Vox Imperium

Wherein I take a break from pushing pixels around to wire my biker scout trooper helmet for sound.

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It should come as no surprise that a lot of us here at SparkFun are huge Star Wars fans. Huge. And not just in an, "I know how to properly spell 'Wookiee' and own a pair of socks with Threepio on them" sort of way. Huge as in, "I can't go within 500 feet of Skywalker Ranch because of some remarks I made in 1999" sort of way. Regardless how huge a fan of the Star Wars franchise I personally am, SparkFun is a fantastic workplace for someone like myself to nurture their inner nerf herder and really take a passion project to the next level.

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Surprising no one, I have spent the last 14 months constructing a screen-accurate suit of "Return of the Jedi" biker scout trooper armor. "Why?" you ask? Well, there comes a time in a person's life when he or she realizes they have the resources and support to just put the action figures away and become an action figure themselves, okay? Dumb question.

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Listen, we could ramble on about the ins and outs of building stormtrooper armor all day and truthfully, I usually do, but that's not exactly what I want to do here. I don't want to talk about looking like a stormtrooper. What I want to talk about is sounding like a stormtrooper.

A lot of troopers use a sound system to make their voice sound more, well, imperial. Inside, the helmet tends to make your normal speaking voice sound like you have a mouthful of Peeps and your head in a bucket. Point is, adding a microphone and speaker not only helps you to be heard by others, but it also adds that mechanical stormtrooper crackle to it. Some even go so far as to add a squelch break or "static burst" before and after they speak. Most use an inexpensive personal amplifier (similar to the type tour guides use) made by Aker, and typically those that have a static burst function use a device called iComm.

Both are superb products but they have one annoying flaw. They're not actually INSIDE the helmet, are they? The mic headset line has to be concealed inside your suit and no matter how hard you try, even the most well-delivered, "These aren't the droids we're looking for" sounds like it's coming from your chest plate instead of your face hole. Disaster! My quest: Cram all that tech on the inside of the helmet without sacrificing too much functionality, whilst preserving its screen-accurate appearance, and also do it in time for Halloween.

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The helmet visor.

I already had a willing helmet, so the next step was figuring out an appropriate circuit. Back in September, Shawn made a project using the Prop Shield and Teensy 3.2 to demonstrate their ability to process sound and I sez to myself, I sez:

"I bet it wouldn't take much to fork that bad boy right up into that helmet."

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The main helmet with ducted fans.

A month later and with no small amount of guidance and patience from Shawn, I give you what we're calling "Vox Imperium" – my very own in-helmet stormtrooper voice processing system. Bonus round: I put some fans in there too so I'll die of heat exhaustion slower.

Check out Shawn's detailed tutorial, and may the force be ever in your favor.

Vox Imperium: Stormtrooper Voice Changer

October 25, 2016

Add some flair to your Imperial uniform by changing your voice using a Teensy 3.2 and Prop Shield.

P.S.: If you're looking for more information on building your own stormtrooper armor, I implore you to contact your local chapter of the 501st Legion, or seek answers from deep within the fantastic pit of money, time, and Bondo that is the Replica Prop Forum. Happy trooping!

Comments 13 comments

  • Member #1644096 / about 3 years ago / 1

    This is interesting. Is it possible to remove the pops and clicks? It would be a godsend for Mandos

  • ThemePark / about 8 years ago / 1

    Now I'm a Star Trek fan...


    Ahem. Anyway, even I can recognize the awesomeness of this project. But you had damn well better dress up in full costume for Halloween, go trick and treating in it AND make a video of it. As they say on the great web, pics or it didn't happen (or videos in this case, since we need to hear the voice modified).

  • Adam Watts / about 8 years ago / 1

    THIS IS AWESOME. That fan system too. It all looks really great. Determined to finish my scout by Halloween, but now you've got me wanting to upgrade the bucket. The iComm is no longer good enough, haha.

    I co-run the BLDG 61 makerspace in Boulder. Would be awesome to see that helmet in person!

  • mdancer / about 8 years ago / 1

    I think we'll all agree that the next logical step is obviously to get the helmet DOT approved (and possibly buy a motorcycle).

    • I'm so down! I would need much, much denser foam and a way to latch the visor shut for it to actually protect my headbits. The foam that's in there now is mostly designed to keep you cool which I appreciate. We'll call the motorcycle a stretch goal.

  • DarthNater / about 8 years ago / 1

    I'd love to see and hear this in action.

  • dksmall / about 8 years ago / 1

    I would be curious to see the final project mounted in the helmet. You didn't keep it on the breadboards did you? This is where a small perfboard and the lost art of wire-wrapping (short pins) would make a much smaller package.

    • Coming right up, DK!

    • And no. I traded the breadboards for ribbon cable once it all went inside. There is precious little space inside the visor.

      • dksmall / about 8 years ago / 1

        Ok, so the tensy boards were stacked and mounted directly to the helmet? That would make sense, I guess the breadboard layout threw me for a second.

        • There's not even enough clearance in the visor for me to stack the teensy to the shield so they're connected with ribbon cable across the brow.

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