Gogglevision Quadcopter Video

Steve Lodefink sent me the amazing video of a guy flying his quadcopter around his neighborhood using a goggle vision system. He even flies it through his(?) house. What fun!


Rock Out Hands Free with Air Guitar Hero

Air Guitar Hero Project from MAKE Volume 29

Biomechanical engineer Robert Armiger and surgical roboticist Carol Reiley, both of Johns Hopkins University, created Air Guitar Hero as a fun rehabilitation exercise for people with amputations. The original version they made was a bit costly, but they wrote up a less expensive DIY version, and shared their build instructions with us on the pages of MAKE Volume 29. Now we’ve shared the full how-to on Make: Projects. Whether you intend to build your own or use the concepts to build something entirely different, the info is freely available for you to play with.

How does it work?

When a muscle contracts or flexes, it produces electrical activity. While faint (in the millivolt range), these signals can be detected by placing electrode sensors on the skin. The technology to measure, evaluate, and process muscular electricity is called electromyography (EMG). Air Guitar Hero uses EMG to send signals to the Wii console to control the game. But since the electrical signal generated by twiddling your fingers is very weak, additional computation must be performed to generate reliably accurate commands. The system uses pattern recognition algorithms to identify patterns in the EMG signals and decide which colored button to activate. The algorithms require training data to provide examples of what signal characteristics to look for. First, you must correctly play on-screen notes with the guitar while the electrodes record your EMG signals. Next, the recorded data is used to train a model for recognition the next time you make those movement patterns. Third, practice makes perfect! Playing this type of video game can be useful for building muscle tone and dexterity.

You play air guitar, moving your (A) 4 fingers corresponding to the first 4 “note” buttons on the Guitar Hero controller. (B) Electrodes on your arm detect tiny electrical signals from the muscles that move your fingers. These (C) EMG signals are boosted by (D) amplifiers, each on their own channel. The amplified signals are gathered by the (E) data acquisition board, which sends them on to the (F) laptop computer. The (G) USB video capture device pulls the Guitar Hero video from the (H) Wii video game console into the computer, for purposes of training the software. The (I) Air Guitar Hero software interprets the mixture of EMG signals as one of the 4 button-pressing motions, then sends the corresponding button command over to the (J) hacked GH controller which relays it to the Wii. It sends the Strum command automatically when you hit the note. You’re rocking out!

Here’s a video of Iraq war veteran amputee and Open Prosthetics Project founder Jon Kuniholm demoing the Air Guitar Hero:

From the pages of MAKE Volume 29:

We have the technology (to quote The Six Million Dollar Man), but commercial tools for exploring, assisting, and augmenting our bodies really can approach a price tag of $6 million. Medical and assistive tech manufacturers must pay not just for R&D, but for expensive clinical trials, regulatory compliance, and liability — and doesn’t help with low pricing that these devices are typically paid for through insurance, rather than purchased directly. But many gadgets that restore people’s abilities or enable new “superpowers” are surprisingly easy to make, and for tiny fractions of the costs of off-the-shelf equivalents. MAKE Volume 29, the “DIY Superhuman” issue, explains how.



DIY or Buy: Custom-Fit Earbuds

My inbox is peppered with emails from PR firms offering samples of new products for review, a situation common to us bloggy folk, I suppose. Rarely are the items in question relevant to our beloved practice of making, but once in a while, I’m presented with the prospect of checking out a shiny new commercial version of a device I’ve previously crafted/made/hacked-together myself.

Most recently, an offer to demo a set of custom-fit earbuds caught my eye, and instead of hitting the delete key as usual, I thought it might be interesting to compare these to my own DIY mod/hack which aimed to produce the same functionality. Comparing a commercial product to one you made yourself may not be a fair or straightforward process, but it addresses a question I ask myself quite a bit these days: “DIY or Buy?”

The Buy:

The Sculpted Eers PCS-100 Custom-Molded Earphones product consists of a surprisingly large-fitting headset temporarily attached to a pair of in-ear earbuds. Each “bud” is surrounded by a rubber bladder ready to be filled with silicone compound via the fitting headset.

The DIY:

Making your own custom-fit earbuds can be done a number of different ways, but I’ll be using the ones I made here for this comparison. I used an old pair of Shure E2C in-ear earbuds for the basis of my version, along with a 2-part silicone from Radians.

Price vs Process: The Eers PCS-100 retail for $199 – not cheap, but also not surprising when you consider what’s included. The fitting process was quick & easy, but also quite wasteful as I’m now left with a relatively large plastic headset to dispose of – ick. On the other hand, the DIY version requires the insertion of silicone compound directly into the ear canal (with no retaining bladder) – a process which is understandably unappealing to some folks. The remaining process of drilling out the sound hole can be a bit fiddly if you aren’t experienced with using a Dremel (but if you’re reading this, you probably are, right?)

yours truly, intently focused on getting a good fit

Functionality: The resulting fit of the fitted Eers custom-fit fittiness is well – a nice comfy fit. They’re slightly more difficult to insert than my DIY pair, but they’re also much easier to wear in public without attracting undue attention (still regretting my choice of blue silicone for the DIY).

Sound isolation seems equal between both pairs, though noisy city living always leaves me wanting more of it. Sound quality is a much different story. The Eers PCS-100 feature “enhanced bass response,” a feature I kind of loathe in audio devices. The E2Cs used in my DIY pair have a much more even frequency response and therefore sound dramatically cleaner, less boomy, and more suited to my use as in-ear “monitors.” I’m fairly certain the Eers were delivering some nice treble, but it was hard to judge accurately with all the extra low-end mucking about. I’m aware that some humans prefer buds that go *boom* … just not mine you see. I did enjoy listen to some music with the Eers, but given the choice, I much prefer the sound of DIY.

Prolonged usage of the Eers resulted in very little physical discomfort, likely because of the small amount of material which comes in contact with the ear. As you can see, my DIY pair is decidedly less elegant in this regard, more or less a big gobby cement job which after very long periods of use, tends to hurt my outer earfolds(?) a bit. So there’s that issue to consider.

Verdict: As mentioned earlier, this is not exactly a fair comparison, mainly because whatever earbuds you decide to use in a homebrew iteration will obviously effect the resulting sound quality in a big way. That being said, I prefer my DIY pair. They’re less compact, less attractive, and less comfortable for long sessions, but the ability to reuse my old favorite earbuds, save ~$100, and avoid throwing out an elaborate fitting device goes a long way in my book.

(It’s worth noting that Sonomax sells a another version of the Eers which features a balanced frequency response, but the higher asking price of $299 would likely negate any audio improvement in respect to this comparison.)


Reimagining the Library for the Future @ The New York Public Library

Pt 683

Reimagining the Library for the Future @ The New York Public Library:

For more than a century, The New York Public Library has been a fount of knowledge for hundreds of millions of users. As the Library looks ahead, it is poised to take the next step in a bold plan that will build on this legacy and focus on our neighborhood branches as vibrant, democratic libraries for all. 

…We envision a system where people of all ages and backgrounds come together in energetic community spaces filled with books, ideas, services, and public programs that anchor our libraries as the cornerstone of civic life in New York City.
We envision libraries that are more than storehouses for books waiting to be checked out. They should be active hubs of knowledge that incubate new ideas while bonding communities and neighborhoods together.
To this end, we are moving forward with an ambitious plan for the future that will transform and upgrade our 91 locations, including the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street. The Library is creating state-of-the-art branches and reenvisioning the public programs and services we offer to patrons from all walks of life — from writers and researchers to immigrants, entrepreneurs, and schoolchildren.

Without your input, we cannot create the Library for the Future that New Yorkers need and deserve.

If you want to see 3D printers, tool lending, laser cutters, skill building, entrepreneurial classes and hackspace-like activities visit the NYPL “Join the Conversation” page and send in your comments. You can also email:

Thanks Koren!

Is It Time To Retool-2
Is It Time to Rebuild & Retool Public Libraries?


Make: Projects – Tiny Wanderer Bump Sensor and “Moth” Behavior

MAKE magazine Volume 29 and Make: Projects have a great how-to by Doug Paradis on building the Tiny Wanderer, a cute and flexible robot with a $2 Atmel ATtiny85 chip for a brain (for more processing power, you can swap in an Arduino). “Tiny” was developed by the Dallas Personal Robotics Group for their introductory robotics lecture series and has become a hit, both in and out of the classroom.

Doug and the rest of the DPRG gang are always experimenting and coming up with new mods for Tiny, both hardware and software, and he has recently posted two them to Make: Projects.  One is modifying Tiny to use a single bump sensor in place of its two homemade IR ranging sensors. This will leave room for two sensors, and the project is a lead-in for some other sensors you can add.

The other mod gives Tiny light-seeking “Moth” behavior, or light-avoiding anti-Moth behavior (“Mole” maybe?  Other suggestions?) enabled by swapping two up-pointing CdS photocell sensors onto Tiny’s feelers.

You can buy a Tiny Wanderer Complete Kit or the Tiny Wanderer Parts Pack (without the acrylic body pieces) from the Maker Shed.

Learn how to make the Tiny Wanderer in MAKE Volume 29:

MAKE Volume 29

We have the technology (to quote The Six Million Dollar Man), but commercial tools for exploring, assisting, and augmenting our bodies really can approach a price tag of $6 million. Medical and assistive tech manufacturers must pay not just for R&D, but for expensive clinical trials, regulatory compliance, and liability — and doesn’t help with low pricing that these devices are typically paid for through insurance, rather than purchased directly. But many gadgets that restore people’s abilities or enable new “superpowers” are surprisingly easy to make, and for tiny fractions of the costs of off-the-shelf equivalents. MAKE Volume 29, the “DIY Superhuman” issue, explains how.



Building a Robotic Bee With MEMS 3D Printing

Basically, microscale 3D printing the same way a popup book creates a three-dimensional shape.

The Harvard Monolithic Bee is a millimeter-scale flapping wing robotic insect produced using Printed Circuit MEMS (PC-MEMS) techniques. This video describes the manufacturing process, including pop-up book inspired assembly.

[via Ponoko]


Ask MAKE: Modding Vacuum Tubes with LEDs

Bob asks:

I saw your article on the LED mod for old tubes. I have a box full and would like to do an array of tubes but I have no clue as to how to wire, power supplies etc. I can do the mechanical part. Could you help me as far the nitty gritty on making this project work?

I’m glad to hear you want to tackle the LED Vacuum Tube Mod, especially because you’d like to repurpose some hardware that you already have on hand.

Wiring LEDs is a great way to sharpen your electronics chops, and there are some great tools to help you in doing this. First you’ll need to decide how many LEDs you want to use in your display and how much voltage will be driving the LEDs. Since this is a relatively low-powered project, a 9 volt battery should be just fine for testing purposes.

LEDs usually come with a datasheet indicating their forward voltage and amperage. Take these and the numbers you just came up with and plug them into an online LED calculator such as this one. As an example, I chose 20 red LEDs for the array, with 9v as my driving voltage. The calculator gives a schematic for a 4 x 5 array of LEDs, which can light up five of your vacuum tubes with four LEDs each.

The calculator gives resistor values, so you’ll need to pick up some of those for yourself, and I suggest wiring up the circuit completely to make sure it works before stuffing them into the vacuum tubes. Make sure you observe polarity with the LEDs: the longer leg is positive, and the shorter one is negative.

If all is well, install them into the vacuum tubes and hook up a 9V wall wart power supply to your circuit. You can find one of these at your local electronics store. Just snip and strip the leads, insulate with electrical tape or wire shrink wrap, and make sure you use a multimeter to check polarity before completing this step.

Good luck with your project! If readers have additional notes to add, please do so in the comments section.


In the Maker Shed: Big Bad Beetlebot Kit

Are you looking for a great kit to introduce your children to the joys of making and robotics? The Big Bad BeetleBot, available in the Maker Shed, is a simple kit to make a quick and basic obstacle-avoiding robot – no soldering required! Use only a screwdriver to put it together, then watch it zoom and smartly bounce off anything in its path! No microcontrollers, ICs, or transistors are used – just two switches wired cleverly together form the brains of this robot. We recommend this popular kit to all our new makers. It’s a Maker Shed favorite!


  • Simple screw-together mechanical construction (we even included the screwdriver!)
  • Plug-in wiring
  • Sturdy, preformed wire sensors
  • Laser-cut acrylic shell
  • Detailed construction manual with large, clear graphics
  • 4 AAA Needed but not included
  • Body measures a big 4″ x 4.5″ x 1.25″


Following the Ten Rules for Maker Businesses

Pete Prodoehl of Milwaukee, WI, who runs a web development company, is branching out into the DIY biz by selling his Button kit, which creates a one-button keyboard used for, among other things, triggering photobooths. Along the way he’s blogging his experiences following Chris Anderson’s Ten Rules for Maker Businesses:

  1. Make a profit.
  2. It takes lots of cash to stay in stock.
  3. Buy smart.
  4. Basic business rules still apply.
  5. You get no leeway for being a maker.
  6. Be as open as you can.
  7. Create a community to support and enhance your products.
  8. Design for manufacturability.
  9. Marketing is your job.
  10. Your second most important relationship is with your package carrier.

So far Pete has blogged #1: Make a profit and #2: It takes lots of cash to stay in stock. I look forward to reading the rest!


Beautifully Overengineered Toy Car

From Dutch designer Wouter Scheublin, who made a big splash in 2010 with his Walking Table. This pull-back-to-wind Toy Car, machined in stainless steel and bronze, with matching walnut box, was produced in a limited edition of twenty, and is still available in laser-sintered nylon, though it isn’t cheap. [Thanks, Billy Baque!]



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