Help me create a meow button!
February 1, 2010 7:28 PM   Subscribe

I have an electronics/meow related question...

I run a cafe, and I'd like to make a button that I can push that makes a meow sound. This meow sound would signal to customers that their orders are up. For example if I hit the meow button 3 times, order 3 would be ready. How would I go about making this? The meow would have to be loud enough that it could be heard in the seating area. MEOW!
posted by puhbeast to Technology (15 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
old iMac for 35 bucks or so
assembled tracks of 1,2,3,4,5,6,etc # of Meows
external speakers
Play the track you need

but consider first, do people really want to count the meows?
posted by HuronBob at 7:33 PM on February 1, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Option 1: Purchase a programmable doorbell ($90)

Option 2: Make it using an Arduino microcontroller ($30) and audio kit ($22) and some cheap powered speakers.
posted by PercussivePaul at 7:40 PM on February 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: consider first, do people really want to count the meows?

Seconding that. Are you trying to make me get the hell out of your cafe?
posted by rokusan at 7:41 PM on February 1, 2010 [4 favorites]

This would be way more annoying than something that said the order number (with a speech synthesizer) and then, if you want, followed it up with a cute 'meow' sound. I'd suspect even that would get annoying in short order, but maybe not in the amount of time most people would spend in a cafe. (Your employees, on the other hand...)

Speech synthesizers or little recorded-sound chips are pretty cheap. I think they sell the record/playback ones at RadioShack (well, used to, a few years ago, they've been going steadily downhill). You can record whatever sound you want onto them and then they'll play it back at the press of a button.

Just keep in mind the fine line between cute and annoying; I love teh kittehs as much as anybody, but I think you're going for that line at warp speed.
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:45 PM on February 1, 2010 [2 favorites]

From fish to infinity, the new NYT math blog that features the Sesame Street episode on counting and the power of numbers. ("Hello, kitchen? Fish, fish, fish, fish, fish, fish!")
posted by toodleydoodley at 8:05 PM on February 1, 2010

You won't need to worry about how to represent higher numbers because I think this will very effectively limit your number of customers.

To do this for your remaining customers, I'd second Kadin2048's suggestion of a pre-recordable sound chip.
posted by impluvium at 8:27 PM on February 1, 2010 [3 favorites]

This might be my favorite askme question ever.
posted by phaedon at 9:08 PM on February 1, 2010

Wow, this would be annoying.
posted by dfriedman at 9:12 PM on February 1, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks y'all. You are all probably right about the amount of meows. The "how many meows was that?" question would be a problem. Maybe just a button that could make a single meow and then a robotic sounding number. I have the sound background to put these things together but I have no idea where these could be buttonized.
posted by puhbeast at 9:17 PM on February 1, 2010

Response by poster: Also keep in mind that I have ZERO electrics experience...
posted by puhbeast at 9:18 PM on February 1, 2010

I would do this with an old computer as well, but I would make a 5 minute Flash movie with sounds attached to buttons.

Also unless this is like, the cat cafe, or whatever, I'd probably make a variety of animal noises on buttons, and then have the receipt indicate which animal sound signals that particular order.
posted by tremspeed at 9:42 PM on February 1, 2010

Friend suggested what might be an easier solution. There are little "buttons" sold at craft stores to be put into homemade stuffed animals. They let you record a few seconds of audio and then play it back. Something like that might work for the meow sound (they may even have prerecorded ones). But the problem is that they have little internal speakers, which might not be loud enough unless you put a microphone right next to them.

And to speak the numbers -- which you really, really do want -- I think your best bet is going to be going with a computer. There are little one-chip kits that you can buy that do speech synthesis, but if you don't have any electronics experience and you're not looking for a new hobby, they might be a bit of a steep learning curve.

An old Macintosh (and I mean fairly old here; someone can correct me if I'm wrong but I think you need System 7 or 7.5) can do text-to-speech which will sound pretty mechanical. You can probably find one of them around for free. (I'd go for one of the all-in-one machines, like an SE or Classic II, with the B&W monitor; they're small and at this point, bordering on retro. Plus you could plug it directly into a bigger set of speakers.)

If you don't want to get a computer involved, a Speak'n'Spell, if you can find one, would also let you speak numbers (or let you record them onto an iPod or something else and play them back). They have a very distinct, "robotic" sound.

Actually, I wouldn't be surprised if with some Googling, you could find some recordings of a Speak'n'Spell repeating numbers.

The more I think about it, the more I think an old computer (HuronBob's solution), or an iPod would be the best one. Get the recordings of the numbers you need, put a meow or other SFX onto the end of each one, put them each into a separate playlist. (Not into the same playlist, or it'll play each one sequentially.) Then just pick the one to play and hit the button.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:56 PM on February 1, 2010

How about just setting up a mic and having someone go "Meow! Order 3 ready!"?
posted by divabat at 5:34 AM on February 2, 2010

make mp3s of someone saying "order one!" "order two!" "order three y'all!" them when appropriate. Make several for each number for variety. Alternate musical cues ("one is the loneliest number, but your order's up!" or something less stupid than that).
posted by carlh at 8:28 AM on February 2, 2010

I second using a variety of animals. Makes it so much easier for the customer than counting meows! You hand them a small toy animal and they wait to hear one of the following:

Meow. Woof! Mooooo. Cockadoodledooo. Tweet. (the bird sound, not the texting.) etc.
posted by exphysicist345 at 8:27 PM on February 2, 2010

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