As many of you know from watching my Maker Update video series, I’ve been obsessed with hacking together a Billy Bass novelty talking fish and Amazon’s Alexa virtual assistant. About a month ago, an artist named Brian Kane published a viral video showing a Big Mouth Billy Bass novelty singing fish, seemingly voiced by Amazon’s Alexa virtual assistant. The internet went nuts for it, and so did I — but mostly I just wanted to know how it worked so that I could make my own.
After a few weeks tinkering with it and collecting the components I needed, I’ve come up with a workable hack. The project documentation and code are available on Instructables. I encourage you to provide feedback and ideas on how to improve it.
This Halloween, I decided to dress up as a mad scientist. Kind of obvious, I know, but a great excuse to wire up this Adafruit Neopixel Goggle Kit I had sitting around.
To be perfectly honest, I’ve never had an easy experience with Neopixels. Somehow I always manage to burn one out, or get an unexpected glitch. My hope was that this kit would provide me with a guaranteed success, and I’m happy to say that it delivered.
The kit comes in a box with most everything you need including a Trinket micro controller (basically a tiny Arduino), a pair of plastic costume goggles, two Neopixel rings, multiple colors of wire, a surface mount JST battery connector, a small rechargeable battery pack, and USB battery charger. You will need to supply your own micro USB cable for loading code, and devise your own diffuser for the lenses (plain copy paper works fine).
You’ll also need a few tools, including a soldering iron, solder, hot glue, E6000 adhesive (optional), wire cutters/strippers, and a computer.
No printed instructions are, but the online documentation is ample and detailed, plus you’ll need to go online to download the code required for the Trinket to do its magic.
Right off the bat, the instructions have you soldering a small surface mount JST connection to the Trinket. This allows you to run the Trinket from the included battery pack, but it’s also a likely stumbling block for anyone just beginning with soldering. It’s a delicate operation.
Wiring the two Neopixel rings also presented some challenges. Despite the documentation, it was hard to get a clear idea of exactly which wires ran to which areas of the rings. After thinking it through, I came up with the right solution — but again I think this is an area where someone without experience might lose hope.
Before glueing everything in place, you’re advised to load the Arduino code to the Trinket and see if everything’s working as planned. Though the Trinket is Arduino IDE compatible (meaning it can connect to the standard Arduino software), you will need an additional download and adjustment to get things working. Again, another bump in the road for a beginner.
The Instructions also advise reinforcing some of the wiring with a few globs of E6000 adhesive. I didn’t have any, but having seen it used in so many other projects I took it as a great excuse to walk to the hardware store and buy some. Securing the rings into the goggles required hot glue, which I had plenty of.
The end result looks great and I’m happy with how these turned out. For a unique costume or cosplay showpiece, I think the $40 price of the kit is a good value. It should be noted that you can’t see through the goggles once they’re complete — they’re just meant to hang out on your head and look cool.
Cool things I learned with this kit:
-Programming a Trinket board
-Chaining together multiple NeoPixels
-Using E6000 to provide strain relief on electronic wiring
-Working with and recharging small LiPo battery packs
-Surface mount soldering (JST on Trinket)
What to watch out for:
-A little bit of tricky surface mount soldering
-Configuring Arduino software settings for use with Trinket
-Aligning Neopixel rings in goggles for symmetry
-Devising your own diffuser for the lenses (I used Frisket film)
This week on Maker Update we’ll take a look at a DIY cocktail robotic dress designed by Anouk Wipprecht. We’ll take a look at a new online 3D design tool from SketchUp and a new 3D printer from Ultimaker. Learn how to quickly create your own prop Star Wars Gonk droid, as well as an interactive Stranger Things alphabet wall. Tips on storing small components (and getting rid of them), new product announcements, and the latest Maker Faires for the upcoming weekend.
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Project of the Week
Anouk’s Cocktail Dress Instructable
SketchUp in Browser: MySketchUp (Open Beta)
Ultimaker 3 announced
Arduino-Powered Stranger Things Wall
Gonk Droid Prop from Junk
Small Parts Organization
October 22, 2016 Derby Mini Maker Faire Derby, Derbyshire UK
October 22, 2016 Fredonia Mini Maker Faire Fredonia, New York USA
October 22, 2016 Shreveport Mini Maker Faire Shreveport, Louisiana USA
October 22 + 23, 2016 Maker Faire Orlando Orlando, Florida USA
October 23, 2016 East Bay Mini Maker Faire Oakland, California USA
October 21 + 22 + 23, 2016 Maker Faire Shenzhen Shenzhen China
October 23, 2016 Bengaluru Mini Maker Faire Bengaluru India
My son’s going as Pokémon Trainer Ash Ketchum for Halloween this year, so I was inspired to make him a Poké Ball for his costume.
I was initially inspired by this Instructable, which also uses a plastic Christmas ornament. I took it in a different direction by using the grommet and furniture glider, and using acrylic paint on the inside. You can get a pretty good feel for the project from the photos I posted on Imgur (embedded below).
Items you’ll need (Amazon links):