magicShifter 3000: An Over-Engineered POV Stick with a 15-Year Journey

3 hackers, 16 LEDs, 15 years of development, one goal: A persistence of vision display stick that fits into your pocket. That’s the magicShifter 3000. When waved, the little, 10 cm (4 inches) long handheld device draws stable images in midair using the persistence of vision effect. Now, the project has reached another milestone: production.

The design has evolved since it started with a green LED bargraph around 2002. The current version features 16 APA102 (aka DotStar) RGB LEDs, an ESP-12E WiFi module, an NXP accelerometer/magnetometer, the mandatory Silabs USB interface, as well as a LiPo battery and charger with an impressive portion of power management. An Arduino-friendly firmware implements image stabilization as well as a React-based web interface for uploading and drawing images.

After experimenting with Seeedstudio for their previous prototypes, the team manufactured 500 units in Bulgaria. Their project took them on a roundtrip through hardware manufacturing. From ironing out minuscule flaws for a rock-solid design, over building test rigs and writing test procedures, to yield management. All magicShifter enclosures are — traditionally — 3D printed, so [Overflo] and [Martin] are working in shifts to start the 500 prints, which take about 50 minutes each to complete. The printers are still buzzing, but assembled units can be obtained in their shop.

Over all the years, the magicShifter has earned fame and funding as the over-engineered open hardware pocket POV stick. If you’re living in Europe, chances are that you either already saw one of the numerous prototype units or ran into [Phillip Tiefenbacher] aka [wizard23] on a random hacker event to be given a brief demo of the magicShifter. The project always documented the status quo of hardware hacking: Every year, it got a bit smaller, better, and reflected what parts happened to be en vogue.

magicshifter-timeline

The firmware and 3D-printable enclosure are still open source and the schematics for the latest design can be found on GitHub. Although, you will search in vain for layout or Gerber files. The risk of manufacturing large batches and then being put out of business by cheap clones put its mark on the project, letting the magicShifter reflect the current, globalized status of hardware hacking once more. Nevertheless, we’re glad the bedrock of POV projects still persists. Check out the catchy explanatory video below.

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Blinktronicator’s POV Sends Our Eyebrows Rocketing Skyward

You think you’ve seen everything that there is to see regarding blinking LEDs and then a simple little trick proves you wrong. Our friend [Zach Fredin], aka [Zakqwy], added a pander mode to his blinky board which shows the Hackaday Jolly Wrencher in a Persistence of Vision mode. We love pandering, and obviously you just need to start the mode and wave the board back and forth. But in thinking the obvious you’d be wrong.

blinktronicator-board
Badass deadbug soldering to “fix” a mirrored shift register footprint

In the video after the break [Zach] demonstrates all the features of the blinktronicator and it’s recently finalized firmware. The tiny little board is a USB dongle featuring two buttons and an arc of sixteen LEDs in a rainbow of colors. When we say tiny, we mean it. Those LEDs are 0402 components and the board was small enough (and interesting enough) to receive an honorable mention in the Square Inch Project.

You would think that soldering all those LEDs by hand would be the trick, but [Zach] pulled off a much more difficult feat. Look closely at the image here (or click to embiggen). The two shift register footprints on the prototype were mirrored. He deadbug soldered each of them using — get this — the individual strands from some 28 AWG stranded wire. You sir, get the hardcore hand soldering badge and then some.

Okay, we’ll stop beating around the bush. The ATtiny45 on this board isn’t connected to the USB data lines, they’re only for power. That means, at its heart this is purely a blinking LED project, albeit one that uses the huge range of colors of the PICOLED family of parts. [Zach] did well with just two user inputs, but it’s the very simple POV party trick that really sucked us in. Instead of waving the board around, [Zach] uses a metal offset spatula as a mirror. Moving it back and forth unfolds the carefully timed flashes to draw your message in the air. Such a simple concept, but so satisfying to see it applied in a slightly different way.

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POV Globe Display Spins up Full Color Tupac

Persistence of vision projects were once all the rage, judging by a quick review of the literature here on Hackaday. They’ve tapered off a bit lately, but this impressive full-color globe display might just kick-start some new POV projects.

Built as a final project for an EE course, [Evan] and [Kyle]’s project is more about the control electronics and programming than the mechanical end of the build. Still, spinning a 12″ ring of 1/4″ thick acrylic with a strip of APA102 LEDs glued to the edge takes some thoughtful engineering. While the build appears sturdy, [Evan] does admit to a bit of wobble under full steam, which was addressed by adding some weight to the rig. We wonder if mounting half the LEDs on each side of the ring to balance the forces wouldn’t have worked better. True, it would have complicated the coding for the display, but maybe that would have been good for extra points. In any case, the display turned out well and the quality of the images is great. And as an aside: how awesome is it that we live at a time when you can order a six-circuit slip-ring for a project like this for less than $20?

It’s the end of the semester and we love seeing the final projects that have just made it across the finish line. This globe is one, yesterday we saw a voice-controlled digital eye exam, and if you have or know of a final project, don’t forget send us the link!

If POV globes are your thing, be sure to set the Hackaday WABAC machine a few years and check out this Death Star design from 2012 or this globe from 2010.

Caption CERN Contest – Not your father’s POV Display

Accidents happen – but the awesome quotes you all sent in for Week 15 of the Caption CERN Contest were no accident. A huge thank you for our biggest week yet! The scientists in this week’s image are definitely cleaning up after some type of nasty accident. At first blush it looks like an electrical problem in the coils of what appears to be part of a beam line. With all that soot and radiation dangers to boot, only the photographer and the people in the image know for sure!

The Funnies:

  • “This is the second server these idiots have fried! What the hell’s a Hulu, and why are they trying to watch Gilligan’s Island with it?” Thanks to some unplanned quantum tunneling, Berners-Lee was even further ahead of his time than he thought” – [The Green Gentleman] (Two weeks in a row!)
  • “I found the bug. Who gets to tell Joe he’s sterile?”- [jonsmirl]
  • “‘I told the Captain that she couldn’t take any more’ – Scotty” – [md_reeves]

The winner for this week is [Mr. mmWave] himself, [Tony Long] with “Hardware Accelerator moto – Fail Fast, Fail Often. Also applies to Accelerator Hardware.” [Tony] will be debugging his next microwave mm band ham radio with a Logic Pirate From The Hackaday Store! Congratulations [Tony]!

Week 16: This is not your father’s POV Display!

cern-16-smScientists at CERN have come up with some amazing science advancements. They’ve also needed ways to display the data they collect. This image may depict some incredible new way to display data collected from a high power physics experiment – or it could be a scientist’s project for the CERN science fair. We may never know.

The album is titled CHAMBRE A ETINCELLES DANS EXPO TECHNOL, which roughly translates to “Sparks in the technology expo room”. The lines traveling between the three horizontal display devices definitely appear to be aligned. Are they sparks of electricity? You tell us!

buspirate2Last week’s prize was a Logic Pirate. This week we’re giving away a Bus Pirate from The Hackaday Store.

Add your humorous caption as a comment to this project log. Make sure you’re commenting on this contest log, not on the contest itself.

As always, if you actually have information about the image or the people in it, let CERN know on the original image discussion page.

Good Luck!

A USB-Controlled POV Light Stick

Wanting to showcase their USB LED strip controller, the folks at Maniacal Labs built a POV LED stick this weekend. Yes, it’s pretty much the same as any other POV LED display you’ve seen; set a camera for a long exposure, wave the POV light stick around, and get a cool pixely image in mid-air. This build is a little different, though: it’s controlled over WiFi with a Raspberry Pi connected to a WiFi network.

The USB LED strip controller in question is the AllPixel, a small board that controls NeoPixels, WS2801, LDP8806, and a bunch of other LED strip controllers over USB. The Stick used for this project consisted of two meters of LPD8806 LEDs, giving 96 pixels of horizontal resolution. A big battery and Raspberry Pi rounds out the rest of the electronics.

Building a LED POV display isn’t that much different from building a LED matrix display; all you have to do is break up the image into individual columns and display them sequentially. To do this, the Maniacal Labs folks whipped up a LEDPOV class that does just that. To get the images, just open the shutter on a camera, wave the stick around, and if you get it right, you’ll have a great pixely image of nyan cat or the rainbow wrencher.

Simple POV Bike Effects with WS2811 Strips

[Andrew] wrote in with a new take on the classic persistence of vision bike spoke hack. While many of these POV setups use custom PCBs and discrete LEDs, [Andrew]’s design uses readily available off-the-shelf components: WS2811 LED strips, an Arduino, an Invensense IMU breakout board, and some small LiPo batteries.

[Andrew] also implemented a clever method of controlling his lights. His code detects when the rider taps the brakes in certain patterns, which allows changing between different light patterns. He does note that this method isn’t incredibly reliable due to some issues with his IMU, so now he senses when the rider taps on the handlebars as well.

If you want to build your own bike POV setup, you’re in luck. [Andrew] wrote up detailed instructions that outline the entire build process. He also provides links to sources for each part to make building your own setup even easier. His design is pretty affordable too, coming in at just under $50 per wheel. Check out a video of [Andrew]’s setup in action after the break.

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POV Display Does it on the Cheap

lowBudgetPOV

[Sholto] hacked together this ultra low-budget spinning display. He calls it a zoetrope, but we think it’s actually an LED based Persistence Of Vision (POV) affair. We’ve seen plenty of POV devices in the past, but this one proves that a hack doesn’t have to be expensive or pretty to work!

The major parts of the POV display were things that [Sholto] had lying around. A couple of candy tins, a simple brushed hobby motor, an Arduino Pro Mini, 7 green LEDs, and an old hall effect sensor were all that were required. Fancy displays might use commercial slip rings to transfer power, but [Sholto] made it work on the cheap!

The two tins provide a base for the display and the negative supply for the Arduino. The tins are soldered together and insulated from the motor, which is hot glued into the lower tin. A paper clip contacts the inside of the lid, making the entire assembly a slip ring for the negative side of the Arduino’s power supply. Some copper braid rubbing on the motor’s metal case forms the positive side.

[Sholto] chose his resistors to slightly overdrive his green LEDs. This makes the display appear brighter in POV use. During normal operation, the LEDs won’t be driven long enough to cause damage. If the software locks up with LEDs on though, all bets are off!

[Sholto] includes software for a pretty darn cool looking “saw wave” demo, and a simple numeric display. With a bit more work this could make a pretty cool POV clock, at least for as long as the motor brushes hold up!

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