City Lights Telling Stories

morse code lights

If you’re walking around town and you see a light suddenly start to switch on and off seemingly at random, don’t discount it as a loose wire so quickly. [René] has been hard at work on a project to use city lights of all shapes and sizes for Morse messages, and a way for anyone to easily decode these messages if they happen upon one while out and about.

The lights can tell any story that is programmed into them. The code on the site is written for an Arduino-style microcontroller but it could be easily exported to any device that can switch power to turn a light on and off. Any light can work, there’s even video of a single headlight on a van blinking out some dots and dashes.

The other part of this project is a smartphone app that can decode the messages using the camera, although any Morse code interpreter can translate the messages, or if you’re a ham radio enthusiast you might recognize the messages without any tools whatsoever!

The great thing about this project is that it uses everyday objects to hide messages in plain sight, but where only some will be able to find them. This is indeed true hacker fashion! If you’re interested in making your own Morse code light, the code is available on the project site.

Rotating Plants for Time-Lapse Purposes

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Automating the growing process of plants and vegetables is an increasing trend among gardening enthusiasts and hobbyists. It’s no surprise, either, with microcontrollers, moisture sensors, Co2 detectors, and even time-lapse cameras with rotating wooden rigs that are in the hands of millions of amateur gardeners around the world.

This project by [Liz] helps to document the sprouting process of her tiny grapefruit bonsai tree that started to flourish at her apartment in Chicago.

Similar rigs can be used for practically any type of indoor plant. They can also be modified to move the plants and vegetables depending on how much light they are getting. Even further, just add some code to splice the photographs together and you’ve got yourself a custom setup that can produce animated GIF files to be uploaded easily to the internet. Pages and pages of happy and healthy growing plants unearthing themselves from the ground up would be pasted all over the web showing the entire sprouting process. An example video of this by [Liz] is embedded below.

[Read more...]

Changing Poi Colors Based on Speed and Velocity

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LED toys have become synonymous with the underground rave culture as party-goers gaze into vortexes of spinning light known as poi. Most of these objects come pre-programmed, but some can be custom coded. However, only a few tap into an accelerometer changing the colorful circles of energy depending on how fast they move through space. One stunning example is this LED device called the ‘Center Flee’ that translates accelerometer data into sequences of alternating RGB colors.

The LED values are ‘printed’ to the tethered objects at specific points in the rotational arc. The devices are controlled with an Arduino, and a XBee wireless module transmits data to a computer nearby, eliminating the need to manually remove an SD card after each spinning session.

When spun, the poi acts like a colorful, twirling extension of the performer that produces a mesmerizing, vibrant effect. It’s nice to see the progression of glow sticks tied to shoelaces into g-force sensing devices that can captivate surrounding audiences.

Other examples of similar types of ideas include this accelerometer poi that was cut with a CNC machine and these LED staffs for the ultimate portable rave.

Below is a video playlist of the Center Flee being tested out.

[Read more...]

Mood Lighting with LEDs and an Arduino

arduino ir candle

Regular candles can be awfully boring at times. They can only produce one color and the flicker is so… predictable. They can’t even be controlled by an infrared remote control, not to mention the obvious fire hazard. Now, however, [Jose] has come up with an LED candle that solves all of these problems. (Original link to the project in Spanish.)

The heart of the project is an Arduino Pro Mini, which is especially suited for this project because of its size. [Jose] put the small form-factor microcontroller in the base of a homemade wax enclosure and wired it to a Neopixel WS2812b LED strip. The strip can produce any color, and has some programmed patterns including flicker, fade, rainbow, and fire.

The artificial candle is controlled with an infrared remote control, and all of the code for the project is available on the project site if you want to build your own. [Jose] has been featured here before for his innovative Arduino-driven RGB lighting projects, and this is another great project which builds on that theme!

 

 

Adding I/O to the Rasberry Pi Models A & B

PiMagic RaspPi to Arduino Shield Interface

The Raspberry Pi has been the basis for many cool projects. Even so, Models A and B have been criticized for having only a handful of GPIO pins available. Sure, the new Model B+ has a 40-pin GPIO header but what if you want to use your old RaspPi with a bunch of in and outputs? [Steve] is one of those guys and has done something about it by creating a pretty neat solution he calls the PiMagic. It’s a Pi Plate that has an on board ATMEGA328 running an Arduino bootloader. The RaspPi and the Arduino communicate via UART as [Steve] felt it was a bit simpler than going the SPI or I2C route.

The RaspPi GPIO’s run on 3.3v and the ATMEGA328’s like 5v. To solve this, the PiMagic has a Level Shifter that keeps the I/O of the two boards happy. Older Pi’s had a problem burning out PCB traces when supplying too much current on the 5v supply line. [Steve] threw in a fuse that will burn out before the Pi does to ensure that no Pi’s were harmed in the making of this project.

Now that a bunch of I/O are available, how do you physically access them? Well, the PiMagic has female headers in the typical Arduino layout. This way any Arduino Shield will plug right in. [Steve] made all his source files available for those who want to make one themselves. Find an assembly video after the break.

[Read more...]

End Table Kegerator Hides the Tap when You’re Not Looking

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What’s better than an ordinary end table? How about an end table that can serve you beer? [Sam] had this exact idea and used his skills to make it a reality. The first step of the build was to acquire an end table that was big enough to hold all of the components for a functional kegerator. This proved to be a bit tricky, but [Sam] got lucky and scored a proper end table from a garage sale for only $5.00.

Next, [Sam] used bathroom sealant to seal up all of the cracks in the end table. This step is important to keep the inside cold. Good insulation will keep the beer colder, while using less electricity. Next, a hole was cut into the top of the table for the draft tower.

The draft tower is mounted to a couple of drawer slides. This allows the tower to raise up and down, keeping it out of sight when you don’t want it. The tower raises and lowers using a simple pulley system. A thin, high strength rope is attached to the tower. The other end is attached to a spool and a small motor. The motor can wind or unwind the spool in order to raise and lower the tower.

The table houses an Arduino, which controls the motor via a homemade H bridge. The Arduino is hooked up to a temperature sensor and a small LCD screen. This way, the users can see how cold their beer will be before they drink it.

To actually keep the beer cold, [Sam] ripped apart a mini fridge. He moved the compressor and condenser coils to the new table. He had to bend the coils to fit, taking care not to kink them. Finally he threw in the small keg, co2 tank and regulator. The final product is a livingroom gem that provides beer on demand.

Demo video (which is going the wrong way) can be found after the break.

[Read more...]

Arduino Powered Digital Kaleidoscope

kaleidoscope

[Jose's] latest project brings an old visual effect toy up to date with digital electronics. Most of us are familiar with inexpensive kaleidoscope toys. Some of us have even built cheap versions of them with paper tubes, mirrors, and beads. [Jose] wanted to try to recreate the colorful pattern effects created by a kaleidoscope using an Arduino and an addressable LED strip.

The build is actually pretty simple. The base is a disc of PVC cut to just a few inches in diameter. [Jose] started with an addressable LED strip containing 60 LEDs. He then cut it into 12 sections, each containing five LEDs. The smaller strips were then mounted to the disc, similar to spokes on a bicycle wheel. The LED strip already has an adhesive backing, so that part was trivial.

The final step was to add some kind of diffuser screen. The LED strips on their own are not all that interesting. The diffuser allows the light to blend together, forming interesting patterns that are more reminiscent of the patterns you might see in a real kaleidoscope. Without the diffuser you would just see individual points of light, rather than blended color patterns.

The whole thing is controlled by a small Arduino. [Jose] has made the code available at the bottom of his blog post. Be sure to watch the video of the system in action below. [Read more...]

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