Sudden Death Night Light Sounds Scary, Is Sweet

We have to admit that we were mislead by the title “Sudden Death: Wall Sign + Night Light”. This naturally conjured up images of deadly night lights, but the truth turned out to be a lot less fatal: [Smerfj] had two weeks to make a present for a friend’s wedding. The project was either a go or a no-go depending on the deadline — that sort of sudden death. But as we all know, deadlines have a way of bringing the motivation out of us that’s not always bad.

The night light in question is a bunch of hand-made circuits, each stuffed into a wooden slice with a letter burned on the face, spelling out [Smerfj]’s friend’s name. But to really appreciate it, you have to dig through the build details.

55461447189465844We didn’t know how to burn precise lettering into wood. [Smerfj] covered the wood in metal foil tape, then cut the letters out of the foil. Now applying the torch blackens only the part of the logs that have tape removed. Slick.

To get accurate lettering cut into the aluminum tape, [Smerfj] made an impromptu projector out of a cell phone taped to a chandelier (approximately a point light source) and a stencil suspended somewhere between the chandelier and the wood target. Naturally, this is best done in a darkened room under tight deadline pressure.

The battery holders are fantastic. Springs from commercial battery holders were soldered to enamel wire and placed in holes drilled just the width of AA batteries. With the length of the battery taken into account, channels were drilled into the wood and copper wires jammed through, holding the batteries in place, and providing the other electrical contact. Brilliant.

And finally, the free-form night light circuits are great. Fine-tuned to draw the minimum current, they’re adjusted to the specific LEDs and phototransistors that [Smerfj] had on hand. Bespoke free-form electronics in hand-blackened wood. That’s a nice gift.

Now [Smerfj] just needs nice packaging to present them in. We’re thinking DIY laser-cut boxes with interior lighting, naturally.

A Sound and LED-tastic Tricycle Shopping Cart

What do you get when you take a massive number of LEDs and combine them with a shopping cart and a bicycle? An awesome rave-mobile created by [kramerr]. He’s even taking it one step further by making the electronics solar powered.

[Kramerr] controls the LEDs with multiple WS2803 LED drivers. Three PIC18F4550s control the WS2803s over SPI. He devised a neat way of exciting the LEDs from music by using a pair of graphic equalizer display filter chips, MSGEQ7s, to drive the PICs to create patterns. A USB input also allows the PICs to display song titles or other information.

leds and boards

The mechanical design is as impressive as the electronics. The rear half of a bicycle is welded to the frame of the shopping cart with the cart’s handle used for steering. The shopping cart’s rear wheels are replaced by small bicycle wheels.

But [Kramerr] wasn’t done. He built his own solar panel since he couldn’t find one to fit the size requirements. The panel consists of 26 cells connected in series to provide 1A at 13V on a sunny day. A solar charge controller keeps a standard 12v lead acid battery ready to power the tricycle cart.

And there is still more! There is a sound system driven by a Raspberry Pi. The Pi also drives the USB inputs when [Krameer] wants to display song titles or artists instead of the audio patterns.

There are at least four hacks in this project each worthy of applause. [Karmeer] deserves an ovation for doing all of them in one project. If you are looking for less bling and less pedaling may we direct you to this powered, riding shopping cart.

Some rave music and lights via video after the break.

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RasPi LED Panel Library is Nyan-tastic

Quick–in a pinch, let’s have ourselves a giant RGB LED Matrix! As marvelous as it sounds, it’s pretty easy to forget that there’s a battle to be won against picking the right parts, debugging drivers, and sorting out our spaghetti wiring. Rest assured, [Hzeller] has done all of the heavy-lifting for us with a Raspberry Pi RGB LED Matrix Implementation that scales to multiple panels and runs on any Pi model to date!

Offering 24-bit color at about 100 Hz for up to a grand total of 36 panels, [Hzeller’s] library is no slouch. The library enables customization of your panel arrangements, and a separate project (also [Hzeller’s] handiwork) makes this setup compatible with the pixel-pusher protocol as a network device.

It’s certainly true that many of us have a thing for these displays, so you might ask: “have we seen this before? What’s all the fuss?” Like the others, the final product is a sight to behold, but [hzeller] and his implementation stands strong because of his phenomenal response to answering the question: how? In fact, almost more impressive is his comprehensive online documentation. Inside, [hzeller] details various hardware configurations for a custom number of panels or a particular flavor of Pi that drives them. He also provides references for pinout quirks and provides out-of-the-box software demos to ensure that anyone can bring this project to life. If a poorly-written or non-existent READMEs have made you shy away from building on an open-source project, fear not. From pinout quirks and out-of-the-box software demos, [hzeller] has covered all the bases and given us a project that folks of all levels of hacking.

Perhaps the best part of this project is the span of the audience that can take something away from it. If you’re a seasoned Linux junkie, dive into the source code to get a good feel of mechanics of how [hzeller] pushes this project onto a single core in a Raspi-2 configuration. If you’re new to digital electronics, let this project be your moment to pick up a Pi, a panel (or four), and run, knowing that [hzeller’s] README is the only tome you’ll need to light up the night.

We had the honor of soaking up some Nyan-Cat rainbows with a live demo at this year’s SuperCon.

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This VU Meter is Built Into the Speaker

Depending on the music you’re listening to, watching a VU meter bounce to the music is always a good time. So why not integrate the VU meter right into the audio source? That’s what [Matikas] did, and it’s pretty fantastic.

He started with a pair of speakers he had and picked up some NeoPixel LED strips. Carefully wrapping the LED strips around the inside circumference of each speaker, the LEDs fit behind the speaker grills, giving it a cool effect when they’re on.

To control the LEDs, he’s using an Arduino Uno (Atmega328p) which measures the audio level in order to modulate the LED output. A bit of software later (shared on GitHub if you’re interested!) and the VU meters were ready for action — check it out!

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90,000 Lumen Flashlight Is Illuminating, Impractical and Blindingly Good

It may be better to light a single candle than to curse the darkness, but that was before [RCTestflight] came up with this: a 1000W LED flashlight that outputs about 90,000 lumens of light. That’s a lot: the best pocket LED flashlights output about 700 lumens.

[RCTestflight] built this monstrosity using ten 100-Watt LEDs, running off two RC car batteries. Each of the LEDs is connected to a sizable voltage converter and a very large heatsink that holds all of them in place. He says he gets about 8 minutes of light out of this thing, and that the heatsink gets warm after a minute or two of use. We’re not surprised: LEDs are more efficient than most other devices at converting electrical energy to light, but some always gets lost as heat.

Check out the video after the break. It’s very impressive, but this thing isn’t particularly practical as a handheld. It is big, heavy and is visible for miles. If you really want to light something up it does a great job (for a short period of time) due in part to the inclusion of a glass lens for each of the LEDs. This effectively focuses the beam on a properly distributed area. We wonder what would happen if all the beams were focused on one point? As long as you don’t cross the streams

We have covered a few more practical builds using similar LEDs, but this thing does have a certain outrageous charm, and could be useful for high-speed video, where the more light, the better.

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The Ommatid Is an Awesome “Thing”

[Jonathan Foote] made a really cool device: the Ommatid spherical display and controller. Part woodworking craft project, part art, and part tremendous hack, the Ommatid is something that we don’t really have a name for. But you can watch it in action, running demo code, in a video below the break.

The sphere design started out with a “20-sided regular polyhedron” with which D&D players should be familiar, and then divided each triangular face into four more triangles. An 80-sided die? Almost. One triangle’s worth was sacrificed for the part that mounts to the base.

Each facet contains an RGB LED and an IR sensor so that it can tell when a hand is nearby. All of this input and output is run through a Raspberry Pi, so both the sensing and display interactions are easily modified. [Jonathan] runs us through the electronics, programming, and interactivity in a separate Instructable. We really like [Jonathan]’s idea of turning this device into an OSC controller / display.

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The Easiest Infinity Mirror Build

Infinity mirrors are awesome. They’re great conversation pieces, and even more fun to stare into forever and ever and ever and ever… They can be tricky to build, but there’s actually a really easy way to do it, and [William] shows us how.

The way a infinity mirror works is it uses a one-way mirror with lights around the perimeter in front of a regular mirror. The majority of the light gets bounced back and forth between the two mirrored surfaces, and because you can see into the one-way mirror, you get that really cool infinity effect.

Now if you went out and bought a one way mirror, built the frame, and put it all together — it’d be a lot of work. But there’s an easier way to do it on the cheap. Mirrored car tint foil. Although it’s illegal on your car in most states, it’s still pretty easy to find.  Continue reading “The Easiest Infinity Mirror Build”