Zen rock garden table uses magnets and sand

[Nick] is working on a prototype of a coffee table sand plotter that draws patterns in sand a lot like a zen rock garden.

[Nick]‘s zen rock garden uses a magnet to draw a ball bearing across the sand in interesting patterns. The build uses 3D printed gears and laser cut parts to rotate the table around and move the magnet along a radius of the circle. During the first test of the prototype, the ball bearing jerked around but this problem was solved by adding a piece of foam under the sand. Power is supplied through a slip ring in the base, and the table is controlled through Bluetooth.

Speaking of magnet-and-ball-bearing zen coffee tables, we ran across this video of a more professional-looking prototype that was the basis for a successful Kickstarter campaign. Like [Nick]‘s prototype, the entire build relies on magnets and a ball bearing to move sand around in patterns. Because this zen table uses an XY axis instead of [Nick]‘s polar setup, drawing logos is a lot easier math-wise, lthough it doesn’t look quite as cool as a circular rock garden.

After the break you can see these zen rock garden coffee tables in action.

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Coffee table puts on a show behind smoked glass

This coffee table is a real show-piece. It’s got a smoky glass surface that is hiding the LCD screen within. But what fun would it be if it could only play video? The rest of the enclosure houses all the parts necessary to make this living room centerpiece into a computer.

After the break you can see a video showing off each step of the build process. It starts by ridding the screen of its enclosure, and using what’s left to determine the size of the wood frame for the table. With the display firmly in place [Nate] sets to work position, mounting, and developing cooling solutions for the motherboard and the rest of the bits. He does nice work and ends up with a table that we’d be proud to feature in our homes.

Now he’s got a lot of computing power and a huge display, but isn’t something missing? How hard do you think it would be to add touch sensitive input to this? We’re wondering if the overlays used to make those Android touchscreens could be mounted on the underside of the glass?  [Read more...]

Turning pixels into LEGO pieces

Looking to spice up his living room with some modular plastic pieces, [Quentin] came up with a way to take digital pixels and convert them to LEGO building plans. The end result is a coffee table top that uses a font complete with anti-aliasing.

The first thing he did was figure out physical dimension and color palettes available from the popular building blocks. His search yielded all of the answers after he spent some time on Brickipedia. Armed with that knowledge he started bargain hunting, settling on a brick size that yielded adequate resolution without breaking the bank (he budgeted 87 Euros or about $125 for materials). From there he used Photoshop, along with a custom color palate that matches the LEGO colors, to generate the design. Image in hand, he finished the planning stage by writing a program to count the pixels, convert them into LEGO bricks, and spit out an order list and build instructions. He’s saving others the trouble of doing the same by releasing his source code.

Of course the project wouldn’t be nearly as fun if he hadn’t made a fast-time build video. We’ve embedded it after the break.

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RGB LED spectrum analyzer coffee table

rgb_led_spectrum_analyzer_coffee_table

This year, students working for Texas Instruments as part of their Co-op program were challenged to construct a project around the company’s MSP430 microcontroller. A team of three students, [Max Thrun, Mark Labbato, Ian Cathey] decided to build something that would fit perfectly in any college student’s dorm room – an RGB LED coffee table.

We’ve covered RGB LED tables in the past, but as far as we can tell this is the first MSP430 based unit we’ve seen. Microcontroller aside, the table features a lot of items that are considered “standard equipment” when it comes to these sorts of living room LED installations. The trio installed 128 RGB LEDs into their table, isolating each one using a wooden grid, and used some frosted glass to diffuse the display a bit.

What really makes this table stand out is the software. The team wrote an application that creates a Fast Fourier Transform of whatever music is being played, in order to find beats and generate real-time visualizations for their table. The result is a pleasing display that’s sure to be a hit at parties.

Check out the video below to see their creation in action.

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Mame cabinet springs to life from Ikea furniture

[Jed] built a MAME cabinet into some flat pack furniture (translated). For the housing he chose an Ikea Ramvik side table. This is a perfect piece of furniture for the project for several reasons; it’s cheap, coming in at under $70, it’s a reasonable height to use while sitting on the sofa, it has a built-in drawer that will hide the guts of the system, and it was designed to use a piece of glass as the table surface.

The electronics are pretty straight forward. A notebook computer runs the MAME frontend, with an auxiliary screen which is framed nicely under the glass. Controls are standard coin-op type buttons soldered to the contacts on the PCB from a USB joystick. The brushed aluminum bezel added to the surface of the table keeps the modern finished look that one would want with a showpiece like this one.

We always like to keep our eyes open for hackable items when visiting Ikea. Make sure to check out their As-Is department (preferably as soon as they open) to find hackable furniture on the cheap.

Three pendulum harmonograph

Just the other day we were thinking “You know what we need more of around here? Harmonographs!” And our requests were answered when [Paul] sent in his three pendulum harmonograph. For those unaware, it’s a mechanical device that draws Lissajous curves or “really cool circles” to quote some of our staff.

[Paul] includes all the plans necessary to make your own harmonograph and begin drawing today. If you can’t wait, there’s a video of the three pendulum harmonograph etching a masterpiece after the jump. [Read more...]

LEDs invade coffee table crevice

That’s a lot of LEDs, and a little bit of glass cleaner. [Tobias] spiced up his IKEA coffee table by adding 6144 LEDs. This is a larger realization of SparkFun’s LED coffee table which used 64 8×8 modules. [Tobias] sourced three display boards from Sure Electronics for a total of 96 8×8 modules. These boards are addressed through a serial interface; four serial lines for each board but a shared data bus for each of the row select pins and the data/latch/clock pins.  This method uses 19 of the 20 pins on the Arduino that drives the display. After the break you can see a demonstration. If this is more than you need there’s always the 112-LED and 81-LED table projects that can produce a full color range. [Read more...]

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