Embedded technology is revolutionizing the way we engage with objects of importance in our lives.
An inspiring example of this is the Maccabeam, an automated light up Menorah designed by Samuel Goldstein that offers a modern take on the seven-branched candelabra that is traditionally illuminated over the course of Hanukkah.
Thoroughly documented on his blog, Samuel’s invention uses a GPS module connected to a Teensy 3.2 to deduce the time and location and calculate the Hebrew date.
If it’s determined that it’s time to do so, the WS2812 RGB LEDs in the menorah will illuminate stars cut in the menorah’s laser cut wooden structure in colorful animations along the branches, resulting in the corresponding “lamps” (miniature jars of olive oil) at the tip of each branch to be lit up by the laser diodes below. The Maccabeam also includes an LCD display noting details like the time for sun up and sun set as well as sound effects played through a piezo speaker.
Finding commercially available keyboards to be lacking, forum user smarrocco decided to create the custom keypad of their user-specific dreams as well as a corresponding TFT display.
On their blog, smarrocco discusses their design process in detail from identifying problems in existing commercial (including custom and gaming) keyboards to designing and developing his own vertical keypad to meet personal requirements. In the final design, the keys are grouped vertically placed in two sections according to their utility and an extra “thumb section” is added in consideration of left-handed artists like himself. Instead of printing labels on the keys themselves, he elected to use a TFT display in order to identify the buttons in order to allow the keys to be remapped in software without the user needing to move the physical components.
To drive the display and process the switches below the keys, he uses a Teensy 4.0 connected to an SD card reader that stores the settings. The project is an interesting study in producing custom interfaces as well as human-centered design approaches that consider how we can reinvent our electronics to be better suited for our needs.
A team of researchers from Saarland University and the University of Sydney have designed Tactlets, an approach that allows makers to easily add tactile feedback and control using printable inputs to everyday 3D objects.
The project—called Tactlets—introduces a new digital fabrication method of custom printing elecro-tactile elements using either conductive inkjet printed traces or FDM 3D printing using filament embedded with conductive material. The resulting tactlets can be arranged on everyday objects to form buttons, sliders, and other input systems providing a wide range of control. The touch sensing itself, which includes distinguishing between types of touches such as a hold, swipe, etc. is all programmed using a Teensy 3.2, making use of its built-in capacitive touch pins and touch sensing library.
The team highlights that tactlets could be extremely useful for product designers and engineers for rapid prototyping and user interface testing as they can easily be rearranged and quickly produced to test various designs for user interaction. For those who are curious to learn more about the project, the developers have posted a paper on the subject that includes the history of the project, its findings, and implications.
Peter uses a Teensy 3.6 and a PJRC library for the PWM control, which allows a great amount of fine adjustment. There are two pickups on the right and left of the string, allow composition to represent different overtone curves over the speakers. The fast movements of the motors can lead to highly rhythmic patterns. Peter posted about the project as well as uploading a demonstration to his YouTube channel.