Homemade musical instruments don’t usually work out very well. I remember the experiment we all had to do with the rubber bands and the empty tissue boxes and finding the resulting sound, well, pretty disappointing. How’s a fifth grader supposed to rock out and impress girls for reasons he only vaguely understands with this thing?!
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the age of ubiquitous computers has made the possibilities of the homemade instrument a lot more exciting than the twanging rubber band or the musical comb. (Leaving aside professional stuff like That 1 Guy, who has been weird and excellent for a while.) What we have here is a wild digital “piano,” as inventor Andy Grove calls it, that combines a Raspberry Pi with motion sensors to create a unique musical toy:
OK, it’ll take some tinkering before we’re in the territory of serious musical instruments, but it’s a clever build, and the possibilities are obvious. Maybe the next step will be to build in Magic Leap support for finer control, or even VR, to offer a visual representation of the instrument.
There is nothing like a retro videogaming system to excite the attention of a certain kind of nerd, so it shouldn’t be a surprise to discover that someone – specifically, someone who goes by Hauntfreaks on Thingiverse – has designed and built a snazzy little custom case for the Raspberry Pi that looks exactly like an Atari 2600. Check it out.
The Atari 2600 was largely before my time, although this is sufficiently well-made that I’d like to encourage Hauntfreaks to do a Sega Genesis or a Super Nintendo.
(H/T: Adafruit blog)
For all the deserved love the Raspberry Pi gets, it’s important to remember that there were dozens of cool little single board computers on the market before it arrived, and dozens more have been released since then.
Most haven’t managed to hit the Pi’s sweet spot of capability and price, however, and the Huawei HiKey 960 doesn’t even try, retailing for about $240.
On the other hand, it’s got considerably more grunt in its hardware than the Pi – the HiKey boasts the same octa-core system-on-a-chip as the company’s Mate 9 smartphone, 3GB of LPDDR4 RAM, and 32GB of onboard flash storage. It’s even got a Mali G71 graphics processor, for additional capability, and built-in ac Wi-Fi. (More specifics are available here – the upshot is, it’s quite powerful for a single-board computer.)
It’s partially unfair to cast the HiKey 960 as a direct competitor to the Pi – it’s designed specifically to act as a testing unit for Android app developers, not as an affordable, general-use piece of kit. And $240 for a computer that’s essentially the guts of a powerful, modern smartphone isn’t a bad deal at all. But it doesn’t look like a great option for the average hobby project.