I was in the mood to melt some solder, but didn't really have a lot of time and/or brainpower last night, so I turned to my box of little electronics kits that seems to have been growing over the last few years. I located a small plastic bag which contained tanjent's "bliplace", a tiny kit that he generously was handing out at a conference we both attended. It's simple: an Atmel ATTINY 8 pin controller, three caps, five resistors, an electret microphone and a battery is all it takes to get it to run. I figured it would take me about 20 minutes to assemble. It took about 35, mostly because I wasn't paying attention and soldered the first two resistors in the wrong place (the board has a very symmetric layout, and I got turned around). That got me some practice in using my solder sucker, and had to solder in two new 1K resistors from my junkbox. But in the end, it worked!
What is bliplace? In his words:
Bliplace is a wearable, hackable, sound-activated blinky light toy. It uses a small microcontroller and a mix of hardware and software feedback to automatically synchronize with and adapt to the sounds around it – it should pulse along with the ambient noises around you no matter if you’re in a quiet park or a thunderously loud concert.
Here's the video of the thing working. Pardon the sound levels when I turn the radio up, I shot and edited this on my iPhone.
It's a clever little gadget by itself. But what's especially cool is that it is open source. You can get the board and schematic files, Gerber files, and the source code for the firmware. I think it would be interesting to make an "amped up" version of this thing, which would drive some big power transistors to switch some truly high power CREE LEDs. The code is released under the MIT license, so modifications should be easy and redistributable. It should be trivial to get this to run on the Arduino platform as well, which will make experiments easier for the wider audience.
I'll be staring at the code a bit harder over the next few days. Stay tuned.