Massive LED Display Makes Use of Reused Soda Bottles

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What better way to make a giant LED display than out of old empties and bottle crates? This is the Mate Light (pronounced Mah-Tay).

We were first introduced to the ever popular Club-Mate soda at one of the first hackerspaces we visited during our Hackerspacing in Europe Tour. It’s a soft drink produced in Germany, which seems to be the exclusive non-alcoholic drink of choice for almost all hackerspaces in Western Europe. The spaces in the Netherlands and Belgium would even make road trips to Germany just to load up a van with the drink to bring back home. Personally we didn’t really understand what was so special about it, but maybe we just didn’t drink enough!

Anyway, this impressive display makes use of 640 empties arranged in 4 rows of 8 crates for a decent 16 x 40 resolution. Each bottle is wrapped in aluminum foil and contains one RGB LED with a WS2801 driver. Each row of crates is connected to a TI Stellaris Launchpad, which has four hardware SPI interfaces — conveniently the number of rows of crates used! From there, an ancient ThinkPad T22 laptop runs the control program over USB to the microcontroller board. Their first software implementation used a Python script which was painfully slow — they’re now putting the finishing touches on using a C script instead.

Stick around to see the display in all of its awesomeness.

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Handheld Tetris is Retro and We Love It

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[Eduardo Zola] has been playing around with Arduinos, and ever since he started, he wanted to try making a game. Having fond memories of playing Tetris back on Windows 3.1, he decided to try giving a handheld version of it a shot.

He started with two 8×8 Neopixel Matrices due to their simplicity — not to mention the massive library of code available! To make it truly portable, he’s also included a 3.7v 4400mAh lithium ion battery which will keep him gaming for hours. He found a 5-way navigation switch on eBay which makes up the joystick. A small LED bar display tells you what level you’re on, and he’s even included a smaller speaker for music, and a vibrating motor for successfully completed lines in the game!

He borrowed the Tetris algorithm (and added some improvements) from the source code by [Valentin Ivanov], who completed a similar project last fall. Stick around to see a demonstration video of it in action.

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Cute Tilt Beam Flashlight Adds Some Fun Interaction to Your Patio Table

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Here’s a cute little LED hack for your next soiree, it’s a solar charged piece of wood… with a motion controlled light in it!

[Zach DeBord] decided to try building his own version of this after seeing a commercial offering. He took a piece of oak and sliced off the top edge, and then laser cut the exact profile of the solar panel out of that slice. This allowed him to drill a nice big sloppy hole in the middle of it to fit the circuitry.

He’s using a nice big 8mm LED with a small 0.09V-5V DC boost circuit, a mercury tilt switch, a 4.5V solar cell, and a 2.7V 10MF super capacitor — plus a diode and 100ohm resistor. He’s glued the top slice of wood back in place, and sealed the entire thing with resin — you can hardly see the cut mark!

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LED Throwies Turn Statues into Heart Attack Risks

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[Mike] has just put a new spin on LED throwies — turning innocent statues into scary possessed demons of the night. He calls them Statueyes, and while it’s not quite vandalism, you might still cause a public disturbance.

If you’re not familiar, magnetic LEDs throwies are a fun little way to add some light to the city at night. They’re a little bit wasteful (sometimes you can’t retrieve them), but so cheap to make it’s sometimes worth it. Depending on what you’re using them for they can open up a whole world of possibilities — like this location tracking augmented reality using IR LED throwies!

Anyway, the main difference with [Mike's] take on the project is he’s using home-made play-dough which allows him to stick these creepy eyes on non-metallic statues. The Play-Doh in question has an interesting ingredients list: flour, water, salt, vegetable oil and… cream of tartar? It’s the classic edible Play-Doh recipe, but to the unfamiliar it certainly sounds odd.

How cheap do you think we could make these with a simple dimming circuit? Imagine seeing a statues eyes light up as you’re walking by…

Automated Light Painting Makes It Easy

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What can we say — we’re a sucker for projects that feature our favorite logo. This is the Parallax Propeller Automated Light Painting Machine  — and no, it’s not a persistence of vision setup.

[Daniel], [Nathan], and the folks over at Embedded Aesthetics are big fans of Hack a Day and are very excited to share their new project. It’s a fully automated light painting setup that features an X-axis slide, a strip of RGB LEDs, a Parallax Propeller (microcontroller), and a DSLR — all you have to do is choose an image, and press start.

They first started light painting with their LED Paint Brush, an equally awesome, but slightly less automated tool. They’ve created this one to be a bit more interactive — in fact, you can actually go on their website, upload an image, and it will paint you a picture! But… it’s not available right now.

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Monster 100W LED Flashlight for Under $10!

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What would you do if you came across a 100W, 7500 lumen LED diode for under $10? Probably something like this.

It’s actually quite amazing how cheap LEDs are getting. [Julian Ilett] found this 2″ x 2″ LED on eBay for only £4.79 (<$10 USD). It’s rated for 32-34V with a current draw of 3000mA, which works out to about 100W. Its brightness? 7500 lumens. That’s brighter than most home theater setups.

At that price, [Julian] had to try playing with one. The problem with these higher power LEDs is that they typically need a rather expensive LED driver, due to the less common voltages they operate at — and of course, the concern of over-driving them and burning them out. Not interested in finding a suitable driver, [Julian] decided to try something a bit less conventional — wiring a pair of 18V drill batteries in series.

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Reverse Engineering Candle Flicker LEDs, Again

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Flickering candle LEDs are seemingly everywhere these days, and like all fads, someone has to take a very close look at the engineering behind them.

[cpldcpu] had earlier taken a look at the controller chip in these candle flicker LEDs by measuring the current used and developing a statistical model of how these LEDs flicker. That’s math, of course, and much more fun can be had by decapsulating one of these flicker LED controller chips. It’s not very advanced tech; the LED controller is using a 1 or 2um process and a pair of RC oscillators, but it appears there could be a hardware random number generator in the silicon of this chip.

Earlier, [Cpldcpu] had taken a look at the tiny controller in these flickering LEDs and determined they used a linear feedback shift register to generate pseudorandom LED intensities. The new teardown seems to confirm that a linear feedback shift register is being used to drive the flickering LED.

Custom chips are only one way to skin a cat, or flicker a LED, and PICatout used the the tiniest PIC microcontroller (French, translation) to create his own flickering LED. Seems like making a few custom flickering LED throwies shouldn’t be too hard.