Wearable flames with fur and LED strips

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[Finchronicity] over on Hackaday Projects has made a pretty awesome furry LED Vest to keep him warm and well lit at this year’s Burning Man. He is using a Teensy 3.0 that drives strips of 470 WS2811 LEDs.

The vertically aligned strips run on a continuous sequence which reaches up to 31 frames per second using precompiled animations. The effects rendered in Processing or video mapped, are captured frame by frame and stored as raw color data to an SD card. Playback uses the NeoPixel library to control the strips. The high resolution LEDs, with the video mapped fire and the long pile fur, create one of the nicest flame effects we have seen on clothing.

We’ve also seen the Teensy 3.0 and WS2811 LEDs used as a popular combination for building huge displays, a 23ft tall pyramid, and more recently in the RFID jacket at Make Fashion 2014. Have you made or seen a great Teensy/WS2811 project you would like to share with us? If so, let us know the details in the comments below.

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FLASH.IT: The RGB LED climbing wall

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[Chris] and his friends were kicking around ideas for a Burning Man project, and this is the one that stuck: a rock climbing wall with RGB LEDs embedded in the holds. The holds themselves were custom made; the group started by making silicone molds of varying shapes and sizes, then added the electronics and poured in polyurethane resin to create the casting. The boards for these LEDs are equipped with a central hole that pairs up with a peg in the silicone mold. [Chris] also solved an annoying spinning problem by affixing a bolt to the far end of the LED board: once embedded in the polyurethane, the bolt provides resistance that the thin board cannot. The finished holds bolt onto the wall with all their wires neatly sticking out of the back to be hooked up to a central controller.

The Instrucables page suggests a few ways to get the lights working, including grabbing the nearest Arduino and relying on the Neopixel Library from Adafruit. [Chris] went the extra mile for Burning Man, however, designing Arduino-software-compatible controller boards capable of communicating via DMX, which expanded the system from a simple display to one capable of more complex lighting control. Stop by the Github for schematics and PCB layouts, and stick around for a video of the wall after the break. If the thrill-seeking outdoorsman inside you yearns for more, check out WALL-O-TRON from earlier this summer.

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A 23 feet tall pyramid with 0.31 mile of LED strips

This year the Disorient Camp at Burning Man built a 7m tall pyramid with over half a kilometer of LED strips. For this special occasion several artists had developed patterns for this massive LED display, animating the parties happening every night in front of this build.

To handle the dusty environment, a Toughbook was running the pyramid’s main code, which was rendering the animation frames to 24-bit bitmaps and sending them over UDP to the network. For each face of the pyramid, a $45 BeagleBone Black running a dedicated program was slicing the images into the individual panels. Finally, each panel composed of eight WS281x LED strips was driven by a Teensy 3.0 microcontroller, receiving the piece to display by USB from the BeagleBone. To power the pyramid, 5V 40A power supplies were used for the tall panels, 5V 30A power supplies for the smaller ones.

Unsurprisingly, many of the power supplies failed due to the heat and dust.  The adhesive holding the LED strips also failed, and some screw terminals rattled loose from the 25KW sound system, requiring constant maintenance. Nevertheless, the sixteen thousand LEDs sure made quite an impression.

If anyone attending Burning Man managed to capture video of this thing in action we’d love to see it. Leave a link in the comments.

DIY Electricity and Internet for Burning Man

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Despite this being [Kenneth Finnegan's] first Burning Man, the guy came prepared and stayed connected by setting up a beefy electricity supply and a faint yet functional internet connection. If you saw [Kenneth's] Burning Man slideshow, you know that the desert is but a mild deterrent against power, water, and even temporary runways.

He borrowed a 20V 100W solar panel from Cal Poly and picked up a bargain-price TSMT-20A solar charge controller off eBay. The controller babysits the batteries by preventing both overcharging and over-discharging. The batteries—two Trojan-105 220Ah 6V behemoths—came limping out of a scissor lift on their last legs of life: a high internal resistance ruled out large current draws. Fortunately, the power demands were low, as the majority of devices were 12VDC or USB. [Kenneth] also had conveniently built this USB power strip earlier in the year, which he brought along to step down to 5VDC for USB charging.

Internet in the desert, however, was less reliable. A small team provides a microwave link from civilization every summer, which is shared via open access points in 3 different camps. [Kenneth] pointed his Ubiquiti NanoStation at the nearest one, which provided a host of inconvenient quirks and top speeds of 2-20kBps: enough, at least, to check emails.

[Kenneth Finnegan's] EPIC Burning Man slideshow

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Whether or not you manged to attend this year’s Burning Man festival we’re dead certain you’ll enjoy reading [Kenneth Finnegan's] show and tell about the event. This was his first time attending. Aside from his noobish excitement (which is really the only way to approach writing something like this) we’d never know he wasn’t a seasoned veteran. From what he and friend [Marcel] packed along with them, to the attractions he visited, he did Burning Man right!

The two snapped a selfie in the truck on their way to Black Rock City, the community that sprouts up in the Nevada desert every year for Burning Man. Bumper-to-bumper traffic is a surprise in the middle of nowhere, but when you find out that BRC boasted about 68,000 residents this year it’s no wonder. [Kenneth] spends some time talking about the camp they set up, including more than enough solar power, and an amateur radio setup that came in handy in lieu of phone service. This flows into his collection of cool art he came across, most of it massive in scale. There’s even an airport, which is how he was able to snap the aerial photo above.

We think the coolest part of his recollection is the view of ‘city life’. There are night clubs, bowling alleys, radios stations broadcasting live interviews and hosting talk shows, cafés, and much more. Hanging out in the desert at the end of August may not sound like your thing, but reading about [Kenneth's] odyssey makes us think Burning Man is like Disneyland for Hackers.

LED strip cape drives kilometers worth of LEDs

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[Hudson] is looking to drive a lot of LEDs. A driver that effectively addresses kilometers worth of LED strips isn’t an easy thing to come by. So he’s in the process of designing his own BeagleBone Cape to do the work. Above you can see the board layout he’s working with. Notice the set of repeating red footprints in the center? Those are pads for 32 RS485 connectors!

Of course this is all in preparation for Burning Man where the mantra seems to be: he who has the most LEDs wins. Well, unless you’re the sort that likes to work with flames. But we digress. The scaling problem that [Hudson] is dealing with hinges around his desire not to include ridiculous numbers microcontrollers and the need to beef up the 3.3V logic levels of the BeagleBone to travel further on the data bus of the strips. By leveraging the RS485 protocol — which is designed to carry data over long distances — he can get away with a single processing unit by adding an RS485 translator at each remote strip connector. He plans to use the BeagleBone’s Programmable Realtime Units feature to address the eight drivers on the cape. But first he has to solve what looks like a doozy of a trace routing problem

Embedded DMX controller for Burning Man

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This is the lighting controller [Paul Stoffregen] built for Burning Man. They wanted to go with DMX controlled lighting this year but that most often includes a computer to run the lighting sequences. This board runs the preprogrammed DMX sequence using a hacked lighting design file.

The choreography for the lighting was planned out using a program called Vixen 2. There is one newer version of the software, but [Paul] needed to translate the output file for use with a microcontroller and version 2 makes this a bit easier than version 3. Speaking of conversion, he didn’t want to start from square one and a bit of searching led to a tutorial which [Bill Porter] posted last year on converting Vixen files for use with Arduino. It wasn’t exactly what he had in mind, but most of the ground work was there.

A few code tweaks bent the script to [Paul's] will. He changed the XML parsing function to ignore all but the main channels in the file. He also had it output a text file which can be stored on the SD card. Because the output is not being flashed to a chip this greatly increases the storage available paving the way for much longer and more complex shows.

Want to learn more about the protocol used by DMX equipment? Check out this primer.