Halloween Props: Spooky eyes light up the bushes

This is just one example of several pairs of spooky eyes which light up [Vato Supreme's] bushes this Halloween. The quick and inexpensive build process make it a perfect diy decoration.

Each eye is made up of a ping-pong ball and an LED. But that alone won’t be very spook as the entire ball will glow rather brightly. So he spiced things up a bit by masking off the shape of a pupil and spraying the balls black. The vertical slit seen in white above will glow red like a demon in the night.

The LEDs are driven by an ATtiny85 running the Arduino bootloader. [Vato] found there was plenty of space two write code which fades the eyes in and out using PWM. This happens at random intervals for each of the four pairs he is driving.

We’ve seen a similar project that used oversized LEDs as the eyes. But we really like the idea of using a diffuser like this one. See it in action after the break.

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Edge-lit musical birthday card

[Monirul Pathan] decided to make the card as unique as this gift when getting ready for a birthday. He designed and built his own musical card with LED edge-lit acrylic to display the message.

The electronic design seeks to keep things as flat as possible. The card-shaped acrylic panel has a void to fit the PCB exactly, and the components are relatively flat. One thing we found quite interesting is that the ATtiny85 which drives the device is surface mounted, but it is not a surface mount component. The layout includes though-hole pads, but instead of drilling holes [Monirul] clipped off the excess of the DIP legs and soldered the remainder directly to the copper. We suppose this isn’t going to get a lot of use so it just needs to hold together for one day.

As you can see in the video after the break, the speaker plays ‘Happy Birthday’ followed by ‘Under the Sea’. At the same time, four blue LEDs pulse to the music, lighting up the words that are engraved in the plastic.

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Bootloader brings USB, firmware updating to the ATtiny85

[Jenna] sent in a very cool bootloader she thought people might like. It’s called Micronucleus and it turns the lowly ATtiny 85 into a chip with a USB interface capable of being upgraded via a ‘viral’ uploader program. Micronucleus weighs in at just over 2 kB, making it one of the smallest USB-compatible bootloaders currently available.

The USB support comes from V-USB, a project that puts a virtual USB port on a suite of AVR microcontrollers. With V-USB, it’s easy to turn a Tiny85 into a keyboard, custom joystick, data logger, or computer-attached LED display.

One very interesting feature of Micronucleus is the ‘viral updater’ feature. This feature takes a new piece of firmware, and writes it to a Tiny85, disabling the current bootloader. If you’re designing a project that should have a means of updating the firmware via USB instead of the usual AVR programmer, this might be the bootloader for you.

Not bad for a bootloader that emphasizes small code size. At just over 2 kB, it’s possible to use this bootloader on the similar, smaller, and somewhat cheaper ATtiny45.

ATtiny controlled magic eye tube

In the early days of broadcast radio, the most expensive radio sets were extremely impressive pieces of furniture. With beautifully crafted wooden cases polished to a high shine, these wireless receivers were the focal point of any family room. Some of the most expensive radio sets even included a visual indicator signaling the strength of the reception, something [Marcus] decided to re-engineer using an ATtiny85.

The display tube in question is an EM800 magic eye tube, used in radio sets, stereos, and electronic test equipment as a rudimentary display indicator. By applying a control voltage (from 0 to -10V), the illuminated display can be controlled like a bar graph display.

[Marcus]‘ tube display is built around an ATtiny85 microcontroller, using a homemade PCB. It’s a fairly simple build, once the issue of supplying 250 Volts to the EM800′s anode is taken care of.

In the video after the break, you can see the bar display of [Marcus]‘s magic eye tube slowly growing and receding, perfect for either displaying the current CPU load on your computer or anything else a dynamic bar graph display would be used.

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Teensy tiny Arduino board with an ATtiny85

Planning another Arduino build? If you’re just doing something simple like switching a relay or powering a LED, you might want to think about the Digispark. It’s a very small ATtiny-based Arduino compatible board developed and Kickstarted by [Erik].

The Digispark is based on the very popular Atmel ATtiny85, an 8 pin microcontroller that provides a quarter of the Flash storage and RAM as the ‘official Arduino’ ATMega328p. The lower storage space and RAM doesn’t mean the ’85 is a slouch, though; it can run Arduino code without a hitch, providing six pins for whatever small project you have in mind.

Right now, [Erik]‘s Kickstarter is offering three Digisparks for the price of a single Arduino. At that price, it’s cheap enough to leave in a project and not be repurposed after the build is over. [Erik] is also working on a few shields for the Digispark – only RGB LED shield for now, but hopefully he’ll get some more finished by the time the Kickstarter ends.

Proximity switch for your mains devices

[Ivan's] friend built a proximity sensor to switch his LED bench lighting off every time he walked away. The idea is pretty neat, so [Ivan] decided to implement it for mains devices by making this proximity switched outlet box.

A Sharp GP2D12 infrared distance sensor is the key to the system. It has an emitter and receiver that combine to give distance feedback base on how much of the light is reflected back to the detector. This is presented as a voltage curve which is monitored by an ATtiny85 (running the Arduino bootloader). It is small enough to fit inside the outlet box along with a tiny transformer and linear regulator to power to logic circuitry. The mains are switched with a relay using an NPN transistor to protect the chip’s I/O pins.

Check out the video after the break to see this in action. It should be a snap to add a count-down timer that gives you a bit more freedom to move around the workshop. With that in place this is a fantastic alternative to some other auto-shutoff techniques for your bench outlets.

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[RobB's] house has no light switches

So [RobB] wanted to take out all the light switches in his house. His plan was to replace them with a system that could be operated from his smart phone. But his wife insisted that there still must be some way to control the lighting directly — we have to agree with her on that one. The solution was to develop a system that switches the lights via a touch sensor or by Bluetooth.

The touch part of the project is pretty easy. He coated the back of a blank outlet plate with tin foil and hooked it to a microcontroller with a couple of resistors. He’s using an ATtiny85, which can be programmed using Arduino sketches, so the software side is made easy by the CapSense Library. The chip also uses the software serial library to communicate with a Bluetooth module. You can see the result of both in the demo video after the break.

Of course you need to throw a relay in there to switch mains, and find a way to power the uC and Bluetooth module. [RobB] went with a tiny plug-in USB power converter and managed to fit everything in a single-gang switch.

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