Music-synced Christmas light suit

Ah, the end of the 4th financial quarter – the magical time of increased sales, being at work the entire time the sun is up, and holiday parties. For [Andy] at National Instruments, though, things don’t seem too bad. He built a neat Christmas light suit to entertain everyone with his brilliant persona.

[Andy] always loves great Christmas light displays (he even blogs about them), so he figured a wearable light display synchronized with music would be very doable. The build is controlled with LabVIEW to convert .WAV files to power levels and frequency bands. This info is then piped into the Arduino that controls the lights.

[Andy] actually made two light suits, one for him and one for his friend [Richard]. Both guys have two light-up Christmas staffs to wield light mage powers on their coworkers. The lighsuits are controlled by Arduino/Xbee setups – one each for each suit and staff. The result is phenomenal, and should really get everyone in the holiday spirit.

Comments

  1. Matt says:

    I wouldn’t mind wearing one of those to my finals!

    Just for clarification: he needs a computer to run labview which in turn gives the arduino its required data? I got really excited and thought there was a way to upload labview code to arduino – ie disconnect it from the computer.

    Guess I need to do more research about labview/arduino interfacing.

    • alan says:

      I wouldn’t bother Matt. Labview is the most bloated pile of crap software I have ever had the misfortune of being forced to work with. It completely takes over a Windows machine and takes reams and reams of space to carry out the most simple of functions.

      I think you will have no chance of getting that crap to run on a micro.

    • Robot says:

      @Matt – I don’t know to what extent you can deploy LabVIEW VI’s to Arduino but NI has produced an interface and in my experience a subset of the LabVIEW VIs can be used to write a program to be deployed to the embedded target. Student licences for LabVIEW are $20. Sparkfun also has a LabVIEW Arduino bundle: http://www.sparkfun.com/products/10812

      @Alan – LabVIEW is bloated but so is MATLAB, so is .NET and so is CCS, etc. However they are all great tools with which an experienced user can deploy light weight and efficient code targeted to many embedded systems. As with most IDEs LabVIEW offers the option of allowing the user to implement their own C, C++, C#, .m etc. code if there aren’t any suitable VIs for the task. However, you are correct to assume that the entire LabVIEW engine can’t be deployed to an microcontroller but that can be said for any IDE.

      – Robot

      • alan says:

        No wonder you feel like a robot. Drag and drop, drag and drop. Stpid bloatware.

        For a micro, I code in C or ASM. With a nice slimline IDE. My code comes in at a few kB and the processor costs less than £1. The features are comparable to a £20 dev board hooked up to £300 laptop runing £xxx “professional” Labview IDE.

  2. pRoFlT says:

    Yay time to get my work to buy some arduinos so we can interface labview to them.

    Ill have labview run a loop to send a command to the ardunio to blink an LED on and off. It will be EPIC!

  3. nes says:

    Whilst being a great ad for Labview, the chip on the Arduino is plenty powerful enough to do frequency analysis in real time by itself, as demonstrated by Chan’s FFT from a few years back.

  4. Erik Johansson says:

    I a financial year can start at any time, so the end of fourth financial quarter is august the 22nd, at least for me. :-)

  5. For me, I really didn’t see any performance problem. I’m sure it depends on how many LabVIEW modules you’re using, PC speed and memory, etc. Also, I wasn’t even running an executable, I was just running the VI in the designer. You would typically be compiling an executable for your target device. Although at the time I put this together the Arduino toolkit was a tethered solution, I’ve also heard rumors about that targeting Atmel processors might be in the works. I know that we already target several other microcontrollers (http://sine.ni.com/nips/cds/view/p/lang/en/nid/209852).
    What I was really impressed with was the short amount of time it took to come up to speed on LabVIEW and accomplish a very technical task (Fast Fourier Transform analysis of sound samples). Speaking from experience, I feel certain that to learn any new language and to figure out how to accomplish this task writing code from scratch, or even leveraging what libraries might exist (don’t forget the time for researching, locating, (building?) and understanding such a library), would have been significantly more effort.
    For me, this wound up being a great proof-of-concept. I was so pleased with the results, in terms of responding to ambient sound, that I started investigating “embedded” options. This led me to a hardware chip (the MSGQE7), which presumable does the FFT work on-chip. I suspect I could accomplish something similar using LabVIEW to target one of NI’s FPGA IO controllers.

  6. BTW, as a bit of clarification, I’m [Andy], creator of the Light Suit in the aforementioned article and, while I work at NI, I’m in IT and don’t really have much to do with LabVIEW – I was doing this for fun, not work :-)

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