Remote controlled glass block LED matrix

hive13_remote_controlled_led_matrix

At Hive13, a Cincinnati-based hackerspace, they like to hack everything – even their bathroom. One of the bathroom’s walls faces the street, and is made up of thick glass privacy blocks. A few years ago, they thought it would be a cool idea to install an LED matrix to the back side of the glass wall to spruce things up a bit. After a couple of iterations, they finally had something they were happy to show off, but they wanted to make it even cooler.

While the the Arduino and ShiftBrite shield running the matrix could be controlled over a serial connection, they wanted to use the ProjectBlinkenlights tools to control things over the network. While that didn’t quite work out as planned, it wasn’t necessarily an exercise in futility. While Blinkenlights controls were out of the question, they were inspired to add OSC compatibility to the Processing sketch, which allows them to work the display with an app available for both Android and iOS devices.

The result is pretty slick, as you can see in the video below. Now all they need to do is get Tetris up and running!

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USB killswitch turns off your home entertainment bling automatically

Finally, the USB port on the back of your television can be tapped for something useful. [Don] is using this add-on device to automatically cut the power to his Ambilight clone. Initially, he got tired of unplugging the power adapter each time he shut off the television, so he added a switch. But laziness overcame him and he decided he needed an automatic method. After probing around on the connections available, he established that the serial interface (normally used for servicing the device) was not of any use, but the USB port is. He measured the voltage of the power bus to be 5V when the TV is on, and 0.15V when it is off. He whipped up the circuit you see above which uses the USB connection to trigger a relay, connecting power to his Ambilight clone when the television comes on, and disconnecting it when the set is switched off.

Our dream has always been an XBMC capable device that can Velcro to the back of a TV, and be powered from that USB port. Unfortunately the Beagle Board hasn’t yet made it to a stable level when running XBMC. Our next hope is the AppleTV 2, which can run XBMC but would require some hacking to get it working off of the USB port, raising concerns about how much current it would draw at 5V.

Adalight: Ladyada’s ambilight

The latest and greatest ambilight clone, the Adalight, comes from the fruitful mind and cluttered workbench of the sometimes Hack A Day contributor [Phil Burgess].

We’ve seen a few clones of the Philips ambilight tech, but [Phil] knocked this one out of the park. The hardware is a string of 12mm RGB LEDs connected to the Arduino of your choosing. After attaching the LEDs to the rear of the TV using anything from, “laser-cut acrylic to nothing more than a pizza box,” it’s on to the software.

The Processing sketch performs a series of screen captures and averages the pixels around the perimeter of the screen. Reportedly, Carl Sagan’s Cosmos looks fantastic with the Adalight but there might be a better option.

[Phil] used 25 LEDs on his Adalight, more than the usual 6-10 we see on other Ambilight clones. Check out the video after the break to see the Adalight in action.

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Hacking cakes with LEDs, the sequel!

A few weeks back we ran a piece about the convergence of making and baking in an attempt to create a cake festooned with working LEDs. The moral was that not every creative idea ends in victory, but we applauded the spirit it takes to post one’s goofs for the whole internet to see and to learn from.

[Craig]’s LED matrix proved unreliable…and the underlying cake didn’t fare much better, resembling that charred lump in the toaster oven in Time Bandits. The cakes-with-lights meme might have died right there if not for a fluke of association…

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It’s like… I can tell the time just by the color, man

[Alex] has reduced the resolution of his timepiece as a trade-off for speedy-readability. At least that’s what he claims when describing his color-changing clock. It uses a ShiftBrite to slowly alter the hue of the clock based on the current time. The concept is interesting: 12:00 starts off at white and slowly fades to green at 3:00, blue at 6:00, red at 9:00, and back to white by 12:00 to start the process over again. He has gotten to the point where he can get the time within about 15 minutes just with a quick look. But he did need to spend a few days acquiring the skill by having the color clock sit next to a traditional digital clock.

The build is pretty simple and we’d bet you already have what you need to make your own. [Alex] is really just proving a concept by using the ShiftBrite and an mBed, there’s no precision RTC involved here. So grab your microcontroller of choice, and an RGB LED of your own and see if you can’t recreate his build.

Of course you could always choose to build a color-based timepiece that’s even harder to read.

Google ADK project shows just how easy it is to use

first_adk_project

[yergacheffe] was able to get his hands on a shiny new Google ADK board about a week before it was announced at I/O, and got busy putting together a neat project to show off some of the ADK’s features. His idea was to meld together the ADK and Google’s new music service, two items he says complement each other very well.

He had a handful of LED matrices left over from last year’s Maker Faire, which he decided to use as a Google music metadata display. The base of the display is made from laser-cut acrylic, with a few spare ShiftBrites lighting up the Google music beta logo.

He says it took literally just a couple lines of code to get his Android handset to talk with the display – a testament to just how easy it is to use the ADK.

Pretty much anyone can walk up, attach their phone, and see their current music track on the display with zero fuss, which you can see in the video demo below.

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The start to finish of an interactive exhibit

[Andrew & Deborah O’Malley] were tapped to created an interactive exhibit. The mission was to show that social problems take continual support from a lot of people before they can be solved. The piece needed to be architectural in nature, and they ended up building this touch-sensitive model building with individually lighted windows.

The project log that the [O’Malleys] posted shows a well executed battle plan. They used tools we’re all familiar with to achieve a highly polished and pleasing result. The planning stages involved a virtual mock-up using Google SketchUp. The details needed to order the shell from a fabricator were pulled from this early work, while the team set their sights on the electronics that shed light and that make the piece interactive. The former is provided by a Shiftbrite module for each window, the latter comes from the Capacitive Sensing Library for Arduino. Despite some difficulty in tuning the capacitive grid, and getting all of those Shiftbrites to talk to each other, the exhibit went swimmingly. It’s not hard to imagine how easy it is to start a conversation once attendees are attracted by the seductive powers of touch sensitive blinky lights.