My name is Ale Fernandez. I live in Barcelona, Spain and I'm Chilean and Italian.
I am a web developer, artist and technical researcher.
I've lived in Scotland, Italy, Spain and England and career-wise I am interested in distributed systems and their applications to improvised performance and ecology.



Electronic Ideas and Experiments

LED lights.

This is a simple idea which has already led some local artists to make shiny balloons to light up a pier, and has inspired a teenager to start a business and win various entrepreneurial and inventing awards with something that leaves most open hardware or electronics enthusiasts cold and blank.

Basically the most simple thing you can build using electronics is an LED attached to a resistor, and both ends of those two, attached to a battery. Another simple variation on this is the throwie, which is LED + Battery + magnet (so it sticks to what you throw it onto).

To many this is old stuff, far too simple to be interesting any more, but to me the simplicity of the design is beautiful:

But it's actually a lot more fluid than that picture, made of bendable wires that could go anywhere, and could be arbitrary lengths really.

LED light can be very directional and will project really nicely on to things, so an LED tree made of wire or pipes that you can position seems a good idea. LED technology is also getting better fast. Switches to turn on or off can be made using just metal bits or pins so there's loads of space for considering not the electronic aspects, but the design of the object and what it would feel like or what it would be for. So doing some kind of LED lighting unit where each one is switchable and autonomous would be brilliant. But how to do it...

I would like to create an LED light system for a tiny stop motion home theatre using my Arduino. I have to find out how to power at least 3 different coloured LEDs. I think I have 5V so maybe I need to figure out how to do the lights at different times. But then what to encase them in so that they are easy to position, and how to turn them on and off. Here is a simple lighting test I did:

Solar power

Once I'd build my first arduino based prototype, my main worry was those huge panels of 4 AA batteries at a time that are needed for this kind of thing. It is far too much consumption and the first thing to do would be to switch to rechargeable batteries.

Once you have rechargeable batteries though, the next step is to figure out how to wire in a small solar panel and let it be self sufficient. The thing I want to be self sufficient will be able to generate sounds from a buzzer in some kind of container that can naturally amplify it(a pumpkin has been suggested for this), as well as play electronic beeps to it, from a piezo. So it follows that if this is playing all day it will be annoying, whereas if it uses only a little energy and has to save up energy before it can play for a while, it will only give a couple of concerts a day, which may be more interesting than a constantly sounding device. <- fun stuff

White Noise Generator
I want to do a psychological experiment using sensory deprivation to induce a hallucinatory state. This will use a white noise generator and ping pong balls remove auditory and visual inputs from the wearer, excepting the LED lights which will follow the overall luminicence of the device and light up at some moments to trigger a colour perception. It will need a simple and small hat with the required attachments: a white noise generator, and some LEDs that light up randomly at the side of the eyes when the room darkens and a light diode to detect light (although this can be done with an LED as well).

Initial links to useful chips and bits that might help:

Marcus Valentine
suggests using a linear feedback shift register to do this with, and John Honniball says this would need quite cheap chips, easily available here and there. Here are some links explaining it:

Using simpler chips and boards than Arduinos

The natural progression from using an arduino to prototype something is to want miniaturisation and to try and make the thing cheaper to keep as a permanent object. I don't want to have to take my arduino out and build it all back up again each time, so circuits will get soldered, and ideally, the arduino will be then used in turn to program a smaller, less expensive chip with what is needed to just do it's job (minus all the USB connection and other arduino stuff that make them simple). The end result is you have a small device you can make more of, running on a simple chip. This can work well for stuff like musical instruments or other semi bespoke work.

1 comment:

Anachrocomputer said...

There are a number of small, low-cost ARM-based dev boards. I have one made by Olimex and based on the Philips/NXP LPC2103. It has only 8k RAM, but runs at 60MHz and is fully 32-bit internally. There's also an ARM board called Cortino that's plug-compatible with the Arduino. Maybe I should do a presentation at Dorkbot on stuff like this.

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