An eBay Addiction, a Logic Analyzer, and a VR Game: How I Made Some Christmas Decorations Dance
This was kind of a silly project. If I had known it would end with a bunch of wholesome Christmas decorations dancing along to Lizzo I probably would have done it a long time ago. Here’s the story of how I took some beloved kitsch, a logic analyzer, sed, awk, Google Sheets, Python, an FT232H, some wires, data from a VR game, and a few evenings to make it happen. (Just want the punchline? Skip to the end.)
Happy Tapper eBay addiction
My family has a fair bit of music-producing stuff from Hallmark: books, stuffed animals, and, of course, holiday decorations. Chalk it up to an enthusiastic grandparent. The Happy Tappers are a favorite. We started with two — a reindeer and a snowman — and I was tasked with filling out the full set of four. We now have 13, so mission accomplished and then some.
Each Tapper plays two songs and dances; you can plug in other Tappers via ports on either side and they become backup dancers. Deeply alluring, clearly. I got a good deal on Santa, then a better deal on a different Santa. Then there was a great deal on a set of 4, so had to get it. Then — after months of waiting — I pounced on a set of 5, including the very rare “painter” elf. So, in short: I have a problem. This solstice holiday season my plan was to figure out how they work and get them to do some out-of-spec dancing.
My first step was to pull one apart. There’s a microcontroller (covered with scratched up epoxy) that controls the speaker and electromagnet actuators while sending and receiving signals over the bus formed by connecting multiple Tappers (henceforth, the Dance Bus).