384-LED ball receives animation wirelessly and knows its orientation

We get a ton of tips about Kickstarter projects. Here is a great example of what we need to see in order to feature one of them. This LED Blinky Ball developed by Null Space Labs is the target of a rather ambitious fundraising campaign. But in addition to the fundraising write-up they’ve shared extensive details about the prototype.

The ball is made up of sixteen slices; each is its own circuit board hosting an LED driver. All slices use the same PCB design, but one of them has an ATmega328 populated on the board to act as master. Optional components on the master board include an accelerometer, and a Bluetooth module to receive animation data. To get the full effect of the most recent prototype you’re going to want to see the video on their Kickstarter page.

Think this ball looks familiar to you? The original design was developed by [Nikolai] as a performance piece for a friend. This version was inspired by our feature of that earlier project.

So, use this as a template if you’re planning to submit your Kickstarter links to Hackaday’s tips line. We want to juicy details on the project!

39 thoughts on “384-LED ball receives animation wirelessly and knows its orientation

    1. Nope he isn’t, but we did our own hardware and software (some of the software uses the octobrite driver) , the hardware all from scratch it’s alos a much larger ball and works in a different way.

      We gave a shout to nikolai because seeing it on HAD give use the idea to make our own version of it, he only made the one.

      1. So when the chinese do it you think it’s stealing but when you copy a guy from eastern europe you think it’s inspiration. Got it.

      2. So.. if you make a car you’re totally copying Ferdinand Verbiest? I don’t get it. When the chinese copy they usually do it down to the detail if at all possible, and if they can get away with it they take the name too.

    2. Wut?

      They liked Nikolai’s idea and the shape, so they gave him a shout-out on every board.

      Other than that, they designed their own boards, software, pc and mobile clients, and made the source and eagle files available for untalented scrubs like me.

      What do you want them to do?

      I just wish they had an RGB version. I would mount that………….. on a pole, I mean…..not my pole, but you know…. forget it.

      1. Just my opinion here. Their impact on the result is really insignificant compared to the original work done by Nikolai. It’s one of the things where the idea matters and the implementation is really trivial. I don’t see a lot of improvement on the original idea and I couldn’t really care less about their redesign which is only important to them and nobody else. It’s a ripoff.

      2. Just my opinion that action taken to psychically make something is more important than the idea of making something. I think about making stuff i never get done all the time! This doesn’t mean when someone else takes the time to do it that i should get butt hurt they stole my idea i never had the will to complete. I dunno maybe it’s an american thing.

      3. Well, out of the scope of this site, you’re probably right, Sirbutts. Even though it’s not like Nikolai only had the idea, he had the implementation too. And now there is a group of people who took his idea and they are trying to make a profit off it AND they get free publicity here on HaD. This last part is what just does not feel right.

        But in the end I guess taking an idea of someone else and turning it into profit, yes, is a hack of sorts.

      4. Lol, svofski, if that bugs you , you must HATE all the Arduino clones out there.

        I mean, the Arduino guys had a great idea, made a great product, and look at all these dudes ripping em off and making a profit!

      5. Deeve, I’m not particularly fond of Arduino and never thought that the idea is that great and they’re so annoying.. the more they get ripped the better. Yeah, double standards, I know :)

      6. Yeah the only inspiration we took was the shape, nikolai only made one of them. we designed ours from scratch, its a different design with a lot more features.

        we credited him everywhere, released all the files, added a shout out to him on every pcb, and

        we’ve made loads of similar blinky toys, its not really much of a change in direction ?

        we’ll be lucky if we cover costs on the whole project, nevermind profit. we just want lots of people to be able to get them, the components cost is really high, especially in low quantities.

      7. Agree with svofski. The idea and WOW-effect was the main part of my LED-ball. If someone told that idea is nothing – try to sell Ambilight clone and I’ll see how Phillips gets you ))

      8. charliex, you see just what you want to see. I told “try to SELL”. And you gave me a link to open source project…

        /*offtopic
        I heard few month ago a interesting idea from my friend. He told. If you want get success, copy good ideas, add some features and try to sell. 2 from 10 devices will have profit :)
        */

        Anyway, good luck

  1. I like how she juggles that ball :P

    On a serious note I already see room for improvements.

    Use RGB LED strips instead of stiff pcb mounted leds, this will
    -add color
    -ruggedize the design

    Mount everything inside a (semi)transparent (to diffuse individual leds) rubber ball (so you can bounce it off walls).

    Drop arduino in favor of something decent for the same price, like 72MHz STM32

    1. it’s arduino compatible in that you can load an arduino bootloader onto the 328P. The chip is 16Mhz so is plenty fast enough to refresh the leds. the bluetooth is just serial so its also fast enough.

  2. There is always room for improvement, the point is that these guys actually produced something. RGB LED strips would be a smart addition, but would also ramp that price up a bit. Personally, I prefer the unprotected PCB structure – the PCB becomes a part of the form, rather than purely for function. And I’ll bet that the use of an ATMEGA328 was intentional, so that it can interact with the Arduino environment and be more beginner-friendly.

    If you look very closely, NSL released the board files and C code in their SVN, though it does take a bit of digging. They named the project “NSL_LED_Ball_1S”, and you can find it here: http://www.032.la/svn/listing.php

    1. Hi Jason,

      We have released everything to the prototypes, it is not linked directly because it is a prototype and its not the final revision, so rather than everyone run off and make it from the prototype, it’d be fix the problems and then say , go forth and light up the world. We’re revising it from the five prototypes, feedback from people building it etc.

      As with all the stuff we do, its all public right from the start, instead of only release it after we’ve hit out targets or such.. Which of course means stuff might be broken or poorly commented :) but it’ll get better and i’ll check in the PC and android clients too.

  3. So how long until someone programs in an animation, then attaches it to a weather balloon and sets off a rash of UFO sightings?

    1. cool

      scary idea:
      1) re-build with IR-leds and memory card
      2) put in ball 2 diffuse IR-“light”
      3) design a moving 3D ghost-face “video” file for the device. (or any other scary face)
      4) fine tune “brightness” of IR-led / vid. file until “face” shows up on (cellphone)ccd-camera. (instead of blinding the camera completely, which tends to happen at high intensity)
      5) stage a ghost sighting by using cell camera to see in the dark… muahahahaha a glowing ghost… but wait, we cant see it with bare eyes!

      who ya gonna call? … Ghost Busters! erm ICSP lol

  4. It is a beauty, just like the original.

    Would be nice to see how the accelerometer would complement the design by adjusting the image so it would stay horizontally while the ball is thrown into the air.

  5. Nice implementation and new features (but I thought about other realization and idea for the next version of a ball). Anyway you’ve a good job, I hope you’ll get success with your ball.

    1. Hey Nikolay, thanks for stepping in. In fact, I’m rather curious to hear your side of the story too. Did you talk to these guys? Did you consider making/selling your devices yourself?

  6. Re: copying or implementing production of an idea – think and see: Facebook.
    ‘Nuff said…

    There’s always room for improvement or enhancements. Egos aside, it’s a good idea that got implemented for production – that in itself is a work of art…

    Keep at it!

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