Akiba’s Awesome Lighting Tutorial

[Akiba] over at FreakLabs just put up a detailed tutorial outlining how to control and sequence lighting wirelessly using an Arduino and Vixen lighting sequencer software.

For those that don’t know [Akiba], he’s the guy behind Wrecking Crew Orchestra (TRON Dance) and their EL wire costumes. [Akiba] hacks on his projects at Hacker farm out in rural Japan.


In the tutorial, he sets up a simple 6 LED circuit on a Fredboard (an Arduino compatible board with integrated breadboard). [Akiba] then describes configuring the Vixen sequencer software to control the Arduino, providing simple example code to decode the Vixen serial protocol. Finally [Akiba] shows how to use the ChibiArduino protocol stack to build a wireless illumination system.

[Akiba] has used these tools in many stage performances including with the Wrecking Crew Orchestra (shown above) and the world number 1 flair bartending crew, UPT.

This tutorial is particularly awesome, as it includes both step-by-step videos and a text reference. The videos give a great overview of the process, while the text provides a handy reference to refer to as you hack on your own illumination projects.

Thanks for the writeup [Akiba]! With Christmas just round the corner we hope to see readers using these techniques in their own festive illuminations soon!

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Halloween Doorbell Prop in Rube-Goldberg Overdrive

[Conor] wired up his 3D-printed coffin doorbell to an array of RGB LEDs, a screaming speaker, and a spinning skull on a cordless screw driver to make a “quick” Halloween scare. Along the way, he included half of the Adafruit module catalog, a relay circuit board, and ESP8266 WiFi module, a Banana Pi, and more Arduinos of varying shapes and sizes than you could shake a stick at.

Our head spins, not unlike [Conor]’s screaming skull, just reading through this Rube Goldbergy arrangement. (We’re sure that’s half the fun for the builder!) Smoke ’em if ya got ’em!

Start with the RGB LEDs; rather than control them directly, [Conor] connected them to a WiFi-enabled strip controller. Great, now he can control the strip over the airwaves. But the control protocol was closed, so he spent a week learning Wireshark to sniff the network data, and then wrote a Bash script to send the relevant UDP packets to turn on the lights. But that was not fancy-schmancy enough, so [Conor] re-wrote the script in Go.

Yes, that’s right — a Go routine on a Banana Pi sends out custom UDP packets over WiFi to a WiFi-to-LED-driver bridge. To make lights blink. Wait until you see the skull.

spooky_eye_animThe plastic skull has Neopixels in each ping-pong ball eye, controlled by an Arduino Nano and battery taped to the skull’s head. The skull is cemented to a driver bit that’s chucked in a cordless drill. A relay board and another Arduino make it trigger for 10 seconds at a time when the doorbell rings. Finally (wait for it!) an Arduino connected to the doorbell gives the signal, and sets a wire high that all the other Arduini and the Banana Pi are connected to.

Gentle Hackaday reader, now is not the time for “I could do that with a 555 and some chewing gum.” Now is the time to revel in the sheer hackery of it all. Because Halloween’s over, and we’re sure that [Conor] has unplugged all of the breadboards and Arduini and put them to use in his next project. And now he knows a thing or two about sniffing UDP packets.

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Avoid Procrastination with this Phone Lock Box

Smart phones are great. So great that you may find yourself distracted from working, eating, conversing with other human beings in person, or even sleeping. [Digitaljunky] has this problem (not surprising, really, considering his name) so he built an anti-procrastination box. The box is big enough to hold a smart phone and has an Arduino-based time lock.

The real trick is making the box so that the Arduino can lock and unlock it with a solenoid. [Digitaljunky] doesn’t have a 3D printer, so he used Fimo clay to mold a custom latch piece. A digital display, a FET to drive the solenoid, and a handful of common components round out the design.

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Video With Sensor Data Overlay Via Arduino Mega

If you haven’t been paying attention, big wheel trikes are a thing. There are motor driven versions as well as OG pedal pushing types . [Flux Axiom] is of the OG (you only get one link, now its on you) flavor and has written an instructable that shows how to achieve some nice looking on screen data that he syncs up with the video for a professional looking finished product which you can see in the video after the break.

[Flux Axiom] is using an Arduino Mega in his setup along with a cornucopia of sensors and all their data is being logged onto an SD card. All the code used in his setup is available in his GitHub repository. [Flux Axiom] was also nice enough to include the calibration process he used for the sensors which is also located in the GitHub download.

Sadly [Flux Axiom] uses freedom hating software for combining the video and data, Race Render 3 is his current solution and he is pleased with the results. Leave it in the comments if you have an open source solution for combining the video and data that we can offer him as a replacement.

Edit: Correct spelling of handle.

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The Simplest Smart Glasses Concept

Google Glass kind of came and went, leaving one significant addition to the English language. Even Google itself used the term “glasshole” for people who used the product in a creepy way. We can’t decide if wearing an obviously homemade set of glasses like the ones made by [Jordan Fung] are more creepy, give you more hacker cred, or just make you look like a Borg. Maybe some combination of all of those. While the cost and complexity of developing for Google Glass was certainly a barrier for hacking on that hardware, this project is just begging for you to build your own and run with the concept.

[Jordan’s] build, called Pedosa Glass, really is pretty respectable for a self-built set up. The Arduino Nano is a bit bulky, and the three push buttons take up some room, but it doesn’t kill the ability to mount them in a glasses form-factor. An FLCoS display lets you see the output of the software which [Jordan] is still developing. Right now features include a timer and a flashlight that uses the head-mounted white LED. Not much, we admit, but enough to prove out the hardware and the whole point would be to add software you wanted.

Admittedly, it isn’t exactly like Google Glass. Although both use FLCoS displays, Pedosa Glass uses a display meant for a camera viewfinder, so you don’t really see through it. Still, there might be some practical use for a little display mounted in your field of vision. The system will improve with a better CPU that is easier to connect to the network with sensors like an accelerometer — there’s plenty of room to iterate on this project. Then again, you do have an entire second ear piece to work with if you wanted to expand the system.

Check out the video demo after the break.

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Trivia Lock Box Spices up Wedding Reception

Any hardware hacker will tell you, a significant other who embraces your passion is a keeper. [Nathan] found a keeper in [Jessica] – they even worked together on a hardware hack for their own wedding. The couple wanted an interactive element for their guests. Disposable cameras are getting a bit hard to find these days, so the solution was a trivia powered lock box designed and built by [Nathan] himself. Guests arrived at their tables to find locked boxes and cards with trivia questions about the couple. Only by answering the questions correctly would they unlock the box to access the prizes inside.

Each box consists of a Really Bare Bones Board, which is essentially an ATmega328 breakout board. The user interface consists of five tactile switches and a 16×2 character based LCD. The box is a clear Vaultz pencil box (Yes, the same brand Ahmed used for his clock). The final element is of course the locking mechanism. One of [Nathan’s] friends noticed that the Vaultz box latch was riveted in, and was spring loaded. It only took a bit of work to flip the latch from the outside to the inside. Cheap 9g micro servos from the far east pull the latch open with a string. The only thing we haven’t figured out is how [Nathan] closed the latches while they were inside the box. Obviously some black magic was involved! [Jessica] decorated the box with circuit traces created on her vinyl cutter.

On the eve of the big day, [Nathan] realized that his tactile switches were… not really switching. The superglue he had used to mount them had seeped into the switch body, freezing it solid. Nathan saved the project with a herculean effort of soldering 5 switches on each of 12 boxes the night before his own wedding.

What was in the box? Alka-Seltzer tablets. When added to vases filled with oil and water, the fizzy tablets turned the vases into mini lava lamps. The boxes also contained coins which were redeemable for Hawaiian Leis.

Click past the break to see the boxes in action on [Nathan] and [Jessica’s] big day and if you’re looking to build a fleet of hardware for your own wedding, take a look at the centerpieces [Bill Porter] created a couple of years ago.

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Code Craft – Embedding C++: Classes

For many embedded C developers the most predominate and questionable feature of C++ is the class. The concern is that classes are complex and therefore will introduce code bloat and increase runtimes in systems where timing is critical. Those concerns implicate C++ as not suitable for embedded systems. I’ll bravely assert up front that these concerns are unfounded.

When [Bjarne Stroustrup] created C++ he built it upon C to continue that language’s heritage of performance. Additionally, he added features in a way that if you don’t use them, you don’t pay for them.

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