Oscilloscope Music

A few weeks back, I caught a video on AvE’s YouTube channel of graphics drawn on an oscilloscope, given an audio input. Last week, Ben, Garrick and I decided to give it a try at OMG.

According to Garrick’s research earlier that week, “older scopes” do better with this sort of thing, and OMG’s scope is plenty old. We had to do some tinkering with the settings, and the phase, eventually arriving with the left channel on Input 2, alternating vertical and External trigger (ch2). It worked best if the laptop volume was turned clear up, as it gave the best signal to noise ratio.

We’d initially hooked the scope directly to a laptop headphone jack (through a spaghetti of cables), but as Eric pointed out “To be music, there’s gotta be…music”, and no devices we had would play on the headphone jack AND the internal speakers at the same time.  We ended up hacking up a powered speaker to give us a stereo output and play both channels on a single speaker. This gives us something to feed the oscilloscope AND lets folks hear what the audio actually sounds like. In addition, it had a lot less noise than our initial mess of wires.

As for what we played, we just searched YouTube for “Oscilloscope Music”.  Someone who works with Jeff mentioned Aphex twins “windowlicker” and “songs about my cat” by Venetian Snares as two examples of spectrographic songs.

TacitTheremin: A spatial awareness tool for the blind.

What’s this strange thing?  This is the TacitTheremin, a device which helps blind people understand their surroundings using ultrasonic sound ranging.  Designed to work in tandem with a cane, this device allows users to get a greater sense of what’s around them at ranges that exceed a cane and in any direction in which its pointed.

Inspired by the Tacit, an invention made by Grathio Labs, the TacitTheremin is a modification of that design concocted right here at the Omaha Maker Group.  It mounts to the wrist, receives distance measurements from an ultrasonic sensor, and outputs sound to the user through a speaker (low tones for far distances, high tones for short distances).  It ranges from 16 feet down to 3cm, 5 times per second.

See the original Tacit here.  The TacitTheremin is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA License.

This whole project started as an attempt to replicate a Tacit (because the idea is just so darn cool), and in the end it turned out to look quite different, with different coding as well.  You can read about the epic journey in detail, and make your own for a friend (on an individual project basis).

But enough technical stuff.  See it in action!

Currently, this prototype is being field tested by a local Omahan named Mike, who happens to be blind.  Stay tuned for a followup video.

You can reach me with any comments, questions, or concerns here.  Just be sure and put “TacitTheremin” in the subject.  Alternatively, feel free to comment below!