Every time I passed through a large vestibule at the recent Embedded World exhibition in Nuremberg there was a large crowd surrounding a stand in the corner. Eventually my curiosity got the better of me and I pushed my way through the four deep throng to see what all the excitement was about. At first it looked like someone had put together a production line for popcorn which had gone awry and the popped corn was flying through the air in all directions.
Eventually I realized I was in the presence of The Intel Industrial Computer in Concert in which a the conductor leads a robotic orchestra, synchronizing a host of plastic and metal percussion instruments that ping, pong, bong and blink blue-hued light each time a nearby paint gun strikes them with a tiny rubber ball.
This machine-to-machine-controlled collection of digitally connected vibraphones, xylophones, high-hats and other sound-making devices is embedded with seven integrated computer systems each powered by an Intel Atom processor. It is intended to demonstrate the simplicity of building a smart system using off-the-shelf technologies based on common x86 chip architecture.
The project which was completed in 90 days cost approximately $160,000 to build and the seven embedded Atom computer systems operate a video security camera to sense accuracy of the moving parts, a digital synthesizer for the sound, digital signage and a multi-touch interactive display that allows people to see what makes the whole operation hit the right notes.
Rubber paintballs are fired by the sensor-equipped, computer powered system to create a song that has 2,372 notes.
The system runs three different operating systems, including Windows-embedded XP as a real-time operating system. It has 250 industrial interconnects and 36 paintball hoppers.
The high tech syncopated orchestra was apparently inspired by the 2004 song “Pipe Dream” by Animusic, an entertainment company that makes 3-D video renderings of instrumental music.
Now attendees at the upcoming DESIGN West will have the opportunity to witness this mechanical marvel when it performs on the Expo show floor.
Another not to miss event for any engineers with a musical bent will be the keynote given by Thomas Dolby entitled Unleash the Genius Within! on Tuesday March 27 at 9.30am. This is free to all registered attendees at DESIGN West.