Must-Have Overkill Christmas Tree Lights

The yuletide fire is out, so we’re starting to receive this year’s Christmas hacks. [Chris] sent us his awesome video-mapped tree lighting hack. His project made clever use of a bunch of cool tools, so even if you’re not thinking forward to next December, it’s worth a look. Still images don’t do it justice; check out the video below the break.

The end result is an addressable string of WS2812B LEDs connected up to a Raspberry Pi Zero that can display a video image even though it’s wrapped around a roughly cone-shaped (pine) object. But this is actually more impressive than you’d think at first; how would you map a flat image to a string of LEDs wrapped around a tree?

[Chris]’s solution was to write a routine that lit up the LEDs in a unique pattern and then detected them using OpenCV and a webcam, making the mapping directly. He then samples images from a video at exactly the points where the pixels are located on the tree, and sends this data out to the LEDs.

The basic framework here should transform fairly easily into a generic image-mapping procedure with randomly located LEDs, so we think it’s a hack that’ll outlast the season. And because it runs on the Pi Zero, everything is in Python so it’d be a good project for beginners to replicate. However, the code section on the project page still lists it as coming soon. We hope so!

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Christmas Bauble is neither spherical nor runs Arduino

[Jordan Wills] was tasked by his company, Silicon Labs, to build some Christmas Baubles to give away to co-workers. While the commissioned units were designed to be simple battery and LED affairs, he decided to make one of his own with bells and whistles. His Mario themed Christmas Ornament uses a Silicon Labs FM972 micro controller, capacitive sensing, PWM controlled 8 bit audio, and blinky lights.

The interesting part is some of the construction techniques that he used. The finger-joint style cube is built from circuit boards. Electrical connections between panels were routed using solder wicking copper braid. That’s a interesting trick which we’ll keep in mind along with some of our favorite creative structural uses of PCB.

The top of the cube has four LED’s which light up the Mario “Question Mark” symbols on the four sides of the cube while the base contains all of the electronics. The outside of the base piece was a large copper plane to act as the capacitive sensing element. This meant all electronics needed to be surface mounted with tracks laid out on one side – which posed some layout challenges. Adding the Capacitive sense function was a cinch thanks to support from the in-house design team. PWM output from the micro controller takes care of audio, and the output is routed through a buffer to boost the signal. A bandpass filter then cleans up the PWM output before feeding it to the speaker.

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Comparing Movies between Rottentomatoes and IMDB

Well, it’s the holiday season! Which means two things. Long, sometimes uncomfortable gatherings with family, and our favorite — free time. So if you’re looking to catch up on some movies, [Rajesh Verma] has you covered. He’s compiled a database that aggregated data from both Rotten Tomatoes and IMDB!

That means you can very easily sort through based on critic’s favorite, audience favorite, IMDB favorite, underrated, overrated, year, etc. He started by dabbling with aggregation scripts with just Rotten Tomatoes, and after he released one showing both Audience and Critic scores, Rotten Tomatoes updated their site to include that sorting method! Coincidence? Maybe.

Either way, it broke his original script when the site was updated — so he’s come back with something even better — a list for both IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes.

He started the project thanks to [Michael] at Meta Film List, who had the idea of making movie databases more accessible. Without further ado, you can check out the list on Google Docs.

Cyberpunking Home Alone

[Macaulay Culkin] err… [Kevin McCallister] pulled off some epic 1990 hacks to scare off a couple of bumbling burglars in the classic film Home Alone. Now celebrating its 25th Anniversary, it’s fun to see the tricks [Kevin] used to spoof a house party brought into this age of high-technology.

The trick in the original movie was all about silhouettes in the windows that made the house look full of people. [Michael Jordan’s] cardboard cutout taped to a model train is fairly believable. But really, who has a half-dozen mannequins just sitting in their attic? Creepy.

The marketing company RedPepper are behind the facelift of this pop culture icon. They outfitted their offices with some window dressings that are perfect for the silhouettes. In a delightful cyberpunk twist they went with projects and digital silhouettes. Embracing our current tech-heavy lives is the mobile aspect of it all. Of course there’s an app for that. It means [Kevin] doesn’t have to pull the strings. He can hide outside the building and decide which animations are played by the projectors within. Check it out after the break.

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Here Comes Santa Claws

Liberty Games in the UK was looking for a fun way to support charity for the holidays, and we think they succeeded. They decided to set up an arcade crane machine to run over the internet, with each type of toy snagged earning  a donation. Snag a bear, and they will donate £5 to St Mungos, a UK charity that works with homeless or at risk people. Snag one of the rarer Santa toys, and they will donate £20. It’s a great cause, and a nice hack. Behind the scenes, the Internet side of things runs on a Raspberry Pi connected to a PiRack and a couple of PiFace digital interface cards that are wired into the electronics of the crane machine so they could control the buttons on the machine from a Web interface. Unfortunately, it didn’t seem to be running when we tried it, but hopefully someone will give the machine a swift kick shortly to get it going until the Hackaday traffic invariably brings it down again.

One of the interesting thing that they discovered while working on these hacks: they have a pay-out ratio that is determined by the strength of the grabbing arm. The owner can tweak this so that the arm does not grab very firmly, which means a dropped bear. Want to torture your friends with hopes of snagging the best stuffed animals?. Follow the example of this claw machine build all from parts on hand.

Baby Armaments Are Not To Be Messed With

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[theKylenator] spent about a month building this brilliant Halloween costume for his son. We realize its almost the holidays, but this is just too darn awesome not to share, despite being a bit late for our standard Halloween hacks.

Made completely out of cardboard, it just goes to show you really can make some awesome hacks that aren’t expensive — or overly complicated.

While the baby appears rather indifferent in possessing a suit capable of mass destruction, the wife filming the video sounds ever so impressed too: “It’s pretty cool babe.”

[Kyle] on the other hand is having the time of his life. Just listen to the mechwarrior sound effects he makes.

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Christmas Star uses Two AA Batteries

When [hkdcsf] was a teenager, he made a Christmas star with an up counter driving decoder logic and using transistors to light LEDs in festive patterns. He’s revisited this project using modern techniques including a microcontroller, a DC/DC converter, and constant current LED drivers.

The project uses two AA batteries, and that’s what makes the DC/DC converter necessary. Blue LEDs have a forward voltage of just over 3V, and the LED driver chip requires about 0.6V of overhead. Two fresh AAs will run a tad above 3V, but as they discharge, or if he’s using rechargeables, there just won’t be enough potential. To make sure the star works even with whatever LEDs are chosen, the converter takes the nominal 3V from the batteries and converts it to 3.71V.

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