Christmas Tree Analyzes Your Tweets

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It’s Christmas time. You have a string of 50 individually addressable RGB LEDs, what would you do? Well, [Barney] decided to try something different. He’s made a Christmas tree that reflects Twitter’s current sentiments about the holiday.

Wait, what? We admit, it’s a kind of weird concept, but the software behind it is pretty cool. As it turns out Stanford University’s Natural Language Processing Group released the source code for their sentiment analyzer. Unlike a normal sentiment analyzer which assigns points to positive words and negative points for negative words, this one actually uses a deep learning model which builds up a representation of entire sentences based on their structure — only problem? It was designed and trained to analyze movie reviews, not Christmas tweets.

Regardless, it still does the trick (kind of), but, it’s pretty slow. [Barney] has his fastest computer running four instances of the analyzer, which pulls Christmas tweets that have been sorted by the Twitter API — it then analyzes them, assigns the sentiment, and places them in a second queue. He’s using beanstalkd for the queuing and a Raspberry Pi to control the lights. The result is a pretty light display whose colors represent the sentiments of incoming tweets — it’s hard to say if it’s actually successful in reflecting the opinion of the tweets, but it’s a pretty cool concept.

Stick around after the break to see the Christmas Tweet Analyzing Tree in action — say that 5 times fast!

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More Lights for your Presents

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Lights on the tree? Check. Presents under the tree? Check. Lights in the presents? Why not! If your gifts don’t look festive enough and you have a spare inductive charging system lying around the house—though, you could always build your own from scratch—you can brighten things up by installing a few LEDs in the packaging.

The Instructable takes advantage of those new-fangled LED Christmas lights, one strand of which typically draws under 1A and requires around 5V, putting it in the ballpark for popular induction systems used to charge cell phones such as the Powermat. In this particular example, the strand ran off 3 AA batteries, or 4.5V, which meant stepping down the voltage either with a power regulator or, more conveniently, a simple diode in series.

Some additional modifications to the packaging tidy up the installation, including carving out some of the cardboard to recess the receiver and securing everything with hot glue before wrapping it all in paper. You can see a quick demonstration video below.

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Serializing Dickens to LEDs

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[ch00f] managed to capture some holiday spirit this year by translating all of A Christmas Carol to scrolling text. Dickens’s work has long since entered public domain, which led [ch00f] to wire up a GeekCatch programmable display from Amazon. It has a low refresh rate, which means videos look a bit goofy, but it’s perfectly acceptable for text. [ch00f] ditched the remote control and instead used the display’s serial connection to program in the novella. Unfortunately, he could not find any documentation for the serial protocol, but he was able to reverse engineer it with some freeware applications found online.

It takes over six hours for the sign to spit out the entirety of A Christmas Carol, which easily surpassed the display’s limited text buffer. [ch00f] instead had to send text to the display one paragraph at a time via a custom Python script. This solution takes advantage of the sign’s fixed-width font to estimate the time it takes for each character to scroll by, then immediately feeds the sign a new line.

Check out the blog post for a quick teardown of the display itself and for a detailed description of the protocol in case you decide to use this display for a project. Stick around for a video below!

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An Animated Elf

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Halloween receives the bulk of the attention for installation-type hacks, but [Stephen's] animated elf hack-in-progress provides the perfect example of bringing the Christmas spirit to life.

[Stephen] constructed both the background and the elf’s body from a scrap piece of plywood, drawing and painting everything by hand, and then secured the plywood with a simple 2×4 that serves as a stand. The bulk of the hack is rather simple, and reflects the longstanding technique of traditional cel animation: the non-moving portions are kept stationary and only the moving parts need to change. In this case, [Stephen's] shortcut is to insert a tablet as the elf’s face.

The tablet is a BlackBerry PlayBook, which moves the eyes around and spouts off a few Santa-related quips while animating the mouth. [Stephen] encountered a problem with the PlayBook’s 5-minute screen timeout function, and had to design a custom application to prevent the tablet from entering sleep mode while it played through the animations. His future plans are to drill a hole through the plywood and expose the tablet’s light sensor to detect when someone walks by, then have the elf spring to life in response. You can see his progress so far in the video below.

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Spherebot: Decorating Xmas Baubles

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The Spherebot is an open source machine capable of printing designs onto spherical objects, such as Xmas baubles!

The design is based on the ever-popular Egg-Bot, which we have seen derived into many other useful printers such as the Mug Plotter, and the Ping Pong Printer.

The Spherebot features two stepper motors, one servo motor for marker actuation, some cheap mounting hardware, and a whole bunch of 3D printed parts—all of which are available on Thingiverse. In this design they used a 3D printer controller board called the 3Drag by Open-Electronics, which is based on the ATmega2560 (the same microcontroller as the Arduino MEGA). The Spherebot doesn’t require all three axes or an extruder, so they only installed 2 out of the 4 stepper drivers on the board to save cost.

Once you have it all built, it’s a simple matter of uploading your design into the free Spherebot-Host-GUI provided on GitHub. Stick around after the break to see just what it is capable of!

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CartoLucci: A Candle-Powered Christmas Card

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If you’re looking for a last-minute Christmas present, you probably won’t have enough time to reproduce [Helmar's] candle-powered Christmas card. He’s been working on it for a few years now, since his first prototype in 2010. Though he pieced together the original card with parts lying around his workshop, the most recent iteration looks like it belongs on the shelf in a store.

We last saw [Helmar's] work two years ago, when he shared his Full Color Laser TV. This project is a bit more compact: the circuitry was printed with conductive ink on the cardstock, and all the required components are held together by conductive adhesive. To power the electronics, he decided against a battery and instead chose to embed a solar cell on the inside of the card. Placing a lit candle inside the open card provides enough juice for the exterior of the card to shine.

You can see a video of both the current and prototype versions of [Helmar's] cards after the break.

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