If you think Furbies have become extinct, think again, as musical hacker “Look Mum No Computer” has decided to revive a number of them to create his own Furby Organ.
To make this horrifying yet awesome instrument, he placed 44—yes, 44—of these strange creatures on top of an organ frame with a keyboard and several dials, along with a switch labeled ominously as “collective awakening.”
Each individual Furby is controlled by two Arduino Nano boards, and as you might imagine, the whole project took a massive amount of work to wire things together. You can see the incredible results in the first video below, while the second gives a bit more background on the device’s origin.
After finding an organ left outside to rot, hacker “tinkartank” decided to use it for his own purposes, adding push buttons under each key as inputs to an Arduino Mega.
He also reused the control rods with potentiometers as a secondary input method, and added a tiny OLED to display the system’s menu. With this unique interface setup, the Mega drives a MOS6581 SID chip—originally used to produce sound on the Commodore 64—for music generation, and can interface with Eurorack modules as needed.
When tasked with converting an antique pump organ—sort of a miniature version of a full-sized pipe organ—into part of an escape room puzzle, hacker Alec Smecher decided to turn it into a vocal MIDI device.
To accomplish this, he embedded switches in each of the keys, then wired them into an Arduino Leonardo embedded in the 100-year-old organ to act as input to a desktop computer. Information is translated into browser commands using the Web MIDI API, which controls the Pink Trombone application in order to imitate a human vocal tract.
A common stop on an organ is called “Vox Humana”, or “Human Voice” in Latin. This is supposed to somehow sound like a choir or soloist, generally by adding a tremolo effect. It’s not effective — all pump organ stops sound like pump organ stops. I wanted to modify this stop so that engaging it would sound like a human voice — and not at all like a musical instrument.
The results–shown in the first video below–sound almost but not quite human, certainly adding to the tension and mystery of the escape room. Be sure to read more about Smecher’s project here.
What do you get when you combine three small motors with a guitar pickup and a touch keypad? That would be the Motorgan by Moscow-based media artist Dmitry Morozov (aka ::vtol::). The result is a unique Arduino Mega-controlled instrument that looks and sounds like he somehow combined a V8 engine with a pipe organ.
The electromagnetic/electromechanical organ uses two differently sized PC cooling fans, as well as a gear motor to produce various sounds. A separate keypad is used for each motor, and each of the 24 keys can be tuned with a potentiometer, which reportedly allows one to “make any kind of music.”
The speed of each motor is controlled by voltage changes via touch keyboard with 24 keys. Keyboard is split into three parts (registers) for each motor, so it’s possible to play chords/polyphonic lines by taking one note from each register. Electromagnetic fields produced by motors are picked up with a single coil guitar pickup.
As you might suspect, it’s not exactly an easy instrument to play, but the results are certainly stunning, or perhaps you might even say “shocking.” Be sure to check out ::vtol::’s latest project in the video below!