In this article I will explain the technical background of my techno music robots. Maybe you have seen my giant MR-808 Robot. Thats where I started dealing with Robotic Electronic Music (R.E.M.) on a daily basis. Since then my whole life is dedicated to experimenting, building and playing shows with music robots. I wake up with them in the morning and think about music robots at night. Why? Because I think that electronic music has to evolve and I am very bored with music synthezisers, modular synthezisers, samplers, and computers. I want Future! Robots! And Techno!
Also I am just release my first debut album with help from Mouse On Mars, Kompakt and many many other wonderful people. Its the worlds first techno record made only with robot! You can find it here
But back to robotics. My music robots always consist of four parts:
- The Electronics (PCB with MIDI-In, Mosfet, )
Winter time – workshop time! Experiment with an monchord which is triggered by the changing field of a solenoid. It creates beautiful and a little haunting overtones.
The solenoid is switched on and off. When the bass note or an overtone is hit, the string startes to vibrate. It works like an ebow without the feedback coil.
Grove I2C Touch Sensor Midi keyboard
Create a Midi keyboard with 4 buttons with the Seedstudio Grove Kit touch sensor.
- It uses the USB MIDI Library with an Arduino Leonardo,
- the Arduino USB interface can be used directly as an MIDI Interface
Repository and Files: https://github.com/Sonicrobots/Capacitive-Touch-Midi-Keyboard/blob/master/main.ino
Sculpturist and welding expert [Kolja Kugler] builds robots and robotic installations for years already. His pneumatic robotic band is a smashed together explosion of steam punk like mechanics and music instruments.
We wanted to create light effect: short fades of 10W Leds which can be put on stage and are triggered via MIDI.
- 8 Channels
- Up to 10W LEDs at 12V per channel
- One LED Driver CAT 4101 per channel
- PWM Dimming of the brightness via Midi
- MIDI-IN and through
We used a dedicated LED Driver for each channel. Its the CAT 4101 which can drive up to 1A. A TLC5940 creates the PWM Signal. Up to 16 PWM Channels from the TLC (here we use only 8) are controlled via SPI from an ATMEGA168. Like this the load of the ATMEGA is kept low when a lot of dimming is performed. Midi-In is straight forward through an Optocoppler.
The MIDI Channel can be set with an hex coded 16 stage switch.
Our sketch contains a programm for fast dimming of the LEDs. Like this an LED will flash and slowly decay, which is a cool effect together with sound. You can see an example here (with 3W LEDs):
You can of course write your own sketch using ours. A good start is the example in the TLC5940 Arduino Library.
You don’t own a haunted castle but still want that Scottish chic of a “ghost chateau”? Make your own ancestors portray with automatic moving eyes and easily scare away unwanted guests!
We all know that old movies, where the young couple is staying in the haunted castle for the first night and gets scared away by pictures of some beardy ancestors, where the eyes seem to follow the spectators. In the end its just the butler who is spying from behind to get the heritage … but anyway. So you want to build one of these pictures, too. It’s not hard!
Before you start
- Time: 6-8h building time + time for the stuff you order online to arrive (days!)
- Level: Mid. A little programming, soldering and general handcrafting skills required
- You need: standard Tools (cutter, drill, screw driver),
- Arduino Uno,
- Standard Servo Motors from Futuba or Hitec e.g. this
- Hot Glue,
- Frames with old pictures (see below),
First you need a picture of your loved (or hated) one. A good portray in a high resolution (> 2MB in size) is recommended. Some photoshop magic later you have the picture with a custom background you find in the Internet. Put it into an online oil painting generator to create an even more old school look.
Now you need one or two framed pictures from the flee market.
Cut away the original background – maybe you can reuse it if its hard wooden sheet. In other cases cut some fresh wooden sheet of 2-5mm thickness.
Measure the frame and rezise the digital portray accordingly. We printed the photos out on A1, 230g/cm linen structure paper as a digital print (in europe yuo can use flyeralarm).
When the prints come from the printing service you can start making! We reused the background from the original frame picture we got from the flee market, but you can use any type of (wodden) material thats fits in the frame. We recommend a thickness of 2-6mm.
Now its time to cut the shape of the print as well as the eyeballs of your loved or hated on. A wonderful job, plus you have spare eyeballs now!
Now mark on the wooden background where the eyes are sitting. Now you need eyes. Its not so easy to get decent eyeballs in the Internet (we haven’t checked the dark web though), so you are very lucky, because we prepared some for you! You can find a print ready A4-pdf with fitting eyeballs here. Adjust the size when you have a bigger / smaller image and print them out on A4.
Take your background wood and mark where eyes will go. Measure it with the eyeballs you arleady have. Cut out a square as in the picture below.
Glue the eyes to the remaining wood you just cut out (which you made a little smaller on both small sides so it can move!)
We had a 3D-printer so we could print a holder. You can find the STL files in the github repo below. If you don’t have acess to a printer or use another type, we recommend building something similar from wood. The following steps are how we did it with our setup. It will probably differ if you want to rebuild this. Use your imagination and handcrafting skills to replicated the functions.
On the eyes-sqaure we used an holder (the black one) and a terminal thread to hold the acrylic thread and a rubber band.
The moving eye-square is on the one side connected to the moving servo motor. The other side is fixed with a rubber band, so it gets drawn back if the servo releases. Be sure to put some wood over the backside so the eyes can still move, but also don’t fall out to the back!
Now, wire and program the arduino with the code oftware you can find in the Github repository below. A description of how the servo(s) are wired can be found in the code. We used a 12V / 2A wall plug to power the whole thing.
You are done! Ready to get haunted!
I recently found this awesome sounding metal cover in my workshop and decided to do some high quality recordings with it. I used AKG C414, a Neve Portic 5012 preamp my RME Bayface and some slight postproduction (compression and slight EQ).
The sound is open source and can be downloaded in 24Bit Wave here.
David Byrne also gets into mechanical sound creation with his “Playing The Building” installation. An old organ is equiped with electronics and pneumatics so that the organ-keys can be used to control motors, solenoids and pneumatic parts.
On Musical Robots and Robotic Musicians: Gil Weinberg at TEDxPeachtree 2012