Retrotechtacular: Turn On the Magic of Colored Light

title cardChances are, you take color for granted. Whether or not you give it much thought, color is key to distinguishing your surroundings. It helps you identify fire, brown recluse spiders, and the right resistor for the job.

In the spotlight this week is a 1950s educational film called “This is Color“. It also happens to be a delightful time capsule of consumer packaging from the atomic age. This film was made by the Interchemical Corporation, an industrial research lab and manufacturer of printing inks. As the narrator explains, consistent replication of pigments is an essential part of mass production. In order to conjure a particular pigment in the first place, one must first understand the nature of color and the physical properties of visible light.

electromagnetic spectrumEach color that makes up the spectrum of visible rays has a particular wavelength. The five principal colors—red, yellow, green, blue, and violet—make possible thousands of shades and hues, but are only a small slice of the electromagnetic spectrum.

When light encounters a transparent material more dense than air, such as water or glass, it has to change direction and is bent by the surface. This is known as refraction. A straw placed in a glass of water will appear bent below the surface because the air and the water have different refractive indices. That is, the air and water will bend or refract different percentages of the light that permeates them. [Read more...]

Building a Network Controllable RGB LED Lamp from an Old Scanner

EthernetLamp

Being able to use one of your old projects to make a new one better can be quite satisfying. [Steve] from Hackshed did just this: he integrated an Arduino based webserver into a new network controllable RGB lamp.

What makes this lamp unique is that the RGB LED bar comes from an old Epson scanner. Recycling leftover parts from old projects or derelict electronics is truly the hacker way. After determining the pinout and correct voltage to run the LEDs at, the fun began. With the LED bar working correctly, the next step was to integrate an Arduino based webserver. Using an SD card to host the website and an Ethernet Arduino shield, the LEDs become network controllable. Without missing a beat, [Steve] integrated a Javascript based color picker that supports multiple web browsers. This allows the interface to look quite professional. Be sure to watch the lamp in action after the break!

The overall result is an amazing color changing lamp that works perfectly. All that is left to do is create a case for it, or integrate it into an existing lamp. This is a great way to use an LED strip that would have otherwise gone to waste. If you can’t find a scanner with a color wand like this one, you can always start with an RGB strip.

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Hanging Plotter With a Color Twist

hangbot

[Jack Boland], a mechanical engineer at the University of Wisconsin, built a cool hanging plotter project called HangBot. It’s a fairly standard setup, where he converts an image to G-Code files, and it is plotted using two stepper motors for control. We’ve seen vertical plotters before, but they tend to only have a single pen. [Jack] expanded this one to bring color into the mix by splitting an image into separate CMYK layers, and plotting each onto separate transparency film. When overlaid, they create something close to a full color image. His idea is to use this setup as a replacement for typical window signage.

Since it’s drawing a continuous line, he appears to be employing a grid instead of a traditional dot pattern. That, combined with the inaccuracy of a marker tip means resolution will be limited. Still, you can tell that he’s made a great start in this (albeit blurry) photo. Check out the video of it’s operation after the break.

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Retrotechtacular: World’s First Color Movie

world's-first-color-movie

It’s surprising how often a brilliant idea is missed out on until years after the fact. In this case the concept was seen publicly within ten years, but the brilliance of the inventor has been appreciated once again after 110 years. It’s a color movie which was filmed around 1901 or 1902 but it sounds like the reel wasn’t shown in its full color grandeur until 2012 when the National Media Museum in the UK started looking into the history of one particular film.

The story is well told by the curators in this video which is also embedded after the break. The reel has been in their collection for years. It’s black and white film that’s labeled as color. It just needed a clever and curious team to put three frames together with the help of color filters. It seems that [Edward Turner] patented a process in 1899 which used red, green, and blue filters to capture consecutive frames of film. The patent description helped researchers put image those frames — also using filters — to produce full color images like the one seen above.

The press release on the project shares a bit more information, like how they determined the age of the film using genealogical research and the fact that [Turner] himself died in 1904. The process didn’t die with him, but actual evolved and was exhibited publicly in 1909. This, however, is the oldest known color movie ever found.

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Visualize Twitter with an LED matrix

visualizing-twitter

What’s your favorite color? Don’t tell us, Tweet it to [Sebastian's] favorite color Twitter display and you’ll be contributing to the artwork hanging on his wall.

This answers a very important question, what do you do with your projects after they’re completed? For us the best part is the planning and building. Once it’s done the thrill is pretty much gone for us. We haven’t even switched on our Ping Pong clock in over a year. But [Sebastian] recently dusted his 10×10 LED matrix for this project.

Tweets are parsed by a Python project he wrote to try out the Twitter API. It looks for a set list of colors . He asserts that people aren’t that creative when you solicit their favorite color but to prove him wrong we’re going to say our favorite is Amaranth. After it finds the color it pushes it to the next pixel in the spiraling pattern shown above. But wait, there’s more! To give the pixels a but if extra meaning he uses the total length of the tweet to set intensity.

If you need a Titter enabled hack that displays a bit more specific data you’ll want something that can actually display what was Tweeted.

Color NTSC video directly from an AVR chip

color-ntsc-from-avr-chip

We’ve seen composite video out from AVR chips many times before. But we can’t remember coming across one that managed to produce a color signal. This project does just that, producing a color video signal from an ATmega168 without using external integrated circuits.

[CNLohr] is seen here showing off his accomplishment. You’ll remember him from the glass-slide PCB server project he’s been working on recently. This time around it’s a small piece of gaming hardware which he’s working on. But using four pins from the microcontroller, connected via resistors in parallel, he is able to generate a color NTSC signal without using a chip like the AD723.

After the break you can see the two minute demo in which he shows the game running for just an moment, then gives a general overview of how the signals are being built. There isn’t a ton of explanation, but he did post his code as well as a resource for you to teach yourself more about the NTSC standard. Maybe you can make a color version of that AVR tetris game?

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Soft robots given veins the let them change their stripes

If it were alive this robot would be classified as an invertebrate. It lacks a backbone and interestingly enough, all other bones are missing as well. The Harvard researchers that developed it call it a soft robot. It’s made out of silicone and uses pathways built into the substance to move. By adding pressurized air to these pathways the appendages flex relative to each other. In fact, after the break you can see a video of a starfish-shaped soft robot picking up an egg.

Now they’ve gone one step further. By adding another layer to the top, or even embedding it in the body, the robot gains the ability to change color. Above you can see a soft robot that started without any color (other than the translucent white of the silicone) and is now being changed to red. As the dye is injected it is propagating from the right side to the left. The team believes this could be useful in a swarm robotics situation. If you have a slew of these things searching for something in the dark they could pump glowing dye through their skin when they’ve found it. The demo can be seen after the jump.

[Read more...]

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