[Ch00f] spent some serious time figuring out how the Icebreaker POV toy works. This is a pretty cool device about the size of a toothbrush holder. It’s in a clear plastic case, which lets the row of 32 surface mount LEDs shine through. But making light isn’t their only function. You can use the device to scan in a high-contrast design, then ‘play it back’ using the persistence of vision display properties of the LED strip.
Perhaps the biggest question on [Ch00f's] mind was how the sensing is done. He made a series of observations, then started monkeying around with the LEDs to investigate them. It seems that one LED is lit up while the ones around it are used as light sensors. This becomes more confusing once he realized that the display was multiplexed.
His write-up includes a collection of schematics that can be pieced together to conceptualize the entire circuit. The image above was taken during this process, using an LED to check the connections on a part. This let him prove that it’s an N-channel MOSFET. He plans to take what learned and roll it into his own project.