make a wind-up record player [thisoldtoy.com] where the head contained small metal prongs like a music box and the surface of the record had a little bump for each note. You could do the same with movable pins, or even rolls of punch cards, so kids could compose their own music. If you marked a stave on the punch cards it could be a good way to learn musical notation.
    • I think your idea with plastic pins in the hole would work. If it were just coins on a flat surface, it could fly off when you spin the turntable too hard.

      And good job, you just made your first contribution to a hardware GPL project!
    • They have a very simular device at the Arizona Science Museum in Phoenix.
      The kids can put plastic pins in a grid (maybe 10 x 10) where the 10 verticle columns dictate the sound played, and the 10 horizontal rows dictate when to play the sound. In the exhibit, you drag your 10 x 10 grid across the optical pickup, and you can get many different songs. They have simple song sheets (mary had a little lamb), for kids to use for an example.
    • Yeah, the giving-small-plastic-pins to kids thing is disagreeable. But the actual medium(s) for this isn't necessarily all that important because the idea is potentially quite valuable. One thing that I thought of was toggling push-buttons (like old-skool Caps Lock keys? But smaller.) Meh.

      [oblig]
      1. Build another noisemaking device to give to children
      2. ???
      3. Profit!
      [/oblig]
    • DJ Sixpack!? DJ Sixgrams perhaps..
  • Fun idea! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by JanneM (7445) on Wednesday April 13, 2005 @09:04AM (#12222392) Homepage
    One suggested improvement: have the reflectivity control some variable (like pitch). small/dark/further away reflector will give you a low note, and a large/bright/close one will give you a high note.

  • In essence it is simply another way of writing music, and although the concept is cool, I'm not sure how it would be useful beyond other music composition software that currently exists. Any suggestions?
    • Shut up, Sir!

      It's cool hardware hack. Why it should be useful?
    • The great thing about this is that it is a killer interface to an analog sequencer (triggering digital events). Sure there are other methods for sequencing beats, but this combines the best of a sequencer and a turntable.

      Many DJs use sequencers/drum machines, this allows them to add the versatility of the table to the sequence, scratch, tweak the speed with the tables pitch control, doubletime instantly -- all things that can be done with computer sequencers, but now with the analog variations that come w
  • A bit of background (Score:4, Informative)

    by Cougem (734635) on Wednesday April 13, 2005 @09:05AM (#12222397)
    Rube Goldberg's inventions [rube-goldberg.com]
  • by pongo000 (97357) on Wednesday April 13, 2005 @09:07AM (#12222410)
    Everything you ever wanted to know about open source licenses [opensource.org] and more!

    Remember, anything you read here about open source licensing is only an opinion. Educate yourself!

    • But he already knows something about open source licenses that you apparently missed: they apply to software, not hardware. He's asking how to make his hardware design "open source". Which I will now answer, though you should keep in mind that this is just the understanding of some guy you don't know on slashdot...

      It is not necessarily meaningful to talk about "open source" in reference to a hardware design. There is no form of the design for this thing you could give me that would let me build it, but
  • Maybe you can sell one to Super [talonse.com] Greg [zmax.org].
  • Creative Commons (Score:3, Insightful)

    by slavemowgli (585321) * on Wednesday April 13, 2005 @09:16AM (#12222453) Homepage
    I don't know any licenses specifically designed with hardware in mind, but why not use one of the Creative Commons licenses?
  • by argent (18001) <peter AT slashdo ... taronga DOT com> on Wednesday April 13, 2005 @09:17AM (#12222463) Homepage Journal
    I'd describe this as a sequencer, not a sampler.
    • You'd be suprised just how much of the stuff posted to Slashdot is simply wrong. Actually, judging by your ID, perhaps you wouldn't.
    • Definately (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      You'd think someone who can whip something like this together (although quite simple) would at least call it something appropriate. From reading the submission I was wondering how he had the IR pairs digitizing (no mention of DACs anywhere) to somehow make audio from coins, and why you'd want the coins to trigger events.

      This isn't sampling at all. Sampling would be capturing the signal at a specific [sampling] rate (often in analog form), like sound cards use DACs to capture sound at 44.1 or 48KHz for exam
    • Although this obviously isn't a sampler by the conventional definition, in the music world a sampler is often taken to mean something which plays samples, even if it doesn't record them (although, of course, usually a sampler will do both).
      • in the music world a sampler is often taken to mean something which plays samples, even if it doesn't record them

        That's a new one on me, but this isn't a sampler by that definition either. As another person commented, this isn't really even a sequencer... it's just a controller.
  • This is a bit like Alesis AirFX [alesis.com] or AirSynth [harmony-central.com], I guess. Nothing groundbreaking (airwavering) here.
  • hardware "license" (Score:4, Insightful)

    by gl4ss (559668) on Wednesday April 13, 2005 @09:20AM (#12222482) Homepage Journal
    I bet you didn't already apply for a patent? then you just published it(making it unpatentable, even by you) and made the idea free for all to use.
  • should be to Hasbro! This would be a killer toy!

    WARNING: Do not look directly into LED sensors. Eye injury may occur. Contains small circular parts that can cause choking. Not intended for children under 8.
  • by RattRigg (4253)
    Its neat but its going to be a little cumbersome in the phone booth.
  • You could finally have more than one sensor in between frets on a guitar, so that MIDI pitch bends and such sound realistic. You'd have to wear a shiny glove to play it, but that could be cool, so long as it's not sequened. Of course, I officially copyright this idea as of..... now.
    • ...I'll just phrase that in legalese and patent it..hehe ;o)
    • If you play the guitar, you'd know that pitch bend is achieved by bending the string, increasing the tension. Havin a sensor for each string between every frets of a guitar only gives you the notes that you played. And let's hope if you wear a shiny glove, it doesn't pick up your palm as notes.

      Yeah, copyright your idea, whatever ...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 13, 2005 @09:36AM (#12222577)
    This device is simple. If you had a quarter dispensed by a complex pathway, say using wires, traps, egg timers, cats yowling after having their tails smashed, etc., THEN you would be approaching Rube Goldberg territory.
  • reminds me of Nikita Pashenkov's Spinalcat [mit.edu]. read his MIT thesis on the "Optical Turntable as an Interface for Musical Performance [mit.edu]" (28mg PDF). here's more information on the optical turntable [chello.se].
  • ...ever bothered to visit even a small science museum?

    Because this type of device, using IR beam sensors, reflective IR sensors, or even frickin' visible laser beams (sorry, no sharks though) is in use in probably half the science museums around the world.

    Neat hack? Sure. Original? Not in the slightest. I can say that one from personal experience, having designed and built several that are currently in use in museums here in the US.

    • I think what makes this more fun than just four switches which play samples, is that the sensors are over a turntable. If they were just four sensors which you could wave your hand over or something, it wouldn't be a sequencer. Noone is saying that its a revolutionary device, but its kind of cool. If you work for science museums, you should take note, because it looks like a fun thing to play with.
  • So... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Transcendent (204992) on Wednesday April 13, 2005 @10:22AM (#12222932)
    It's basically 4 switches that signal a program to play different soundtracks.

    What would be interesting if it wasn't all digital signal, and he threw in an A/D converter so he could detect the IR light brightness, so a dull coin would produce a different sound than a nice and shiny coin... so you have more combinations.

    Just having 4 on/off signals isn't that impressive right now, but it does have potential (of course, after a while you'd probably want to migrate to the serial port for speed and complexity).
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Isn't this the high tech equivalant of putting baseball cards in the spokes of your bicycle and then being amazed how they sound different depending on how fast you go.
  • by menace3society (768451) on Wednesday April 13, 2005 @10:41AM (#12223094)
    I'd also like to make the project open-source (or whatever applies to hardware) but know nothing about licenses for this.

    News flash: not every piece of freely available information has to be open-source! If you want others to be be able to use/improve your idea, publish the technical specifications and tell (clearly) how you did it. If you don't, don't tell anyone about it and maybe file a patent. It's that simple.

    Open source licenses for hardware.... now I've heard everything.

    • Publishing something does not protect your work from being exploited by predatory patents thanks to the USPTO not caring about prior art. True, in theory you could challenge the bogus patent in court. But who has the money to do that, when you just wanted to give it away? There is nothing more maddening than getting a cease and desist letter telling you to stop using something you invented.
      • That's true anyway, though. Even if you've filed a patent, the USPTO will most likely grant the exact same thing to someone else anyway, and they'll probably still have the money to hire lawyers to sue your ass. Besides, if I'm not mistaken, filing a patent can easily run up to $1000 or more, and there's alway a chance that this could get written off as obvious or non-original (though given the state of the USPTO, that's highly unlikely).
  • Would not one (or more) of the Creative Commons licenses [creativecommons.org] possibly work? Such as Share Alike + Noncommercial?
  • I had a thought to something along these lines, but what I wanted was to put the unit in the rain and let the rain falling through the beam makes the noise. With a lot of work, I suppose you could even do different notes by extending the length of the beam, giving more opportunities for the rain to hit it.

    One more thing on the list...
  • In fact, surround the danger with a 3D grid and s/he can dance up an orchestra with gestural tone 'shaping'. (Idea adapted from one by Spider Robinson's wife Jean.)
  • by ajnsue (773317)
    Great story about Daphne Oram of the BBC RadioPhonics laboratory. She came up with a similarly inspired musical-thingy in the late 50's. Albeit entirely analog (analogue?) http://www.obsolete.com/120_years/machines/oramics /
  • but know nothing about licenses for this.

    I'm sure you do by now...:^)

  • I saw this on the web when looking for interesting math stuff for my kids. It's a drum sequencer that works on similar principles to the article's hardware approach. http://www.philtulga.com/unifix.html
  • You know that form fitting foam mattress material you see on infomercial? If you used that material as a record and if you're sensors were pointed at an angle (I assume they are already) impressions or dents from pressing down into the foam could disrupt the led light beams. The holes would flatten back into shape after a bit so you'd have to keep making them. You'd have to make the samples play when there is no talk back from the sensors which might be a bit harder, and you'd either have to pump up the
  • Raymond Scott's circle machine> used a rotating arm: "The intensity of each light in this circle is individually adjustable. At the tip of the arm there is a photo cell. This cell is a part of an electronic sound generating system, so adjusted that the more light the cell 'sees' the higher the pitch of the sound produced. The cell also moves around in a circle at adjustable speeds. One of the controls, above the circle of lights, changes the pitch center of the complete cycle when required. As you will
    • Oh, that link should have been: Raymond Scott's circle machine. [raymondscott.com]

      So, to repeat: this 1950s contraption used a photocell at the end of a rotating arm: " The intensity of each light in this circle is individually adjustable. At the tip of the arm there is a photo cell. This cell is a part of an electronic sound generating system, so adjusted that the more light the cell 'sees' the higher the pitch of the sound produced. The cell also moves around in a circle at adjustable speeds. One of the controls, above th
  • Love it, but it doesn't seem to keep time very well, which is a shame

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