Friday, July 31, 2009

Shots in the Dark

Working on our triangulation demo late into the night. Shooting rubber bands at drywall has never been so much fun!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Upcoming Project Updates

We wanted to make sure that we kept you up to date on our two projects that are currently in the works.

First-Person Shooter Demo

We are working on a project that allows you to locate the position of an impact on a flat surface using triangulation with accelerometers. And as is the way with Waterloo Labs, we take this simple concept and add something awesome. In this case, there will be two somethings: an AR15 and a .22 caliber. This video will be coming next week!

Cannon Fodder

This is the project that we mentioned at the end of the fireworks video. We will be building a cannon that tracks motion and follows targets using simple USB webcams.

Currently, we are trying to make sure that we have enough amps to drive the motors that we have located for the cannon. If so, then we have a project. If not, we will need to look into lower power motors.

Be sure to let us know if you have any suggestions or project ideas!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Dimlet: the network-controlled light dimmer

John Boiles, the pyrotechnics guy from our computer controlled fireworks video, also happens to do some pretty awesome electrical engineering work. Here's a little sample. John's built a portable network-controlled light dimmer that... well, let's just let him explain it:

Monday, July 27, 2009

WaterlooLabs at NI Week

Your ever-lovable Waterloo Labs engineers will be at NI Week this coming Tuesday, August 4th through Thursday, August 6th. If you are an Austin resident, you should come down to the Austin Convention Center and check out the awesomeness.

Waterloo Labs videos will be featured before the keynotes, and we will be available on the show floor to talk to YOU about your cool DIY projects! Be sure to look for us at the Test Dome, we will have the "Will It Blend" Blender from Blend Tec and a bunch of weapons from the Deadliest Warrior to show off. Just look for the guys and girl in the nerdy white labcoats!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

This is more than a seasonal thing

Alright, so the 4th of July has passed, and your last fireworks went off in flaming glory. What next? Get more fireworks? Probably. And tape it this time so you can show us. But maybe you're already looking for something new.

Have no fear: remember, that LabVIEW program we wrote for you sends signals based on peaks in frequency. You can use it for beat detection. Noise alarms. Clap on clap off. There is a lot more here than just fireworks. We want to see you use this on stage for a light show in a concert. Use it for a trippy party in your basement. Find out if you can actually sing on pitch.

Enjoy yourselves. We made this for you.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Building the DIY Fireworks Demo

Last week we showed you a great demo that set off fireworks to music. This week, we show you how to wire up the project.

Note that the microphone is a three-wire mic. This means that you must power it by plugging it into an analog output and setting that voltage out to an appropriate level for the mic you have. The other two wires are wired into the positive and negative terminals of an analog input channel so that they can send data back to the 6009 device.

The digital out line that we used is port 0 line 0, but you can use any of the digital I/O lines for the current output.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Episode 01 - Computer Controlled Fireworks!

Here's our first episode of WaterlooLabs:

This blog post will be updated later today to include a technical writeup of how we did all of this and a circuit diagram so you can wire it up at home!

UPDATE: (15:00 CST)

In case any of ya'll are wondering how we did this here is a brief writeup detailing our methods (and probably our madness). Post comments or video responses if you have any questions about our implementation!


The goal of this project was to create a fireworks show automatically synchronized to a song using beat detection analysis and simple, low cost data acquisition hardware.

A song is imported into software for analysis; a Fourier Transform is then used to compare the power of a selectable frequency band to the average power in that band to detect a beat. When a beat is detected, a digital high is sent out through a USB-DAQ device. This device is wired as the base of a Darlington Pair Transistor that will switch on a high current power supply connected to the firework triggering method.

A Fourier Transform is taken of the song so the varying powers of the different frequencies can be observed. A certain frequency band is then isolated (such as the bass of the song to watch for kickdrum beats) and the power of that frequency band is measured. A running average of the past X number of power measurements is calculated and compared to the current power. If the current power of the band rises above the running average this is defined as a beat. The software we used is available here, and you can get LabVIEW and the Sound and Vibration Toolkit evals to run it.

A USB-DAQ device is wired to the Base of a Darlington Pair Transistor. When a digital high signal is sent from the DAQ device the transistor will switch, allowing a power supply to flow through the igniter. The igniter is comprised of a low resistance, low power resistor coated with pyrotechnic material. When the current from the power supply flows through the igniter’s resistor it overheats and ignites the pyrotechnic material, lighting the firework it is embedded in.


Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Canada Day and Fireworks Photography

Our Canuck friends to the north are celebrating their country's birthday today, as we will be celebrating America's in a few days. With all of these fireworks going off, you might want to take a few pictures to remember your country's 142nd or 233rd birthday. We found a great blog post on how to photograph fireworks displays like a pro on Digital Photography School. Happy Canada Day!