Mushroom Buddy

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Mushroom Buddy is an interactive moving musical instrument that lights up and lets people create music without physical contact with them. As the name suggests, it befriends anybody who comes near it and generates different melodies and light intensities based on the proximity and the movement of the person.

The idea began with a moving object that could attract attention of people in their running schedule to let them produce musical tones similar to everyday mechanical objects around them.

How it works:

The moving mushroom detects the presence of people with Ultrasonic Sonar sensor and on coming closer, pauses to communicate. There are two photoresistors with each one connected to LED matrix and the speaker. Based on the movement and the relative position of the person, the change in the intensity of the light causes variation in the frequency and the amplitude which are amplified and sent to the loudspeaker.


Building Components:

The Mushroom Buddy consists of the following components:

  • Photoresistors
  • 8 * 8 LED matrix
  • Loud Speaker
  • Ultrasonic Sonar
  • Servo

PhotoResLEDMatrix_bb sonar with servo sketch-theremin2


The initial construction began with trying to make each component work individually. The sonar triggered servo and each photoresistor initiated the LED matrix and the speaker. It was with the LED matrix that I ran out of pins on Arduino and took another to connect the sonar, servo, photoresistor and loud speaker. Then came the fabrication which was a very essential component of the design. I started off by creating a wooden base on which the structure could stand. The next step was the stem of the mushroom that was to rotate with its upper cap carrying weight of not only the structure but the microcontroller and few of the elements inside. I tried different materials and diameters of the tubes to not only hold the structure but light enough to move easily without causing a lot of friction. Finally picked a cardboard tube that complemented the wooden base structure and the appropriate weight required. The cap of the mushroom was a flat wooden base with a Styrofoam dome and this weight was easily managed by the tube.


There were few challenges face at different steps of the process like:

  • Individually the components worked well but the issue rose with conflicting libraries when they were put together. They were managed by picking up different libraries till each of the component had no conflict left. For this I had to change several libraries to avoid any clash.
  • ¬†Finding the right material for fabrication and trying it on before hand to come up with the shortcomings was an important part of the whole process. This also led to certain changes like rotating the mushroom horizontally instead of making it move vertically.
  • On location trials was very critical since I was working with photoresistors which needed controlled light environment. So I had to make sure that everything was tried and tested well before time.
  • At the location with too many people around, the speaker was not enough and it needed to be amplified for it to be more audible.