WaveForm: The sleek new Simpler Simon with free play

The latest in the suite of Simpler Simon games is


WaveForm: sleek new design and now with “FreePlay”

WaveForm is a sleek new design of the Simpler Simon game with large illuminated “arcade-style” buttons, the same great game play, a fully programmable volume control, and the addition of FreePlay.

WaveForm: new thinner style

Free Play was suggested by my recreologist friend who is using versions of the Simpler Simon with clients suffering from dementia and other cognitive challenges. Free Play allows users to play the five notes – arranged as the first 5 notes of the key of C major – to make up their own melodies. This play mode allows clients to make up tunes with the familiar notes of Doh, Ray, Me, Fah, Soh. It’s amazing how many tunes you can play with just these 5 notes!

WaveForm: game play with musical notes and bright illuminated buttons.

WaveForm is constructed from smooth white and black plastic and feels smooth and sleek to the touch. It is designed to sit comfortably on the client’s lap, and the wave-shape is styled on the increasing pitch of consecutive piano keys.

WaveForm: One of the Simpler Simon series from SENSE-i.ca



Surround Sound: The latest edition to the Simpler Simon series

Introducing Surround Sound, the latest member of the Simpler Simon interactive games.

Surround Sound:Sporting bubble lines and large arcade-style illuminated buttons.

One of the comments from users of the original Simpler Simon was that the sound effects were not loud enough. In addition, those users who had some musical background, found the “circular” sound aspect of the game somewhat confusing. They were more used to the idea of keys and corresponding notes being presented in a linear fashion; much like a piano keyboard…

So, voila!

The Surround Sound offers a new look and feel, with large illuminated arcade-style buttons that can take a lot of pounding, and up to 4 watts of sound for those with the hardest of hearing. And, there is a simple-to-use volume control built in!

As my recreologist friend noted…

“The staff in my activity department tried the new and improved Simpler Simon…. The longer design allowed the device to rest on the lap comfortably.  The volunteers tried it too.  It is a hit!  “

All the great games of the Simpler Simon with a new look-and-feel – jumbo buttons and lots of volume for game-play sound effects.

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Raspberry Pi 3B: Learning from the ground up

Over the past couple of months I’ve been working for Dan Wildgen at Amnesia Games, on a specific game called Disenchanted Forest. I designed and built lots of electronic modules – almost all built using the Arduino platform – to detect knock patterns, control lights and faders, door solenoids and a play controller to monitor and pace the game. However, the sound tracks and audio clips of the game were programmed on a Raspberry Pi, so I thought it high-time for me to learn how to program it.

So I got myself a Raspberry Pi 3B, case and power supply…

Raspberry Pi 3B board

I started with the excellent tutorials from Adafruit and have recently just started to play with the PYTHON programming language. As I love light and light pattern animations (walk towards the light…), I decided to learn how to use Python to program WS2811-type addressable LEDs.  However, I soon found that while many code examples appear to work correctly on the rPi3B, there are subtle dependencies to watch out for. As I learn, I shall post any issues and solutions that I encounter.

NeoPixel 2811 Addressable LEDs:

I followed the guides on https://learn.adafruit.com/neopixels-on-raspberry-pi, downloaded and compiled the rpi_ws281x library, and connected up a strip of WS2812 LEDs to the breakout header. So far so good.

ISSUE: However, all of the example files to control the strip just produced random flashing of the LEDs. No control whatsoever!

SOLUTION: It turns out that on the rPi3B there is a conflict in that audio drivers use the same resources required for the strict timing requirements of the WS2812 LEDs (see https://github.com/jgarff/rpi_ws281x/issues/103). The solution that appeared to work for me was to edit the “/boot/config.txt” file and comment out the “dtparam=audio=on” line. However, this solution seems to completely disable all audio, so it’s quite a costly trade-off. Nevertheless, it did work.

# Enable audio (loads snd_bcm2835)
# dtparam=audio=on

More to come…

CNC Porn: Death of a Power Supply

After two fun-filled and care-free days wallowing in CNC heaven as my new 500W Brushless Spindle sped through HDPE like butter, I was shaken awake with a flash of light and a loud “BANG“, quickly followed by a low-pitched scraping and a final “THUD” as the end mill snapped.

The culprit – my brand new 48V 20A 1000W Switching Power Supply – had died in a rather dramatic fashion. This power supply was purchased here on eBay. So, opening up the case here’s what I found…

48V 1000W PSU: the cause of the BIG BANG

48V 1000W PSU: blown 20A! mains fuse (20A at 110V is a F*&K of a lot of power)

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SIRIUS WAVE: The Binary Multi-sensory Interactive Light Product

Please welcome SIRIUS WAVE, the latest in the SENSE-I-ca multi-sensory interactive products.

Sirius Wave:The Binary Multi-sensory Interactive Light Product

Following on the heels of AURORA WAVE, and CORONA WAVE, SIRIUS WAVE is a touch-activated light machine that creates a wide range of beautifully colourful animated and soothing light patterns that appear to emanate from its core.

So why the name SIRIUS WAVE?

Well SIRIUS, which means “glowing” or “scorching” in ancient Egyptian, is the brightest star system in the night sky and while it appears as a single star, it is in fact a binary star system, consisting of a white star, Sirius A, and a faint white dwarf, Sirius B.  The WAVE part of its name comes from the non-contact “touch” system used to control its animations.

Apropos, don’t you think?

Sirius Wave:showing a wave mode that sweeps colour patterns across the displays under the control of the user

Like its siblings, SIRIUS WAVE encourages the user to touch and control the brightly glowing animated light patterns. However, SIRIUS WAVE is unique in that it offers completely independent control of the right and left sides, allowing users to create even more vibrant and vivid colour patterns with both hands. The two independent controls can be simply exercised by a single user or, for instance, in combination with a caregiver to facilitate hand-eye coordination and control exercises.

Sirius Wave:showing one of the dot pattern modes where the colour palette of each side are independently controlled by the user

Made out of soft white plastic that warms to the touch, the light patterns pulse, beat and swirl slowly around the unit to creating enthralling and relaxing aurora light shows. A total of 10 different patterns can be selected and controlled by the user.

The SIRIUS WAVE is 6″ x 11″, fits comfortably in a lap, or table top, and consists of 184 brightly coloured LED lights arranged as two sets of concentric rings to create a visually stimulating display.

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A new 48V 500W Brushless Spindle: CNC Porn

So, finally I added my new 48V 500W brushless spindle to my CNC machine… And what a difference!

New 500W 48V Spindle: now mounted to the CNC machine

So, what’s the news?

Well, The 24V 350W brushed spindle that came with my CNC machine has been well used but recently announced that it needed upgrading. Bearing noise and increased run-out suggested that the spindle was on its last legs. So, for about $170 CDN I bought a 500W 48V DC brushless 3-phase spindle from eBay, and for another $85 CDN, a separate 48V 1000W power supply,

While I had tested them upon arrival, I took the time today to install them properly onto the CNC machine.

The spindle came with a heavy-duty aluminium mounting bracket and a motor speed controller. The bracket had to be drilled out to match the existing Z-axis mounting bolts and the 3-phase cables chased through the flexible cable trough. I designed a simple temporary extension to my existing jog box to mount the speed controller and kill switch. Et voila!


Wow… What an improvement!

Tons of power, <0.005m run-out and oh, did I mention… It’s quiet!

“Dimmer Not Dumber IV” – the fader continues

The “Dimmer Not Dumber” fader saga has not closed. In the spirit of invention being the mother of invention, introducing “Dimmer Not Dumber IV“, for a customer who wants to control slide dimmers.

Here the “Dimmer Not Dumber IV” is going through its “homing” sequence. The stutter near the top allows the dimmer to travel beyond the proximity detection to reach maximum brightness.   Once homed, the dimmers drop to the OFF “rest” state. The dimmers are programmed to move through a specific light sequence when triggered by the external control signals.

Dimmer Not Dumber IV: with pair of electrical light slide dimmers and control unit

Where the original Dimmer Not Dumber II” design used servo-motor to control a residential rotary dimmer, the new design (and its failed predecessor, “Dimmer Not Dumber III“) uses a stepper motor to control a slide dimmer.

Talk about a hammer to crack a nut. This design uses a NEMA17 stepper coupled to a 1/4” 20 screw upon which a slide assembly that captures a corresponding nut rides. The end-stop, necessary to establish a “home” position for the steppers, uses an inductive proximity detector that is activated by the presence of a machine screw embedded in the slide assembly.

Dimmer No Dumber IV: showing fader base, motor mount, proximity mount, and slide assembly.

The pieces are cut from 12mmm and 6mm HDPE and connected using M3 machine screws. The whole assembly screws to the slide dimmer using the normal fascia mount.

Dimmer No Dumber IV: closeup of the 2-part slider assembly that captures the nut that rides on the screw. The countersink-head machine screw on the left triggers the inductive proximity detector at a distance of ~ 5mm.

The control software consists of an Arduino Nano and a pair of DRV8825 stepper motor drivers. The electronics, steppers and proximity detectors are powered through a 12v connection, and 24v control signals are conditioned to lower voltages for the Nano. Screw terminals are used to make the electrical connections for power, control signals (reset and trigger) and each detector.  The entire electronics assembly is housed in a small enclosure created with from a 12mm HDPE base and 6mm HDPE top plate.

Neater, huh!