Making a "mad, Evil Scientists" Story Teller




About: I am a home constructor, an inventor and a dreamer. If you ask me who guided me and who inspired me then this people comes in mind: Carl Benz, Guglielmo Marconi, James Watt, Thomas Alva Edison, Nicolas Tesla...
The human cortex is the most powerful "calculating engine" and "memory system" that exists. It is small, has a huge storage capacity and needs less energy to work. ;-)

The idea was to have a "talking brain" that tells stories and has the capability to SKYPE with.

So I build a computer with a camera (left in the front), a speaker (left in the back) and a microphone (right in the back).
And of course with a brain ;-)

Video: LED´s powered by CPU load:

Video: LED´s powered by pattern:

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Step 1: What Do You Need?

At first you need a cheap main board. I found in the internet a main board from a thin client. The board is powered by 12V single voltage by an external power supply. It is a full passive board, that needs no fan at all.
  • 1,5 GHz Geode CPU
  • VGA on Board
  • LAN on Board
  • Riser Card
  • KBD / Mouse PS/2
  • 2 x USB on the back
  • 2 x USB on the front
  • Sound on Board
  • CF - Slot that acts as a hard drive
  • PCI Slot
  • IDE Port

I bought to operate this board:
  • 512 MByte RAM
  • PCI WLAN Card
  • 32 GByte industrial CF - Card for the operating system (WIN XP SP3)
  • small USB camera
  • microphone
  • small amplifier
  • small speaker
For the "add ons":
  • an anatomic brain model
  • 2 switches (for the LED´s and for the camera)
  • 1 bush button (power on)
  • some brass washer´s, screws and applications
  • a acrylic glass dome that fits the brain
  • a trivet
  • some pieces of multiplex wood for the case
  • some silver wire
  • some red broken glass pieces
  • some red glass gems
  • 3 white LED´s ultra bright
  • 4 green LED´s ultra bright
  • 7 red LED´s ultra bright
  • 4 blue LED´s ultra bright
  • 4 green LED´s ultra bright
  • 8 normal 3mm LED´s for control purposes
  • 31 220 Ohm Resistors
  • a driver circuit (ULN 2803 (this as a darlington, open collector driver.))
  • a parallel port socket
  • some cablings

Step 2: The Idea and the Circuit

The idea was, that the brain lights up in dependency of the CPU load.
There was a software in the internet called "LED meter". I still have the software and I am using it but unfortunately the Author decided to close down his web page.
But I found an alternative: LED Meter by Sir West. This program is not measuring anything but it produces nice pattern with the LED´s.
The software drives the 8 bits of a parallel port.
To have enough power to drive all the LED´s I used the ULN 2803 as a driver.
Connecting the ULN 2803 is very simple. You can find some additional informations here: CLICK

The LED´s on my circuit below are for control purposes. The black wires are connecting the brain to the circuit.
I decided to run the LED´s with 5V. So the brown wire goes to the GND and the red one to +5V.

Step 3: The Brain

The model of the human brain comes in three parts. I glued two parts together, so I have two half brains.
In the back I drilled some big holes to have space for the cabling and glueing.
I drilled several 5mm holes and hot glued the LED´s randomly in place, soldered them to the resistors and the black cables.
Then I user some brass nails, silver wires and glass gems to simulate some cabling.
With two component clay I glued the two halves together.
I connected the circuit to a computer, loaded the program and did the final test.

Voila, it is alive ;-)

Step 4: The Case and the Brain

The case was simple build from multiplex as well.

The top of the case:

For the mounting of the brain I used a trivet and painted it with brass colour.
The acrylic dome fits perfect into the trivet.
I drilled three 5mm holes and hot glued red LED´s in it.
The LED´s are connected vie its resistors to 5V and will light if the power comes on.
Then I screwed the brain into the trivet and filled the room with red semi transparent glass chips.
Then I covered the brain by the acrylic dome.

The Speaker:

I used a small laptop speaker for the audio out.
As you can see in the back on the left hand side I cut some wooden rings out of multiplex and used a copper tube as a stand.
The sound is quite good.
The mother board don´t has an amplifier. So I used a small mono amp to boost up the sound.
On picture three you can see the amp driven by 5V from the mother board.
The two channels of the stereophonic out (green connector) are connected together by two 32 Ohm resistors.

The microphone:

I bought a standard PC microphone and disassembled it.
From multiplex wood I cut another ring and mounted the microphone behind an old ear trumpet.
It´s functioning very very well. The microphone works very sensitive. The microphone is connected to the pink front connector.

The camera:

As well I used a standard USB camera and glued it into an other multiplex housing.
The stand is a standard stand for mini cameras.
I am using a switch (see picture three in the foreground) to switch the camera on and off.

The front panel:

I used three brass washers as a cover for three status lights.
  • Camera
  • Power
  • Brain stimulation ;-)
The icons are printed on glossy paper and glued behind the washers.
All status indicators are lit by an white LED.
The push button to power the computer on is covered by a washer as well.

The back:

Th back panel was cut from a brass coated aluminium lattice.
You can see the connector on the parallel port.

Step 5: Inside the Case

Inside the case you can see the cabling and how the main board and the other parts are mounted.

Step 6: The Software

I am using Windows XP SP3 on this computer.
It was installed on a 32 GByte CF - industrial Card.
Windows is working quite well and fast.

I loaded some audio books and music on the computer so it can tell story's and sing ;-)  .
The computer is powerful enough to do Skype conversation and this is a very funny situation to talk to your "brain driven" computer.

If you have any questions, do not hesitate to ask me.

With kind regards,

Horatius Steam

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    48 Discussions


    5 years ago on Introduction

    I love it! It reminds me of that brain out of The City of Lost Children!


    7 years ago on Introduction

    One thing that I think would really put this instructable "over the top" is instead of using the model brain , which looks great by the way , if there was a way to make it out of something softer and opaque so it was not transparent or it actually could be like a clear surgical tubing or something very flexible like that.

    What I was going for , was the effect of a pump pushing fluid through it to make the brain actually look like it has a "pulse" or blood flow going through it causing it to slightly but noticeably grow and then collapse while it was being pressurized by the fluid flow "pulse".
    That WOULD look so freaky.
    And then if you were clever enough to incorporate some optical fiber strands throughout the brain and make it appear to have electrical impulse synapses or brain signals firing to different areas of the brain which could be seen and watched by the observer.
    They make both types of fiber strands.The kind where the light only exits the ends and the other where it gives off a bit of light along its length.
    Hidden LED's could be the light sources for the fiber strands.

    It would be devilishly clever and cool to look at , that is for sure !!!

    4 replies

    I realise that it is a couple of years since your post but I have just read this instructable and had very similar thoughts. For a realistic pulsing action I think that a peristaltic pump would produce the best effect.

    This are very nice ideas, thank you. I will keep them in mind for the next "super brain computer". If I build one. If you can provide us with some direct links to such brains and fibre optics could be great.

    Thank you again,

    Horatius Steam

    The ones I was thinking about are the "Optical fiber hair extensions" and can be found on Ebay.They come in sets with a hair beret that houses the light source "LED" and the 2 little hearing aid batteries like the laser pens/pointers use.
    I guess that the batteries last for like 5 to 8 hours.
    They are 14 inches long and have like 200 strands in them and are cut at random lengths from 14" and shorter.
    They come in assorted colors OR as solid single colors depending on whom you get them from.

    Here is a link to a "wet brain".

    I have also found prop "bloody brains" on Ebay.

    Since the optical fiber strands run on batteries and they are pretty much impervious to liquids ,I don't see why a person could not put the 2 things together >Given the length ans the small size of the batteries ,it could be hidden most anywhere out of sight.


    5 years ago on Introduction

    One of the most impressive projects I've seen on this site. I really can't think of one that has entertained me more in fact. That it speaks German added to it for me. All brains under domes should speak German. I don't know why, but it seems fitting to me for some odd reason.


    6 years ago on Step 6

    Hello Horatius, I must say this is extremely clever and impressive. I find your work to be very professional-looking and well-designed. Well done!

    1 reply

    7 years ago on Step 6

    I didn't see much information about the software you are running on the computer. Is it just hosting some audio or do you have some AI running? Not sure I get the Skype thing either. Does it play pre-recorded audio back thru a Skype connection or do you just use it as a "telephone?" I would be very interested in the direction you have taken.

    1 reply

    Reply 7 years ago on Step 6

    Good evening,

    I am using this for telephone and for normal work.
    I installed XP SP3, OpenOffice, Thunderbird and Firefox.

    I also installed myHTPC to have a special desktop to play music and audio books.
    It can also display the weather forecast :-)

    Kind regards,

    H. Steam


    Reply 7 years ago on Step 2


    great! An other alternative to the program LED - meter.

    Thank you for sharing :-)

    With kind regards,

    Horatius Steam


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Anyone remember the [original] Sar Trek episode where the encased brains kidnapped Kirk & crewmembers, and bet on who would win the battles?
    Imagine if you had three or four of these arguing about which trick-or-treeter would taste better?!
    Oh, sooo much trouble I could get into!!

    2 replies

    8 years ago on Step 6

    This is an amazingly clever project, and it turned out beautifully.

    You could use skype to talk through the brain to someone else, acting as the remains of a mad scientist, you could really entertain some kids in a haunted house around Halloween.

    3 replies

    I'm not sure why but reading that gave me the image of 2 brains talking to each other in british accents arguing about who stole who's crumpet. XD