Helmet of many LEDs built for Burning Man

This motorcycle helmet was heavily altered to accept all of the hardware that goes into driving that huge array of LEDs. [Brian Cardellini] built it to wear at burning man. He claims to have been in over his head with the project, but we certainly don’t get that feeling when we see the thing in action. It’s light on build details, but there are plenty of demo shots in the video after the break. The animation and fading action really gets started about a minute and a half into it.

One of the early frames of the video is a shot of the parts order webpage. Since it’s an HD clip we were able to glean a few bits and pieces from that. It includes a MAX7219 LED Display Driver and fifteen 25-packs of Blue LEDs. Now that chip is a great choice, and one of the later shots shows two of them on breakout board driven by an Arduino. The look is very clean since he carved out most of the helmet’s padding to make room for the electronics.

[via Adafruit]


  1. Ryoku says:

    daft punk called, they wanted to talk about commissioning some new helmets.

  2. Sisco says:

    Absolutely awesome. I love it! And the video presentation is top notch too. ;)

  3. Thopter says:

    Hope he doesn’t plan on it holding up in a wreck. Actually, I hope he doesn’t plan on wearing it while riding at all.

    • Wm_Atl says:

      In his comments on youtube he notes that it is not suitable for riding and notes that much of the foam had to be removed to make room for the electronics. I believe the quote is “For protection you’d be better off wearing no helmet than wearing this”. Not to mention that the police have a big issue with people with blue lights other than them.

  4. Hirudinea says:

    Screw Burning Man, I’ed wear that riding my bike every day! And Thopter, its worth a massive brain injury to look THAT COOL!

  5. Jason says:

    fab using surface mount leds on the outside of the helmet. safe to ride and if done right you can sell them and make millions1

  6. deadlyfoez says:

    As others have said, it certainly isn’t safe, and theres no way it could ever be road legal with it causing such a distraction to other drivers.
    I love it though. I would like to build one with RGB LED’s so it can achieve many colors.
    I bet that the electronics could be sized down quite a bit.
    Hell, instead of drilling holes for the LED’s, just use some SMD LED’s and then lacquer over the entire thing and then you wont lose the integrity of the helmet.

    • KillerBug says:

      It would still be a distraction to other drivers, and if you have to choose between crashing with a helmet or not crashing without a helmet, the later option is better.

    • DarwinSurvivor says:

      Actually, that WOULD affect the integrity of the helmet. Helmets are actually DESIGNED to break, so as to absorb the impact of your head hitting the ground. If you lacquer it, you will increase the point at which it breaks and possibly severely reduce the safety it provides.

      • Hack Man says:

        I think you grossly overestimate the strength of lacquer.

      • deadlyfoez says:

        Yeah, I’m not talking about a 1/4″ thick of lacquer, I’m thinking more of just a slight glaze to keep the components in place. No matter what, it is certainly a lot better than drilling a couple hundred holes in the helmet.
        And yes, I understand how helmets are supposed to work. I rode dirtbikes for many many years and have been in quite a few crappy accidents.

      • fartface says:

        REally? are you using that kryptonite lacquer? Because people PAINT their helmets every hour with that magical Lacquer you talk about and dont have safety problems.

        And if you think they are designed to break, again you know absolutely nothing at all about how a helmet works.

      • deadlyfoez says:

        The helmets are designed to absorb the impact and energy, and so they are meant to break if there was enough energy that would otherwise cause damage to your skull. They have been designing them like that for as far back as I can remember, which is about 25 years.

  7. Nero says:

    This is beautiful! The vid was awesome as well. Great job man!

  8. messmaker says:

    Even unlit the helmet looks petty cool, almost like it is studded. Good project.

  9. Galane says:

    Wear that while riding and you’ll have achieved donorcycle +10. ;)

  10. ftorama says:

    “It includes a MAX7219 LED Display Driver and fifteen 25-packs of Blue LEDs.”

    It looks like there are 32 columns with 8 rows on each, so it seems there are “only” 256 leds and so 4 MAX7219.

    Not sur the quantities are correct on the webpage shown.

  11. Tim says:

    Ten years ago I made a cool helmet for Burning Man with *Real*Neon*!! Geez it was bright (which is what I wanted). LEDs then weren’t what they are today and EL wire just isn’t very bright.

    The rechargeable battery I used was only good for 2-3 hours so I had to carry charged-up spares on my treks around the playa.

  12. Tzarkyl says:

    Absolutely amazing work on the helmet and the video. Don’t go rbg led’s that would just look tacky, the blue only is perfect

  13. fartface says:

    he needs to figure out how to do this with all SMT devices and outside the helmet. If he can do that and keepthe DOT safety rating, I know a LOT of riders that would pay $1000 for this helmet if it was still safe and did that.

    • Threeck says:

      Yeah, if he markets it as “Safe for riding in the dark” — so others can see you.

    • HomelyPoet says:

      RGB LEDs, an accelerometer, and wireless connection to the bike.

      Rear brake light when You use the brakes, turn signals even when You turn Your head [brake light down the middle]. Just shield from the riders vision when it shifts as they look over their shoulders.

      Specialise the wireless connect for pillion or side-car configurations.

  14. soopergooman says:

    Awesome Build Video, possibly the best ever. Great work on the Helmet. I’m going to ask my friend if she saw you.

  15. Brian Cardellini says:

    Wow, just found this. Thanks everyone!! Yeah four 7219’s, 32 columns, 8 rows. 244 LEDs total (the rest for testing/spares), 6 eneloop AAs, lots of fun to build, program, and wear. :)

  16. Mike says:

    Awesome project. Looks very professional. I’m glad you’re using MAX7219 – that is my product line – I work at Maxim. We have many chips that can cascade using SPI format. I built a 60 LED matrix for the back of a motorcycle using an Arduino and 4x MAX6965s – they can drive a lot of current.

  17. kees says:

    Awesome build ! Must attract some spectators I guess.
    Btw, the Max7219 is a giveaway at dx.com : http://dx.com/p/diy-max7219-dot-matrix-display-module-for-arduino-green-151840?item=1

    Have fun !

  18. dizot says:

    Nice work…obviously not for riding, but nicely done.

    I’ll just leave this here for further inspiration : squarepusher : dark steering

    For my LED matrix needs, I use CPLDs driving MOSFETs to get virtually unlimited PWM channels.

  19. Nice helmet! I wish we have it also in our store. Pretty cool to use for a ride!

  20. Roy Payne says:

    How can I get one?

  21. John Gonzalez says:

    How can I buy this?

  22. jose says:

    How can I buy this like today right now ??

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