Back in March I got involved with Resonator at the AV Festival, and had a go at building something noisy. I’ll admit I felt a little bit out of my depth, but with some assistance (major thanks go to Martin Howse for all his help) I managed to build a simple square wave oscillator and amplifier based on a pair of LM386s with a potentiometer to control the frequency of the wave.
I took it home to do some tinkering, and ended up putting it to one side whilst I worked on other things. However, after going through the tutorials I thought I’d try and build something similar using Arduino. I took the pitch follower example (http://arduino.cc/en/Tutorial/Tone2) and set it up as directed, effectively building a sort of irritating theremin.
However, I wanted to look into other control interfaces. My course mate Aaron managed to get hold of a Spectra Symbol SoftPot potentiometer (http://dkc1.digikey.com/us/en/ph/spectrasymbol/softpot.html) and we thought this would make a really cool interface for the pitch follower. We replaced the photoresistor with the SoftPot and had some pretty good results.
Check out the video here:
I’m interested in constructing intuitive interfaces for devices, particularly musical instruments, and thought this definitely could be of some use.
I wanted to try out a title circuit bending, so I went down to the local Early Learning Centre to see what toys they’d got. I was completely out of my depth, but, after a few uncomfortable minutes with the sales assistant (it was a hot day and I’ve been letting myself go a bit recently. Needless to say, if you were approached by a slightly sweaty man looking for “an electronic toy that makes noises, really simple, you know, for young children. And cheap” you might feel uncomfortable yourself) I was the proud owner of a VTech Soft Singing Radio. It was simple, cute and came with “a mixture of plush and plastic for tactile stimulation and a carry handle”. I’d had a look at Buzz Lightyear but I wanted to start small and simple.
Before I started dissecting the toy, I thought I’d have a little look at the general features of my purchase. There were a couple of dials, one for numbers and animal noises, and the other played a medley of exciting jingles, occasionally encouraging me to sing along. A central button plays nursery rhymes and there is an off, on and half-volume switch on the top.
After opening up the radio, I was greeted by a central circuit board with a remarkably simple control mechanism. The right dial was largely decorative, with an offset piece that, when the dial is rotated, pushes a switch that plays the aforementioned jingles. The left dial was a little more interesting. Two rails ran around a central column. The rails were separated into three parts each, equally divided around their circumference. Two prongs, connected at the bass of the dial that sits on top of the column, rest on the rails completing 3 separate circuits. When each circuit is completed, a sample of an animal noise and a number are played, corresponding to the decorations on the dial. I quite liked this control system. There was something really nice about the mechanics of it opened up. I’ve been looking into various intuitive interfaces for use on designing an electronic instrument and thought a similarly designed component could be used in some way.
I’m going to have a play around with this mechanism, and see what happens when i do some more comprehensive probing. I’m quite interested to see what happens when rails that cannot be connected by the dial are connected by the probe. The Amazon product review seems to get it right. I’ll upload some videos of me getting ‘creative by jamming animal sounds into the music’ in the near future.