Optical Theremin Design

Optical Theremin Design

Four-member team project tasked to build a functional Optical Theremin design. Output sound level and pitch are controllable through the designs two light sampling photodiodes.


  • Team size:  4 members
  • Duration: 6+ weeks 
  • Personal role: Programmer, Technical writer 
  • Team role: Team leader
  • Software: NI labVIEW, Multisim
  • Hardware: myDAQ
  • Other tools used: Breadboard, Speakers, photodiode, TI 074 Op-Amp

Project Outline.

The Optical Theremin works by treating the connected two diodes as controllers to interpret the users input. One as volume control and the other as pitch control. These two inputs are then fed into a myDAQ where the labVIEW algorithm interprets the inputs and generates a sound key based on the reading. What the user hears is  a clear, noise-free sound out of the myDAQ Audio output port. 


Design Details.

Step1: Understanding MyDAQ Datasheet, Photodiode, Transimpedance Amplifier Layout, and associated calculation


Step 2: NI labVIEW Front- and Back-panel design


Step 3: Design & integrate: idle-/hard-/soft-clipping. module block: autotune, frequency scalling



  • Observation:
    • In labVIEW back panels that scale as big or bigger, breaking down into module blocks is key to testing and improving the design as a whole.
  • Note:
    • LabVIEW comment and how teammates should read these comments should be distinctly labeled before hand-off and troubleshooting.
    • When transitioning to connecting LabVIEW modules, comments should highlight module I/O and function for readability.
    • Improvable parts should also be documented for future optimization.
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