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]

52 thoughts on “Helmet of many LEDs built for Burning Man

      1. Actually MAX7219 gives the ability to drive 64 leds with a single resistor. With Centipede boards, you’ll have to use a big shield-board and add 64 resistors.

        With all SMD parts and some routing skills, it would have been possible to fit everithing on a board smaller than a credit card but I don’t think the creator of this helmet has these skills.

        Anyway, that’s a great job and with a version 2, it would be possible to leave as much foam as possible.

    1. 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.

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

    1. That’s the whole point of bikes to begin with…sure I might die, but I’ll look cool while doing it.

      Very cool build…moto pigs should wear them with half the LEDs red. Oh wait, the pigs don’t wear helmets because they don’t have to worry about getting fines.

      1. “That’s the whole point of bikes to begin with”

        you know nothing at all about motorcycles. The whole point about bikes is the rush of freedom it gives you. If you are riding to “look cool” please stop now as you are one of those dorks that ride for the fashon show and not for the real reason.

      2. Every one I’ve seen has hardly an inch of skin showing. It’s all padding and helmet. These guys take it seriously around here.

    1. exactly what I thought.
      Glue the smd leds on the helmet, use small magnet wire to link them all and finish with a nice paintjob and varnish to hide the connections.
      There you go.

  2. 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.

    1. 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.

      1. 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.

      2. 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.

      3. 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.

  3. “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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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

    1. There are also those helmet that have mohawks on them, how about make a mohawk out of fiber optics with RGB LED’s changing the color, that would be rather kick ass. :D
      This project gives me so many kickass ideas, but too back I don’t ride motorcycles or dirtbikes anymore :(

  6. 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.

    1. 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.

  7. 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. :)

  8. 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.

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