mannerisms

Ruminations on the electronics industry from David Manners, Senior Components Editor on Electronics Weekly.

Lifting The Spirits

Some apps lift your spirits. Takara’s dancing flowers made the whole world smile. There was a talking parrot which repeated what you said to it in a parroty voice – people just fell about laughing at it. The singing fish, Billy Bass, was said to have beguiled Her Majesty. The singing brolly delivers the same lift to the spirits.

The umbrella which sings in the rain was made by Alice Zappe and Julia Lager of Berlin.

Zappe and Lager taped piezoelectric sensors to the underside of an umbrella and connected them to an Arduino Uno microcontroller on a circuit board containing an 8-bit tone generator which generates a musical note determined by which sensor has been hit by a raindrop. The circuit board is connected to two speakers.

The microcontroller has to be programmed to deliver a pleasingly timed series of notes rather than a mad cacophony if the umbrella is hit by a rainstorm.

Even so it can ‘get annoying after a time’ says Zappe.

Zappe and Lager made the singing brolly in a day and are now working on Version 2.

 

It’s an example of what Steve Jobs used to call the intersection of art and technology.

 

Those companies sinking under the weight of dull products – like Nokia and Sony – should look to artists, eccentrics, contrarians and mavericks to come up with stuff which warms the heart.

 

You can be too sensible and too grown up for success in consumer electronics.

Tags: arduino, billy bass, eccentrics, microcontroller, world smile

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6 Comments

  1. Mike Bryant
    July 05, 2012 16:22

    Well if the RAF had been allowed to go ahead in 1988 and try to shoot down the first Astra satellite using RSRE’s plan or another then the world would be a very different and much better place.

  2. Mr Cynical
    July 05, 2012 11:29

    Mike, you missed out the Sky Box + that automatically records programmes by itself, when you try to play them back they won’t because it’s recorded from a category that you have not subscribed to!

  3. David Manners
    July 05, 2012 11:27

    No no no, Mike, apart from your liking for Abbot Ale, sheep and x86 processors, I’d class you as one of the most modern men I know. Your extolling of the supremacy of simplicity over everything else, means you are definitely a New Man.

  4. Mike Bryant
    July 05, 2012 11:12

    I know I’m old fashioned, but I find the modern arty-farty concepts have gone too far already. I can’t believe I’m the only person who wants :
    A phone that makes voice calls absolutely anywhere. The old Nokia banana-phone could make a call almost anywhere in the Pennines yet most modern phones say no-signal as soon as you get anywhere near a field.
    A television that just shows BBC, ITV and the main CH4 channels instantly on the main control buttons and puts everything else on a sub-menu button that nobody uses.
    A DVR that just records everything on the main channels in case I miss something good.
    An audio system that delivers at least Super-CD quality rather than MP3 mush. The analogue master tapes from the 60s and 70s still deliver better quality than any end product being released today.
    A car where the electronics just respond to a voice properly. Failing this one with menus that can be read without having to put reading glasses on.
    A central heating controller that doesn’t crash or even break at the first major brown-out.
    A washing machine that just does a simple selection of washes.
    There’s countless others I could rant about but it seems to me that modern design highlights features and functionality over usability. Steve Jobs did prefer the latter early on but the latest products are anything but.

  5. David Manners
    July 04, 2012 18:31

    I think the transparent iMacs were the first product out of Apple after the return of Steve Jobs [Anonymous] and their commercial success snatched Apple from the jaws of bankruptcy. So the answer is probably “No”.

  6. Anonymous
    July 04, 2012 18:10

    A bit like the original transparent Imac.
    Would Apple even still be around if they had
    just continued to make boring Biege boxes.