BeetBox – touching the beats

January 7, 2013 · Posted in Uncategorized 

BeetBox is a simple instrument that allows users to play drum beats by touching actual beets. It is powered by a Raspberry Pi with a capacitive sensing board and an audio amplifier in a hand-made wooden enclosure.

Concept

BeetBox is primarily an exploration of perspective and expectations. I’m particularly interested in creating complex technical interactions in which the technology is invisible—both in the sense that the interaction is extremely simple and in the literal sense that no electronic components can be seen.

Enclosure

The enclosure was created from .5″x8″ poplar boards, which I cut to size and finished using various hand and power tools. I used a router for both the edge details and for grooves in which to conceal the wires, and a drill press to create the speaker grill and to bore holes for the beets with a hole saw. I then stained the wood and, after assembly with wood glue and a nail gun, sealed the enclosure with polyurethane.

Internals

Touch sensing is handled by an MPR121 Capacitive Touch Sensor from SparkFun, for which I ported existing Arduino code to Python. This board communicates with a Python script on a Raspberry Pi via I2C. The script watches for new touches and triggers drum samples using pygame. Audio from the Pi’s line out is run through a small amplifier I built using an LM386, which is based on a circuit straight from the data sheet. The amp is connected to a salvaged speaker mounted under the holes in the lid.

Source code for the BeetBox is viewable on GitHub.

Learn more at scott.j38.net/interactive/beetbox.

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