Jonathan Westerfield, a computer science and engineering student at Texas A&M, enjoys piano music, but can’t himself play one. As a substitute for this manual ability, he — along with his fellow students Keneth Obkirchner and Alejandra Sandoval — created a machine dubbed the “AutoSpiel” to produce tunes automatically.
Their instrument uses a series of 32 solenoids to strike the metal plates on a glockenspiel (similar to a xylophone) at the proper times, rather than having a human do all the work. Control for the project is via a Raspberry Pi , which plays songs stored on a USB flash drive. Visual feedback is provided by a simple LDC display, and keyboard-style buttons are affixed to the project’s PCB, allowing users to skip or go back a track, and press “P” for play.
Aside from the Raspberry Pi, a NU32 PIC32 board is used to operate this electromagnetic system, with a series of transistors that handle the current needed for each strike. A few short interviews about the project are seen in the first video below, while demos can be found in second. These include the “Aggie War Hymn,” “Silent Night,” and perhaps the most impressive on this list, “Sandstorm” by Darude. The clip is forwarded to that third song, and if you’ve heard it much before, your brain may automatically fill in the missing bass lines. At least mine does!